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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21829

Opening Address to International Democratic Union Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC

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: 18/07/2005

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21829

Well, thank you very much Mr Ken Mellman for those very warm words of welcome and a very concise statement of common values that bind the parties which represent some 170 million voters around the world. We have 26 party leaders, chairmen or presidential candidates and around this room we have prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, deputies, European parliamentarians, senior legislators, youth representatives, political advisers and, very importantly, a host of campaigning experts. And can I echo immediately the reference that Mr Mellman made to the importance of helping emerging parties.

Grappling for the first time with the experience and opportunity of democracy in their campaign techniques. I believe that this is one of the best things that the IDU can give to newly emerging parties in countries that are transitioning from a more restrictive political approach, to a more open democratic one. If I may be permitted to use the expression, some of the old and more mature political parties represented around this table have a special obligation in relation to campaign techniques. Because, it's not possible to do anything in public life as we all know, or do it effectively and completely, without the opportunity of office.

Successful campaign techniques can make all the difference, as we know from our experience, and I think we have a special obligation to our colleagues to assist. I think the parties of the centre-right; representing which in the Australian language we call both the liberal tradition, meaning a classical liberal tradition, to be distinguished from the North American usage of that particular expression, as well as the conservative traditions. Our parties of the centre-right have a lot to learn from each other. We do represent different political systems; we represent different experiences. Over the last little while we've had our share of great successes and we've had our share of disappointments.

Here in the United States, in Greece, in Ghana, in Croatia and in Denmark, and may I also say Australia, we've had great political successes. There were some defeats, as our British friends can testify, and there were a couple of near misses. A few more votes in Taiwan and Canada, and I think Canada is going to have an early rematch - a return bout - to use the boxing nomenclature fairly soon. And we are, of course, looking forward to the opportunities of victories in Chile, in New Zealand, in Germany, in Norway, in Sri Lanka and Honduras. All of those countries will have elections quite soon, and in each case we look for success and victory on the part of the countries of the centre-right.

I want to say in concluding my response to those very generous words of welcome from Ken Mellman, that I share fully the emphasis that he has placed on the responsibility we have in a practical sense to try and expand the boundaries of democratic freedoms and opportunities around the world. There is a lot of negativity about political institutions and political systems at the present time from commentators and from those that don't necessarily share our common philosophy. But I think it can safely be said that democracy, all in all, has had a remarkably good decade in the lead up to 2005. We've seen the remarkable events in the Ukraine. We've seen the courageous efforts of the Iraqi people to embrace democracy in the face of the most fearful and fearsome intimidation. We've seen the election of a new leadership in the Palestinian territories. We have seen the emergence of the people's will to a degree not previously seen in the Lebanon. And we have seen, in my view, the most remarkable democratic transition of all in recent years, and that is in Indonesia, which is now the third largest democracy in the world, and the transition that has occurred in that country is truly remarkable. And the future of the democratic ethos and the institutions of democratic Indonesia will not only be important to the 230 million people of that country (the largest Islamic nation in the world), and of course a near neighbour to my own country, Australia, but, very importantly, a nation that has a proper and significant role in her immediate region.

So, there's a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to democracy and it ought to be remembered that many of these things and many of these developments have their genesis in the strong and determined stand taken by two people that Ken Mellman mentioned, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Both of whom were instrumental in not only the formation of the IDU but, more importantly even that that, they were instrumental in bringing about the most significant long-term political event of my lifetime, and that has been the collapse of Soviet Imperialism and Soviet Communism. And the simple articulation of the fundamental importance of individual and political freedom by both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was the greatest contribution they gave to their respective countries, and the greatest contribution that together they gave to remaking the political landscape of the world in the 1980's.

So it's with that legacy, which is as contemporary as the day, it is with that legacy and that heritage that we meet, and it's our responsibility to push the boundaries of freedom in our own particular philosophical vein as best we can.

I particularly welcome the representatives from parties that have been newly admitted and at this meeting we're formally admitting nine parties to our political family. I congratulate them, I wish them well, and I can assure them that on behalf of my party, and I know all the other parties represented around the table, that we will do everything we can to help and nurture their opportunities in the years ahead.

I'd now like to introduce the discussion topic that will be the theme that runs through the agenda today, and that is our global agenda for freedom. The time for contributions is limited to four minutes because of the sheer number of speakers, but we certainly want to hear from members how they are doing in their respective countries, because every party and nation can contribute to the building of a better world. I'd like to call upon the first contribution, and that is from Grenada. I call upon the Prime Minister, Mr Keith Mitchell.


Transcript 21829