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Transcript 41602

Remarks at Official Reception for His Excellency Mr Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 01/05/2018

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 41602

Location: Sydney Opera House


His Excellency Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, Mr Philippe Germain, President of the Government of New Caledonia, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and all my Cabinet and ministerial colleagues and French Ministers who are all here with us tonight. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall, your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Yvonne for welcoming us here to the land of Gadigal people of the Eora nation.

Welcome Mr President, to Australia and to Sydney.

When you were running for President, you committed yourself to “pick up the thread of our history and the momentum of progress.” Here in this place, the thread of history is very long indeed; the Gadigal people were here on the shores of this harbour nearly 50,000 years before the paintings on the walls of the cave in Lascaux.

Theirs is the oldest and most resilient human civilization. You see our nation, Australia, is both old and new. As old and as new as 65,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander civilization - creative, dynamic and alive - as the Bangarra dance and the artists who created the Badu Gili waterlight we saw earlier tonight. As new as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother and as old as the cultures she inherits and brings to our remarkable multicultural nation. And right here, Joern Utzon’s extraordinary design for this place was accepted 60 years ago. His opera house was opened 45 years ago and yet it remains always a timeless symbol of Australian optimism and modernity.

Mr President, you have written of how you first took up the thread of France’s history with your grandmother, in your home of Amiens. A century ago Australians were defending Amiens, with courage and sacrifice, writing heroic chapters in our shared history.

Tomorrow, at the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, we will honour, as we did with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at Villers Bretonneux, the 46,000 Australians who died on the Western Front in The First World War. You will decorate some of our veterans who fought to free France in the Second World War.

More threads of shared history, across the world and in our region as well.

In 1940 it was Prime Minister Robert Menzies who deployed the Australian cruiser HMAS Adelaide, to deliver Governor Henri Sautot to Noumea to rally New Caledonia to General de Gaulle and free France.

You have come to the Elysee at a challenging time, when pessimists and populists, - and they almost go together - would have us turn on each other. You campaigned, as you govern, with positive force. You quoted one of your heroes Malraux, who said: “Le contre n’existe pas.” And you declared: “Je suis un homme du pour”.

You are a man who is “for” not “against”. We might say “always on the front foot”, always “glass half full, not half empty”.

You have condemned the culture which stigmatises failure and marginalises success. To put it in Australian, you’ve urged the French to have a go, and if it doesn't work out, dust yourself and have another go.

You have made innovation, science, technology a mission and so have we. And we are doing it together. Just one example of many, Thales Australia’s Bushmasters are operationally proven and are the best mine-resistant vehicle of their type in the world, saving hundreds of soldiers’ lives.

We’ll be building the most advanced submarines in the world with our partnership with Naval Group and our collaborations in arts and culture, in science, in solar energy and storage, in computing, in medicine, in marine biology, sustainable cities, engineering and so many other fields, continues apace. Your visit will accelerate all of them.

From here, your politics seem shorn of the cramped ideology of the traditional Left and Right, and is focused on maximising the opportunity for each citizen of the Republic of France, to fulfill themselves and realise their dreams.

You’ve stood against the rising tide of protectionism, as we have done, notably by completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite the exit of the United States. An ambitious Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement will add new force - economic and strategic - to our relationship.

What we fought for a century ago continues to unite us.

After all, France’s values are our values; liberte, egalite, fraternite.

Or as we would say, liberte, freedom, fraternite, mateship and egalite, a fair go.

The diggers and the poilus did not speak the same language, but they fought for the same freedom, as their descendants are doing right now around the world in the war against terrorism.

Of course, Australians are enterprising and some of the diggers did pick up a little practical French. My grandfather Fred Turnbull, a private in the Great War, recalled to me when we were fishing his sole recollection of the French language:

Bonjour mademoiselle, voulez vous promener avec moi?


And of course we share another great national ambition, as Michael Hooper would agree, of beating the All Blacks.


Mr President, your enthusiasm and positivity is an inspiration to us all. But just as you seek to give new direction to France - to its economy, to its science, to its confidence - so too do you see France as a global force for good. Custodian of a language spoken by 275 million people, a nation with territories around the world, a Pacific nation and thus in New Caledonia one of our closest neighbours.

When we first met in Hamburg and then at the Elysee, as you spoke, I was reminded forcefully of the opening lines of de Gaulle’s memoires “une certaine idee de la France”. “A certain idea of France.” I had not read them for more than 40 years, but I had never forgotten their clear-eyed patriotism, their rejection of mediocrity and their ambition always to excel.

“Bref, à mon sens,” de Gaulle concluded. “La France ne peut être la France sans la grandeur.”

France cannot be France without greatness. France cannot be itself without aspiring to be the very best. Under your leadership Mr President, I am sure that will be so. As I am sure that our friendship, our solidarity, indeed our mateship will be stronger than ever.

Now it is my great pleasure, to propose a toast to the President and the people of the French Republic.


Transcript 41602