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Transcript 11381

Governor's Dinner in Honour of the Australian of the Year, Sheraton Hotel, Brisbane

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: 25/01/1999

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11381

25 January 1999


Your Excellency and Mrs Arnison; the acting Premier of Queensland; Mr and Mrs Rob Borbidge; to Mr Jack Penglis, the Chairman of the Queensland Australia Day Council; to my many Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues both state and federal, to Dr Gaynsler, the Young Australian of the Year, and to Mark Taylor the Australian of the Year; other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Can I first of all remark upon how good it is that over the last three years, those organising the national celebration of Australia Day have decided to take it on tour around the country and who have abandoned the earlier practice of always having the announcement of the Australian of the Year and the ceremony accompanying it take place in Sydney. It’s not that I have anything against Sydney, as you all know, but I think it is good that we pay tribute to the totally national character of Australia Day, and this is the third occasion on which it’s travelled around the country, and I think it’s a marvellous innovation.

Can I join everybody else in extending my congratulations to those who’ve been honoured for their achievements and I want in a moment to say a few things about Mark Taylor, the recently annointed Australian of the Year for 1999.

On occasions like this we all have our own theory, we all have our own version, we all have our own description of what makes Australia to each and every one of us the greatest country in the world. And there is nothing wrong with that, there is no received version of the best description of why Australia is the greatest country on earth. And it’s part of the nature of our society that we don’t seek some kind of uniformity or some kind of conformity of attitude as to what makes this a country that means so much to all of us. We all have our own idea of that. To me there are many things that make Australia particularly dear to me and particularly dear to my family. But one of the many things that I think is quite remarkable about this country is the way in which we have been able as a people over the years to draw the very best from the influences that are borne upon us but at the same time we have taken care to reject the negative elements of those influences. I think of our associations with Europe. We owe a lot to Europe. We owe a lot not only to our British and Irish heritage but also to those other great tributaries from Europe particularly since the end of World War II.

And what we have been able to do as people is to take from that background the very best features. We’ve taken the rule of law and the relative civility and I say relative civility of political discourse and the respect for the Parliamentary and the political process which is so much part of our British background and embracing that and making it work to our advantage, we have also been clever and astute and infinitely wise in rejecting the class consciousness and the class distinctions of Europe. And one of the enduring differences between the Australia of 1999 and the Europe that bore so much upon our formation more than two hundred years ago, is of course the relative lack of class consciousness in this country.

We have been able to combine in what I frequently describe as a unique intersection of history, geography, economic circumstance and culture, the fact that we do owe a lot to our European heritage, that we have forged a unique association with the nations of North America which play such a very important role, particularly the United States in the culture of the entire world and the political balance of the entire world. And added to that is the fact that here we are in the Asian Pacific region of the world. We are the only society on earth that is simultaneously of Europe, North America and Asia. And in recent years our own population has been enriched magnificently by the migration to this country of tens of thousands of people from the nations of Asia. And that has given us a people-to-people link with that part of the world. And it has completed what I might call that trilogy of influence on the modern Australian character. And added to that of course is our special inheritance which no-one else has of the indigenous people of this continent.

So as we reflect upon this Australia Day of 1999, the last Australia Day of this millennium, as we reflect upon it, as we give thanks to all of those who’ve made Australia a wonderful country, we honour the achievement of this country of ours, we also acknowledge the blemishes in our past and the injustices of our past. No proud nation, no self confident nation is insensitive to its periodic failings and the injustices that have occurred in the past. But we do celebrate this Australia Day in a mood of confidence, of optimism, of self-assurance, of belief in ourselves that we have built something very special and something very precious that no other society on earth has been able to build and no other society has been as astute in building as have all of us who are proud to call ourselves Australian.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me a very special degree of pleasure to say something of Mark Taylor, the Australian of the Year for 1999. As some of you may have discovered over the years, I have something of an interest in cricket. Like so many other Australians, I have great and abiding sporting passions. There’s nothing that can simultaneously bind Australians together quite like sport and at the same time on certain occasions it can also push us apart, of course in an entirely friendly fashion. We have many sporting loves as Australians. It remains of the great wonderments of visitors to this country that a nation of 18 million people can have such diverse footballing tastes as we have. But there is of course one game that can truly be described as Australia’s national sport and that is cricket.

Mark Taylor to me, and I know to millions of Australians, epitomises the very best of what sport is all about. He’s talented, he’s a tremendous fighter, he’s a tremendous achiever. There has been no prouder wearer of the baggy green, the Australian cricket cap, than Mark Taylor. Like any truly great sportsman, like any person who truly over a long period of time achieves what he or she sets out to achieve in life, he’s had his moments of despair and his moments of receiving fierce criticism and his moments of wondering what was going to happen next. And I know that Mark went through, as all Australians know, a difficult time in his career until that marvellous innings that he played in the second innings of the first test of the Ashes series in 1997 which really turned in the faces of all of his critics - their criticism - and left, I am very happy to say, hundreds of thousands of red faces around Australia and elsewhere in the world amongst his critics.

But when he was going through a period of adversity, he wasn’t blaming somebody else. He wasn’t blaming the umpires, he wasn’t blaming the journalists, he wasn’t blaming his team mates, he wasn’t blaming the selectors, he was accepting that he was going through a difficult period. He was facing up to it with square jawed determination and displaying the grit that we like to believe has a special Australian character about it. And that to me stamped him as a man of very great decency and very great character. And to my immense joy and I know the immense joy of millions of Australians, he worked his way out of that difficult period, he demonstrated what a champion he was because he was able to conquer adversity. He went on to play that marvellous innings last year on the Indian sub- continent. And think it was not only the sheer personal achievement of that great innings but the sensitivity and the generosity that he displayed towards a great tradition of a great game that he chose to share that 334 with the greatest cricketer that Australia has ever produced, Sir Donald Bradman.

And I remember the morning after that innings very well. I was down in Canberra on the Saturday morning putting together a new Cabinet after the election. Putting together Cabinets is not always the easiest things that comes the way of a Prime Minister, and I was very happy to take a few minutes off and to ring Mark and get him out of his breakfast at his hotel in Pakistan to say, convey my congratulations and I know the congratulations of the entire nation. And I asked him what he was going to do and he said, ‘mate I think I’ll pull up the stumps’. And he went on to do that and he, in a very special way, gave himself an immortal page in Australian cricket history.

Mark, you’ve been a wonderful ambassador for Australia. You have been a magnificent leader. You continue to display skill and courage and determination. You are at the top of your form. You are respected throughout our country and I can’t think of a more fitting person to be named as Australian of the Year 1999 than Mark Taylor. I congratulate you and I know that it is a decision that will be warmly and enthusiastically greeted throughout the entire nation.

Lades and gentlemen, Mark Taylor.

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Transcript 11381