PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11645


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: 14/03/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11645


Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Celia Larkin, John Anderson the Deputy Prime

Minister, Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition, my ministerial and parliamentary

colleagues, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I recall during the last federal election campaign that the guns of political

battle were put aside and the campaign suspended for a very distinguished

visitor to Canberra the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. And I observed

to her at the time that only the President of Ireland could suspend an

Australian election campaign and live to tell the tale. But, of course,

as something of the character and the verve of Australian politics has

been influenced, I suspect, by that great tributary to Australian culture

that the Irish represent that any acquaintance with the President of Ireland

during an election campaign appears very natural indeed.

Bertie Ahern, you are so welcome here tonight. It is the easiest thing

in the world for an Australian Prime Minister to welcome to our country

the leader of Ireland. It is inaccurate to say that the Irish have made

a great contribution to Australia. The truth is that the Australian identity

is inextricably Irish to a very large extent. The influence of Ireland,

the influence of Irish culture and the influence of Irish ways, the influence

of the character of Irish people has been with us from the time of European

settlement in this country.

And the story of Australia of the last 200 odd years described, I think,

very well by Patrick O'Farrell in his landmark study of the impact

of the Irish on Australia when he spoke of how it was in many respects

a struggle between the English majority and the Irish minority but a struggle

which despite its elements of great discord and its elements of discrimination

and so forth and things that all of us have thankfully put years and years

behind us, it was nonetheless a struggle that in its outworking was extremely

productive. Because in many ways it represented a debate about the kind

of nation we wanted to build and the kind of society we wanted to create.

You have come to us, Taoiseach, having visited your forces in East Timor.

And I want to thank you and your country and your Government very warmly

for the support you gave to the Interfet force. East Timor is a long way

from Ireland and we like to think that in part your contribution was a

demonstration of the affectionate bonds that exist between your country

and ours. But importantly, it illustrated the common values that we hold

and the common commitment we have to the cause of justice and fair dealing

between people.

I have spoken a few moments about the historic and the sentimental character

of the relationship between Australia and the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps

before I conclude I might briefly return to that aspect of the relationship.

But the relationship today is very much, of course, also the relationship

between two modern industrialised nations. Ireland has enjoyed remarkable

economic progress over the last 10 to 20 years. You have achieved significant

reductions in your unemployment levels. You have embarked upon, as you

described to me this morning, very courageous taxation reform, something

that always draws a bit of interest and an interjection from the Treasurer.

But what we have witnessed in Ireland over the last decade and a half

has been very much the transformation of your economy.

You have reversed the decades-long exodus of your young people and many

Irish leaders today rejoice in the return of so many of the young people

of their homeland to the Republic of Ireland. You are an active member

and I think a very productive member of the European Union. Of course

the Australian Government from time to time has the odd difference of

opinion with the European Union regarding matters relating to trade and

I think both of us reminded ourselves in our discussions this morning

of the tremendous importance of trade and the tremendous importance of

breathing new life into the cause of greater liberalisation of world trade.

All of us have watched, Taoiseach, the steps towards achieving a lasting

peace in Northern Ireland. I think all Australians look to the day when

the bitterest of opponents in the Northern Ireland dispute are perpetually

sidelined and the decent men and women of both sides of that long divide

dominate the political processes of Northern Ireland. And I think particularly

of men of the ilk of John Hume and David Trimble, the joint winners of

the Nobel Peace prize. Because the tragedy of the long years of death

and destruction in Northern Ireland I know weighs very heavily upon both

the British and the Irish governments and I want to pay tribute to the

efforts of successive Irish leaders as well as the efforts of successive

prime ministers of the United Kingdom to try and bring about an honourable

settlement. The setback recently is of course a disappointment. As I said

at the press conference this morning our view, and I know it is very much

the view of the Irish Government, is that adherence to the principles

of the Good Friday agreement constitutes the proper basis of achieving

a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a very happy occasion tonight. It's

an occasion when all of us feel very much at ease with our heritage, very

much at ease with the history of relations between Australia and the Republic

of Ireland. I suppose Australia is in many respects the most spectacular

component of the Irish diaspora. Something in the order of 35 per cent

of Australians trace their heritage in some way or another to different

parts of Ireland. And I, of course, am no exception. My maternal great

grandmother was born in Westmeath in what is now the Republic of Ireland

and my paternal great grandfather just to even it up was born in Portadown

in County Armagh in the North of Ireland. And it is not, of course, in

any way unusual to the experience of Australians to count that Irish heritage

as a very important part of the make up of this country.

Ireland and the Irish have played an incredibly important role in the

development of the spirit and the character of this country. To the Irish

influence we owe much of the larrikin element of our temperament which

we hold so dear. Our capacity to relate in an open warm hearted fashion

with each other has also been greatly conditioned by our Irish heritage.

One of the, I think, great achievements of the building of the Australian

nation is that we have in so many ways been able to take from the different

parts of our heritage those things which are positive and those things

which we wish to preserve for the future while rejecting those elements

of our heritage that are negative and counterproductive. And so it has

been that while we have retained much of the instinct for, I think, civil

processes in our Government despite our robust political system, and the

great inheritance of the rule of law from the United Kingdom we have rejected

the class consciousness of so much of Europe. And so it has been in relation

to our Irish heritage. We have taken so many of the wonderful, open warm-hearted

bits of it and we have moulded them in the Australian environment and

in the process it has made a massive contribution to the building of what

we all know to be the modern Australian nation and what we all know to

be the Australian character and the modern Australian man or woman.

Can I say to you, Bertie, and to Celia, I hope you have a very pleasant

time in Australia. I know that you have met many of your fellow countrymen

and women. I know that you have been received very warmly. And can I say

on behalf of all of my parliamentary colleagues and all of those gathered

here this evening that it will always be a very special occasion to have

the leader of the Irish people amongst us. We will always be ready to

acknowledge the bonds between our two countries, we'll always be

ready to acknowledge the debt we owe to the Irish heritage in Australia.

And I invite in that spirit the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley,

to second my remarks.


Transcript 11645