PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8970

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P.J. KEATING MP, 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF AUSTRALIA HOUSE LONDON - 17 SEPTEMBER 1993

Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/09/1993

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 8970

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P. J. KEATING, NP~
ANNIVERSARY OF AUSTRALIA HOUSE
LONDON 17 SEPTEMBER 1993
it is a great honour to welcome you here to commemorate
the 75th anniversary of this most famous Australian
institution Australia House. I
For once at least-the word " historic" can be used without
the risk of exaggeration or cliche.
For this building has played a unique and remarkable role
in Australia's modern history, and in the history of our
relationship with Great Britain.
Australia House was built during a dramatic and-defining
moment in Australia's evolution as a nation, the First
World war.
It has stood through the Second World War; through the
growth of Australia from an all but infant nation,
through all the changes in our association with Whitehall
from the Statute of Westminster in 1932 to the
Australia Act of 1986 through the growth to maturity of
our relationship with the United Kingdom.
This is not only the oldest Australian overseas mission,
it is also the oldest diplomatic mission building in
London. The architects who designed it were Scottish;
the materials, English stone combined with Australian
marble and timber all of it highlighted by the works of
Australian painters and sculptors.
The building was opened by His Majesty King George V
before an audience which. included a quite extraordinary
gallery of Australians the Prime Minister, William
Morris Hughes, former Prime Ministers Andrew Fisher and
Joseph Cook, and our greatest General Sir John Monash. 1903

2
In opening the building, the King said:
it will not only serve those useful purposes for
which it was designed, but will also call to mind
f or all those who pass by the immense opportunities
and limitless resources of the great continent under
the Southern Cross. I
And of course this is precisely what Australia House has
been in the seventy-five years since: the Australian
promotion house; the place that issuied the passports; f or
countless thousands of British people, the first contact
with the country they made their home not to say, a
reminder of home for thousands of Australians living in
or visiting Britain.
Those British migrants were told in various terms over
the years that Australia was indeed a land of unrivalled
opportunity and vast resources. There were politicians
in those days who imagined that by this stage in our
history Australia would be supporting a population in
excess of 100 million with an economy the size of the
United States.
Yet, if these predictions have turned out to be a little
inflated, the fact remains that the human opportunities
Australia has provided are beyond measure, that those
opportunities still exist and, in my view at least,
there is still no better place on earth to live.
Indeed, it is a very much better place now than it was in
1918, or 1948, or 1958, or at any other time in our
history. Better for many reasons.
Better for the principles Australians have stuck to down
the years and the traditions they have developed which
continue to underpin the social and political ethos of
Australia: principles and traditions of democracy and
fairness which, translated into policy, make Australia in
the 1990s one of the truly advanced democracies in the
world. Better also because Australians have not interpreted all
their traditions as immutable and inviolable. So
Australia in the 1990s is much broader, much more open,
more tolerant, more diverse infinitely richer because
new generations of Australians chose to welcome settlers
not just from the United tKingdom, but from all the
countries of the world.
1904

And better because, like our population, our economy is
part of the world economy. And particularly because it
is part of the most rapidly growing, and assuredly moat
promising region in the world the Asia-Pacific. So
immense are the opportunities there, the words of King
George V hold truer now than they did when he spoke them
here at Australia House seventy-five years ago.
Necessarily, with these developments in the composition
of the Australian people and their society, and the
aspirations and imperatives facing the Australian nation,
a new sense of identity will emerge.
And if we give expression to it through the reform of
those institutions which were appropriate and effective
in the past but not so appropriate and effective now, we
will be that much stronger.
Let me say here in London, as I have said many times in
Australia it is not because our affections for Great
Britain are reduced, or the friendship, between us
frailer, or our respect and admiration for the culture
and institutions Britain has bequeathed us in any way
diminished, that now, in this last decade of our first
century as a nation, we are considering the option of
becoming a republic.
It is not because the machinery is brokeni that we wish to
change it. It is because a great many Australians in
all likelihood a Zaligrity of Australians believe the
machinery is no longer the most appropriate.
I believe the Australian Government believes that
most of the people of Great Britain, if they were asked
about the issue, would agree with us. I believe they
would find it unexceptional and inoffensive that
Australians should consider taking this step at this
stage of their history.
Indeed, I am quite convinced that were Australians to
choose the republican option, this expression of their
identity which has inevitably changed so much in the past
century, our friendship with Great Britain would be
stronger, as any friendship is stronger for being more
mature. But the decision on this will be made by the Australian
People. It can 2aJ be made by the Australian people:
the people descended, as mine are, from these islands,
and those from all the countries of Europe, and the
Mtiddle East and Asia and-throughout the world.
I find it very hard to believe that if Australians decide
that their country shauld be in future a Federal Republic
Of Australia, anyone of good faith in this country will
not consider it a wise judgement as well as a democratic
onle. 1.905

4
And let me take this opportunity to say that we
appreciate the way Prime Minister Major and his
government have handled this issue.
The Prime Minister echoed my own comments when he said
earlier this year that each of our two countries had been
" driven by the imperatives of geography, economic
interest, social change and political vocation to give a
new priority to its region", that this is " perfectly
natural" and constitutes no threat to the strength of our
friendship, the memory of shared experience or the future
of our exceedingly healthy and flourishing trade and
diplomatic links.
What we are talking about is a new relationship as I
said, a mature relationship.
And I think that maturity was perfectly expressed by the
British Foreign Secretary in Australia earlier this week
when he said that the matter of the republic is one
between " the Government, people, Parliament of Australia
and the Queen of Australia", and that the relationship
between us is one between " two modern countries, with a
great deal of shared modern interest" and should remain
quite unaffected by our discussion about the republic.
And that is what will happen, I am sure. The issue is
complex and sensitive and cannot be rushed. In theI
meantime friendship and commerce between Great Britain
and Australia will continue to grow.
I consider it an immense privilege to stand here today in
a place steeped in the history of our two countries, anI
organic part of the relationship between us, and a place
with which surely millions of Australians have had some
connection. It is a privilege because this building, and the peopleI
who have worked here, have played a dynamic role in
Australia's nationhood. Australia House has always been,
by its nature, a contributor to the growth and
development of Australia.
So it seems to me particularly appropriate that on this
all too brief visit to Great Britain I should be able to
make this the occasion for these remarks.
I thank all those who have made this occasion possible
and all of you who have come along today.
1906

Transcript 8970