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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22816

Address at the Wintercare Gala Luncheon - ‘Impressions of Winter’ (Anglicare's June Appeal)

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: 30/06/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22816

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………….

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much Your Grace, to Mr Justice Mason, and the Reverend Howard Dillion, the Director of Anglicare in New South Wales, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I was saying a moment ago, having in mind what’s going to happen tomorrow that today felt like a mixture between the eve of an election and Christmas Eve. But instead of course this luncheon gives me an opportunity to turn my mind importantly and to address a few remarks to the broader responsibilities of government and the broader responsibilities of the corporate community.

And can I say how pleased I am to be here. How very pleased I am to endorse not only the broad work of Anglicare but also specifically to endorse Anglicare’s winter appeal. I do so with some knowledge of the particular work of Anglicare, it’s not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia. I also do so because Anglicare is the flesh and blood of one very important part of something that I have tried to build in the time that I’ve been Prime Minister.

And although I guess if you with a microphone went for a wander down George Street today and said, what’s John Howard most associated with? They’d probably utter three letters and I hope they’d say GST and not something less complimentary. But I would also hope that at an other time they might reflect on the way in which this Government has sought to build what I’ve chosen to describe as a ‘social coalition’. And that idea, that dream of a social coalition is in part based upon my comprehension and my belief about the way in which society has evolved over the last thirty to forty years.

Paradoxes abound in our lives and of course one of the great paradoxes of Australia in the Year 2000 is that although generically we are enjoying great national prosperity, that is undeniable. We have more jobs, we’ve eliminated our budget deficit, we have lower interest rates, we have lots of visible signs of national prosperity. We are seen around the world as an extremely strong economy with a willingness to make changes that will make it even stronger. Yet in the midst of all of that it is the case, as the Archbishop said that there are a lot of people in Australia who are doing it tough. I know that and I would never pretend otherwise. And I know that the Government, whoever comprises the Government from time to time has a social responsibility to address those areas of need.

And over the years the attitude of governments towards their responsibilities have changed. There was a time I think thirty years ago where there was a view that every problem in society could be solved by the Government and all it had to do was to involve itself in a very interventionist fashion, provide the financial resources and then the problem would be solved. Then I think in reaction to that we perhaps placed too much faith in the unrestrained operation of market forces. And I of course am an unashamed supporter of free enterprise and market forces and the benevolent face of capitalism because I believe in it very strongly. But even that was not enough on its own to solve all of our social problems.

And I think in this year we have come, in this period we’ve come to a more, I think balanced approach and balanced understanding of how we best address social problems. And that is to recognise that every element of society has a role to play. The Government has a role to play. It will always be the role of government to provide the social security safety net. It will always be the role of the Government to provide those basic welfare payments, support payments, pensions and benefits and the like without which people would be left completely destitute. And nothing in my philosophy of free enterprise and belief in individual initiative gainsays or contradicts the fundamental role of the Government to look after the needy in our community. One of the great things about Australia with all of the difficulties that we still have in tackling areas of poverty and deprivation is that I think we have a sensitive social security safety net that does recognise that we have an obligation to help those in need.

But the Government alone can’t do it all. It needs the financial support of individuals and of the business community. And it also needs the support of great organisations like Anglicare. And I’ve tried not only to see organisations like Anglicare and the Salvation Army and the society of St Vincent de Paul, I’ve not only tried to see them in terms of the compassion they deliver to individuals, the way in which they care for people. And I was reminded yet again of the magnificent work of voluntary organisations particularly those but not only those with a Christian mission last Sunday night when I went to the Queensland town of Childers to attend that incredibly moving memorial service for those sixteen young people who’d lost their lives in such awful circumstances the previous Friday. And there they were again, the counselors of our great voluntary organisations, many of them the Clergymen, the Salvation Army officers looking after and caring for people. They were at the sharp end, the coal face of that misery and unhappiness and tragedy.

But I don’t only see organisations like Anglicare as having a role in caring for people in an emotional sense I also think they have role to play in contributing to the development of policy. It is no accident therefore that the Chairman of the Social Security Reference Group established by my Government a few months ago is Patrick McClure of Mission Australia, somebody no doubt well know to many of you. Somebody who understands not only the human and emotional side of caring for the more needy in our community but also somebody who understands the policy imperatives.

I don’t see social welfare policy as being the exclusive reserve of those who advise governments in departments. They have an important role to play and there are many dedicated people amongst them but we need the policy input as well as the personal care which organisations such as Anglicare provide.

The Archbishop was kind enough to talk about the emphasis that I have placed on philanthropy within the business community. And I think we are seeing a change developing. This is I think the fourth occasion in the last ten days that I have been involved in something which is an expression of that partnership between the government, the business community, the corporate sector and committed individuals designed to address social need in Australia.

And last Monday evening I had the opportunity of presenting the Prime Minister’s Award for community business partnerships which recognise those efforts of people in local communities getting together with those who need a bit of help. And the award went to a marvelous partnership between the New England TAFE and the Toomelah Cooperative, the later being a cooperative of Aboriginal people and they were producing paper products and it’s done very successfully in a commercial way.

And there are so many different ways now in which people interact with each other and many of the old barriers have fallen down. There’s less suspicion; there’s a greater willingness on the part of governments to recognise that they can get advice from organisations like Anglicare and it’s very professional advice and it’s based on a proper understanding of circumstances.

There’s no longer a debate, a serious debate about the ongoing need for a social security safety net. You might argue about the adequacy in areas, that will always be the case. There’s a recognition on the part, a growing recognition on the part of the business community that the concept of mutual obligation is not only addressed to those people who might be unemployed and are given unemployment benefits and are asked to give something back to the community in return by way of doing some work for those benefits if they’re able to do so. An entirely defensible and justifiable approach. But mutual obligation also says to the business community that if you’ve done well out of society and your profits are high you, as part of the concept of mutual obligation have some responsibility to contribute back. And growing numbers of businesses are doing that and are doing it very impressively. Last Friday I had the opportunity in Melbourne of launching a ‘Learning for Life’ partnership between the Westpac Banking Corporation and the Smith Family- another great welfare organisation that has done so much good to relieve individual and family destitution in our society.

So for all of those reasons ladies and gentlemen I am personally delighted to support this winter appeal and to endorse in the strongest possible way to those present the cause that we come here to honour and we come here to support.

Of course the emergency relief funding of the federal Government helps many organisations including Anglicare. And I think the New South Wales Anglicare this year receives something over $800,000 of the emergency relief of some millions of dollars from the federal Government to many organisations throughout Australia.

I hope this winter appeal is very successful. The Government itself will contribute $100,000 towards the Anglicare winter appeal and I hope that all of you who are here today will give very generously and support very strongly the efforts of this wonderful organisation.

As you all know most of my waking hours, and there’ve been many of them in the last few weeks and months and particularly in these past days its being devoted very much towards the tax reform program which comes into operation tomorrow. It represents an attempt by the Government in the face of a lot criticism and a lot of opposition to make some long term changes for the better. There’s a lot of talk about the GST, there’s a lot of debate about how prices might or might not go up. There’s a lot of debate about personal tax cuts. There’s a lot of debate about business tax changes. There’s a lot of debate about all aspects of it and that’s a proper part of the democratic exchange in our community. But one of the elements that perhaps is less remarked it should be is that when the new system operates it will provide to the states of Australia which provide many of the ongoing community services that we take for granted, greater security and a greater guarantee of their revenue base and their revenue support.

In the end the capacity of a society to look after its less fortunate is conditioned very heavily not only on human decency and a sense of mission that individuals have to care for the less fortunate but it is also based upon the productive wealth of that community. And there is never a disconnect between the strength of an economy and the needs of the deprived within our community. You need the human spirit to be in a good condition both individually and collectively to transfer that wealth and that capacity to help people but you need the resources in the first place to do it. So you need both. You need a strong, efficient, functioning economy which produces wealth. You also need a human heart and a human condition and a human spirit that is willing to look after those in the community who are less fortunate.

Anglicare is a wonderful expression of that. The Government endorses Anglicare most warmly. I hope you give this appeal your personal and corporate support. It will be a wonderful expression of Australian mateship, the willingness that we so often display to help those in our community who need some help. I hope you give it your very strong support.

Thank you.

Transcript 22816