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Transcript 21289

Address at the Prime Minister's 30th Anniversary Dinner Hordern Pavillion, Sydney

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: 20/05/2004

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21289

Deputy Prime Minister, Peter Costello, Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Chris McDiven, my parliamentary colleagues, friends.

I'll have an opportunity a little later in the evening to speak rather more personally of the people in whose debt I am for anything that I may have achieved over the last 30 years. But I would like to thank you very warmly Peter for those very gracious and generous remarks and to say that nobody could have been the fortunate beneficiary in the office I have more than I have of the support and constancy of an intelligent, capable, sagacious and loyal deputy leader.

Tonight is a time to reflect for a few moments, but only for a few moments, on the past. It's also an occasion to ponder those things that have brought us together and delivered the success that we may as a party have achieved and importantly to think of the future.

We have as a nation come a long way over the last eight and a half years. I suppose in a political sense and conscious as I am of addressing a gathering of Liberals and Liberal supporters, our great achievement has been to get ourselves back into office after 13 very agonising and destructive years in opposition. And I must say as Prime Minister and as leader of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party the things in which I draw the greatest sense of joy and satisfaction is the evident confident sense of hope, sense of self assurance and self belief both as individuals and collectively as a nation that we find that the Australia of 2004 really to be.

This country has put aside its sense of introspection and examination and its identity. There is no longer that perpetual seminar about Australia's cultural identity. We no longer agonise as to whether we're too close to the British, or too close to somebody else or whether we are Asian enough or European enough or whether we're going in the right direction so far as our sense of purpose is concerned because we are undeniably and unapologetically 100 per cent Australian.

As we go around the world we are constantly reminded of the sense of respect in which this nation is held. It's undoubtedly due to our economic performance; it's also due to the way in which we have stood up for what we believed in, as we did in East Timor, as we did in relation to Iraq and the ongoing war against terrorism. And importantly, the way in which we represent ourselves as friendly, open and caring people and our great capacity to welcome, in great sporting events, the nations and competitors of the world. So can I say that the greater sense of satisfaction and achievement that I have is to feel that in a small way having led a wonderful team of men and women, we have contributed to that sense of self assurance and self respect and very strong and unambiguous national identity.

On an occasion like tonight it is more about celebrating, not so much achievements and records of economic growth and so forth, important though they are, but rather to celebrate the values that bind us together as a great political movement.

60 years ago in October of 1944 the Liberal Party of Australia was formed under the leadership of Robert Gordon Menzies. And it has been in that period of its existence the most successful national political movement that this nation has seen. And it's important that we reflect upon the things that brought our forebears, our political forebears together 60 years ago and still represent the ties that bind us and make us relevant to the modern Australia of 2004. That belief in the importance of the individual, the belief that personal association is a matter of individual choice and not compulsion. That belief that the family is the greatest institution society has ever known. It is not only the great source of emotional stability and nourishment and the place where children are nurtured and taught the values of life, but it is also the greatest social welfare system that mankind has devised.

That belief that free enterprise, a system of proper capitalism, a system in which people are encouraged to work hard, to earn more, to be properly rewarded and provided they pay their fair share of tax to aspire to achieve even more. I believe in an aspirational society, I believe also in a society that cares for those who through no fault of their own fall by the wayside and need assistance. We're also a society that sees itself capable of reaching out to the rest of the world and drawing to the shores of this country the most wonderful mixture of people from the four corners of the earth that have made the modern Australia such a remarkable example of racial and cultural tolerance all around the world.

And those values are as relevant today as they have been over the past 60 years. Values as always are only useful if they are tested and adhered to under stress and strain. And over the last eight and a half years the government that I have been privileged to lead has always performed best when it stood for the things that it really believed in. When I think of some of those examples, I think of our determination to reform the Australian water front in 1998; I think of the onslaught that was launched against the Government for having the temerity to tackle something which for decades have been a scandal in terms of industrial relations; I think of our determination in successive budgets to get the fiscal affairs of this country under control; I think of the long term pain to reform our taxation system; I think of the difficult, very difficult but crucial decision we took to join the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations in military action in Iraq; I think of our correct and internationally brave and very strongly supported decision to liberate the people of East Timor, to take a stand on behalf of a small fledgling nation that cried out for help. All of those decisions represented in their different ways a determination by the Coalition Government to stand for the things that it believed in and it reminded me on every occasion that you always perform best as a government if you stand up for the things that you believe in. And that playing out our values through practical policies represents the best way of keeping faith with our supporters and keeping faith with the people of Australia.

The job that we have done over the last eight and a half years has been a job that has strengthened and built and protected the nation that we love so much. We are all aware of the extraordinary economic performance that this country has recorded over that period of time. We're all aware of the extraordinary growth in employment, the record low interest rates, the very low rates of inflation, the very high levels of business investment and the fact that the corporate profit share at the present time is the highest since records of that sort of thing began to be taken.

But to me, the greatest achievement of all has been that sense of personal satisfaction and achievement which is the modern Australian nation, the Australian nation of 2004. And our job of course is by no means completed. As a great political movement, we must look for years of continued responsibility in office. The next election represents an enormous challenge to everybody in this room and far beyond. Elections become harder, not easier, to win as time goes by. We may have a strong economy, we may have high employment, we may have a great story to tell, but the attention of the electorate must be directed towards the future and not to the past.

We must demonstrate the relevance of our policies in relation to the great challenges of the future. We must not allow the Australian people to believe that economic growth and strength can be taken for granted. It is not a fluke, it is not an accident. It is the product of tough policies, it is the product of intelligent economic leadership, and it's the product of the right people taking the decision at the right time. We have to respond, like all other modern western nations, to the challenge of demography, of an ageing population, of the need to provide greater incentives for people to remain in the workforce, of the need to recognise that we cannot put an intolerable burden on future generations. We must continue the great work of Peter Costello's most recent Budget in continuing to balance the challenge, the modern challenge of work and family, of the desire of Australian parents in this age to do justice to both, to aspire to have careers, but also to aspire to bring up balanced, capable children and to have the emotional support and buttressing that only a happy family life can bring.

We need also, in my view, to recognise that one of the modern governance challenges of Australia is the increasingly dysfunctional character of our federal system, where the states of Australia for the first time in decades with access to a growth tax, a tax that for years they prayed to have, still find it within their capacity when they have an individual administrative failure to simply say it's because the Federal Government doesn't give us enough money. The reality is that we do need to reassert the value of that system, but it has to be a system that asserts not only the rights of the individual units of the federation, but also the responsibility of the individual units of the federation.

And finally and importantly, we must recognise that concern for the environment long since ceased to be in any way a peripheral issue in Australian politics. Concern for the environment is a mainstream issue and in many ways the party or parties best equipped to respond to that reality are the Coalition parties. You can have economic growth and care for the environment, you can have sustainable development, you can cut greenhouse gas emissions without signing the Kyoto Protocol with all of the ruinous consequences that that would have for many of Australia's great resource industries. This country has a fragile environment. It is a shock to many Australians living in 2004 to find that they now live in a country with water shortages. And whilst tonight is not the occasion for a long dissertation on what might be the responses to that, it is an example of some of the modern environmental challenges that we have.

And my friends, our job is anything but done. We have been given the enormous privilege of governing this country through a period of enormous challenge and change, but it has also been a period of enormous opportunity. I am so glad that so many of my parliamentary colleagues, my ministerial colleagues as well as backbench colleagues, are here tonight because I want to say a very simple thank you to all of them. I have been the recipient of extraordinary loyalty and constancy of support. On occasions perhaps I haven't always deserved it, but whether I have or I haven't, I have received it. You can't be a successful Prime Minister without a wonderful, loyal and hardworking parliamentary team and over the last eight and a half years I think it has been quite extraordinary the level of unity and constancy that the Government has enjoyed from our parliamentary ranks.

We have been through difficult issues, we have been through all the stress and strain within the Coalition that issues such as native title imposed, the inevitable stress of keeping our Coalition and our colleagues together on important reforms such as taxation reform, the agonising that I know some individuals went through in relation to our decision to enter the campaign in Iraq. But through all of those moments, the loyalty and the decency and the commitment of my parliamentary colleagues to our great cause was always uppermost in their minds. They didn't sacrifice their principles just for the sake of toeing the party line. They were prepared to put the broader interests of what was collectively believed to be the national interest ahead of their own personal dispositions and prejudices, and for that I take this opportunity of thanking them, so many of them here tonight. Anything that might be attributed to an achievement in my name, especially over the last eight and a half years, is an achievement that I owe in very large measure to all of you.

Over the months ahead, we need the support of all of you in this room. Over the months ahead, we will face a great challenge. Over the months ahead, we must remind the Australian people that economic management is not something that happens automatically. We must remind the Australian people not only of the alternatives, but of the consequences of change. If we can do that, we can have yet another opportunity of governing this country and of keeping faith with and giving effect to the values that moved the founder of our party, Robert Menzies, the values that have kept us together over the past 60 years, and the values that have helped shape the sense of hope and confidence and optimism which we all rejoice and enjoy as Australians in our great nation in 2004.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21289