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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10974

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP ADDRESS AT LUNCHEON IN HONOUR OF HIS EXCELLENCY MR OSCAR LUIGI SCALFARO PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ITALY

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/12/1998

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 10974

E&OE....................................................................................................

Your Excellency, President Scalfaro; to your daughter, Marianna;

Excellencies; my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues; ladies

and gentlemen.

When we spoke in my office this morning I said to the President

that the relationship between Australia and Italy was one of those

things that brought an instant smile to the face. And that best

described as I could the very deep links and the very enduring links

that exist not only between our two countries on a political and

economic level but also between the Australian people and the Italian

people. Against that background, sir, and also because of your own

very long and distinguished political career in Italy, you are especially

welcome amongst us today.

This is a very large and spontaneously gathered group of Australians

and friends of Italy who want to pay tribute to you and to your

country and to pay tribute to the influence that the Italian way

has had on our country and on many other nations throughout the

world.

You have been active in Italian politics since 1946. You were a

deputy between 1948 and 1992. You were a member of the original

constituent assembly formed in 1946 and you've now served,

for six years, as President of your country. You therefore come

to Australia with a very long and distinguished background and a

person through all of your political career has remained steadfast

and true to those values that you regard as important in public

life and those values that you hold dear and you have, therefore,

had a long and very distinguished commitment to Italy and to the

Italian people.

Italy, the modern Italy, is of course the sixth largest economy

in the world. Particularly in recent years it has enjoyed an enormous

economic resurgence. It is playing a very strong role in the European

Union and the strength of its economy and the commitment of its

people enables it to do that. And therefore this is an occasion

to remark, as Prime Minister of Australia, on the importance of

the economic and political association between our two nations.

But it also, importantly, an occasion for me to pay tribute to

the enormous contribution that Italians have made, particularly

to post-World War II Australia. Australians of Italian background

comprise of course the largest non-English speaking tributary to

the modern Australian nation. More than a million Australians claim

an Italian heritage and they do it with great pride and great passion.

Italians have contributed to every facet of Australian life. The

most important contribution they have made is the way in which they

have reinforced so many of the important values of the Australian

community. It is impossible to think of the Italian contribution

to our nation without thinking of their great and passionate commitment

to the importance of the family unit as the central pillar of a

cohesive society. It is impossible not to think of their enormous

enthusiasm and energy. It is impossible to conceive the story of

post-war Australia without the Italian contribution and the Italian

way playing a very, very important part in that story. The contribution

that Australians of Italian descent have made of course is to be

found in every part of the Australian life.

One thinks of great figures such as Sir James Gobbo. And if ever

a person celebrated the marvellous integration of the Australian

and the Italian way, nobody has done it better than Sir James Gobbo,

a person who served as a distinguished lawyer, a distinguished Judge

and is now the Governor of Victoria.

One thinks of the enormous contribution in the field of business.

One thinks of the families that are represented here today - the

Grollo family from Victoria, very much in the news yesterday; the

Belgiorno-Nettis family that has made also an enormous contribution

to engineering and construction in Australia. And I don't suppose

in a way anybody has made such an impact on the world of fashion

in her own inimitable style than Carla Zampatti who I'm delighted

to welcome here today.

And of course no reference to contributions to the Australian way

would be complete without touching, however briefly, upon the contribution

of sports men and women. And we're very proud that Christian

Vieri, the Sydneysider, was Italy's top goal scorer before

regrettably Italy was eliminated. And I've got to say to you,

Mr President, that there was many an Australian heart that was with

Italy from the very beginning of the World Cup because Australia

was not, itself, a competitor in the final rounds. And of course

another great sporting name, David Campese, to those of us who are

great rugby followers. And he brought many a cheer to Australian

rugby followers with his particular flair.

And of course it wouldn't be appropriate for me to make these

sorts of references seeing that it's a political gathering

without of course acknowledging the contribution of Australians

of Italian descent to the politics of our nation. And I'm delighted

to say that, in terms of current Federal parliamentary representation,

it's fairly even-handed. And I know you had the opportunity

of meeting a number of both Government and Opposition members before

this luncheon to exchange views and to share some ideas. And of

course outside parliamentary politics it's very interesting

that my own party, the State Directors of the two largest divisions

in New South Wales and Victoria, in the person of Remo Nogarotto

and Peter Poggioli, are both of Italian descent and I understand

that the State Director of the Labor Party, John Della Bosca in

New South Wales, is also of Italian descent. And can I also say

that there is one other political figure in the history of Australia

who, although not a member of Parliament, probably influenced the

course of post-war Australia politics more than many other Australian

parliamentarians and that was the late BA Santamaria whose influence

on Australian politics was absolutely immense.

I mention these things, ladies and gentlemen, to simply remind

people of the enormous role that Australians of Italian descent

have played in our nation and of how they are so completely part

of the Australian story. And the personal experiences of all of

us and our contact with Italians goes back, in most cases, to our

childhood. Certainly my first contact with the warmth and the enthusiasm

and the love of life and the commitment to family and the commitment

to the future of this country, my first contact was naturally with

Australians who come from Italy. But I also remember, with great

affection, my first visit to Italy in 1964, long before I entered

politics, where I had the great good fortune to meet Father Borelli,

the Catholic Priest, who cared for the urchin children of Naples

and who was the subject of that very famous book written by Morris

West and titled ‘Children of the Sun'. And that particular

experience, as somebody undertaking a working holiday in Europe,

brought me into contact with the warmth and the enthusiasm of the

Italian people in their own country.

So, sir, you've come here as the honoured, indeed, the revered

President of a country with whom we have a very close economic and

political association. Italy is playing a very constructive role

within the European Union and the European family. But you also

come here today as a reminder to all of us of the celebration and

the miracle that is post-World War II Australia, the way in which

we have been able to gather from the four corners of the world,

so many men and women who made a massive contribution to building

a very proud nation, a nation that is playing a very positive role,

particularly in our own region. But a nation that remembers its

roots and honours the contributions that are made to the modern

existence and the modern identity. And the Italian contribution

has been quite massive. It has been incalculable. It has made Australia

a better country. It has helped to make Australia a more open society.

It has brought us into contact with ways and attitudes that have

made us better, made us warmer and made us more comprehending and

more understanding.

I want to, on behalf of everybody here today, honour the Italian

contribution. It's a very important part of the collective

Australian heritage. And to you, sir, and to your daughter and to

the other members of your party, I bid you a very warm welcome.

I know that you have already been very warmly received in Victoria.

I can assure you that you will be received with equal warmth in

Sydney and in other parts of Australia that you will visit. I hope

you will come again. I wish you good fortune and good health. I

honour your country and I thank you for visiting us. I now invite

the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, to support my remarks.

[ends]

Transcript 10974