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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22361

Address at the Greenway Community Morning Tea Blacktown, 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: 12/07/2006

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22361

Well thank you very much Louise. Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells, other distinguished guests, the members of the Board of the Blacktown Workers Club, my fellow Australians. This is the second visit that I've paid to the Blacktown Workers Club in the last 18 months and for many reasons I am delighted to be here. And no reason is more important to me than to visit the electorate of my wonderful colleague and friend Louise Markus, who really has been an incredibly energetic and faithful representative of the people of Blacktown and the people of Greenway in the time that she has been in the national parliament.

Whatever our politics may be, we can all recognise a man or a woman who is dedicated to the service of the community that they are elected to represent. And Louise brought to the Federal Parliament particular skills. Her previous career in social work had brought her in to touch with the community; had reminded her that not everybody has it easy; had reminded her that many people, through no fault of their own, get a rather raw deal in life and they need a bit of help and they need some understanding. And that to make a community work, you need a mixture of entrepreneurs and risk takers as well as carers, as well as parents who do the right thing 24 hours a day by their children; and dedicated community organisations like the Blacktown Workers Club, that as well as providing a congenial gathering place for the men and women of the district, also provide very generously to the needy causes of the local community.

And when I think of a community-minded, community-based Member of Parliament, I can think of no better example than Louise Markus and I thank her very warmly for the tremendous work she's done.

Today of course brings me again to the western suburbs of Sydney. I grew up in Sydney. As you all know, I grew up in Earlwood and I was educated at Earlwood Public School and then Canterbury Boys High School. So that was a bit further in. The inner south-west or inner west or whatever you like to call it. But I've always had in my political career, an affinity for the people of western Sydney. I've seen it as a part of Australia, not just as a part of Sydney, but as a part of Australia that brings together so many of the tributaries of the modern Australian reality and existence. It brings people from the four corners of the world who've become Australians. They want to retain in their heart a special affection for the countries in which they were born, but by coming to this country and being integrated into our society, they have become greatly valued and contributing members of the Australian community.

It's also an area which is full of aspiration. The aspiration of thousands of Australian parents for the future of their children, the belief and the reality that it is still possible in this country, indeed it's desirable in this country. And many practice it out in their lives to start with nothing and to build a life and to build a small business or to build a career as an employee, to raise a family, to care for them, to buy a home, to pay it off and become great contributing members of society. We must always have in our country a state of affairs where people aspire to do better. The ambition to do better for yourself, whatever you may be doing, whether it's working for a firm or running your own business, the aspiration to do better and to improve your lot in life is a powerful motivator and driver of community behaviour and individual contribution.

And that is why the Government I have led is trying to build, and I believe we've been especially successful in western Sydney in building an aspirational society, where people get higher wages, they pay lower taxes, they pay lower interest rates, they see their children getting jobs and they see the job opportunities available in the community grow. And I thought that figure that Louise mentioned a moment ago, the unemployment rate in this area according to last month's figures was down to four and a half per cent which is a 30 year low. That's a phenomenal thing to be able to say of a part of Sydney that some years ago carried an above the national average level of unemployment.

Now all of those things are possible in the Australia of today, all of those things are possible in the western Sydney of today because, first and foremost, the people of this area work hard and do their fair share of the heavy lifting and community building. Whenever I'm asked, when I go around Australia, who's responsible for the prosperity of Australia in 2006, I unhesitatingly say the men and women of Australia. Because it's the workers of Australia, whether you're working in your own business, or you're working for somebody else, it's the workers of Australia that have built the prosperity of this country and I will never forget that.

And one of the other reasons why we're a prosperous country now is that over the years Governments on both sides of politics have taken decisions that might have been a little unpopular at the beginning, but have been for the long term benefit of the country. And so it is that the prosperity we have today is the product of yesterday's reforms, and the prosperity we hope to have in even greater measure tomorrow will be the product of today's reforms. And that is why a Government can never go to sleep at the wheel when it comes to reform and change. If we ever get to a situation where we say to the Australian people: the job is done, nothing else needs to be changed, everything is perfect, everything's hunky-dory, just take it easy, have a good time, that is a recipe for decline. It's not a recipe for further prosperity and further growth and further wealth.

And that is why everything we do, whether it's in relation to taxation change, superannuation changes, very big beneficial changes coming on that front from the 1st July next year, the changes to workplace relations, they're all designed to build a stronger, better Australia in the future, make us more competitive, more prosperous, more able to compete with the rest of the world. And in the end, the greatest guarantee of a job and a real wage increase in this country is a strong economy. Because if you don't have a strong economy, you can have all the rules and regulations to protect workers under the sun, but it won't protect them from the sack if their firm is going broke. No firm can employ people unless it makes money and has profits and no industrial relations system can give a company profit if the economy is not strong. So in everything we do, we have to have reforms and changes that build a stronger, more productive economy. And that's the reason why we are making the changes we are making, it's the reason why we have made changes in the past.

My remarks have been to date about issues that directly effect us here in western Sydney and directly effect the Australian economy. But I can't, on a day like this after the appalling terrorist attack in India, let that go by without saying on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia how appalled and devastated I am by the magnitude of that terrorist attack. And it is a reminder, because it has occurred in India, it's a reminder that no country is immune from the possibility of terrorist attacks. I was in that very city, the financial centre of India, only a few months ago. And the Indian economy is undergoing a great change. India is the largest democracy in the world. Despite all the cynics who said it wouldn't work, India has been a fully functioning democracy for virtually all of the years that have gone by since she achieved independence from Great Britain in 1947.

And this terrorist attack is an attack on the democratic way of life. It's just as much an attack on the democratic way of life in India as the attacks in New York and Washington were on the democratic way of life in the United States. And I send my sympathy, my support, my compassion, my expression of concern to the Indian people and to the Indian Government.

And in doing that, I remind all of my fellow Australians that we can never be complacent about the terrorist threat within our own midst. It's not as bad as it is in most other countries. We don't have active terrorist cells in the way that many countries around the world do. But we cannot afford to assume that it will never happen in this country, and that is why, consistent with our long tradition of respect for individual liberties and through our openness and our democratic way of life, it's imperative that we have the strong measures, we have the additional investment in police and ASIO and security that is necessary.

And it's also why we have responsibility to argue and educate people against expressions of extremism within our own midst. And it's important that we reach out to every community in Australia and reassure them that those who share our democratic way of life are as much a part of our Australian community as any other. That those who preach hatred and intolerance and the exclusivity of one religion or faith against another are people who are not talking and acting in the interests of our country.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be here in Blacktown. I want to thank everybody here who represents a community organisation for the wonderful contribution you make to the vibrancy of this community and the vibrancy of the Australian community. Australia is a nation, a great nation of volunteers. We have more volunteers and we have a greater instinct for volunteering and working together than just about any country in the world. The great Australian tradition of mateship is really built on helping each other and built on the notion that you work together and you overcome a common threat. It's not just something that is obviously very much to the fore in wartime, when you must rely on the courage of one another to survive. It's also something that is so evident when we have great natural disasters and we have challenges we must as a nation respond to. So can I say to all of you who represent the wonderful volunteer organisations of this community, thank you.

Most particularly, and I finish on this note, can I express my admiration for the spirit of the people of western Sydney. The way in which they have grabbed hold of and embraced the ideal of aspiring to build better lives for themselves, their children and their community. It is the essence of modern Australia and it's something that's sustained and nourished this community as it has many other communities around our great nation. Thank you very much.

[ends]

Transcript 22361