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Thursday, 23 October 2003
Page: 21688

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (11:25 AM) —Mr President, I join with the Prime Minister in extending the warmest of welcomes to you and Mrs Bush. It is a pleasure to have you in our country. We are especially pleased that you have come to this country following the meeting of APEC, because it is a source of great pride that a great former Prime Minister of this country, Bob Hawke, was instrumental not only in getting APEC going but also in insisting that, for it to be effective, the United States needed to be involved.

Your presence today reminds us all that the partnership between our two great nations is broad, deep and many sided. It is longstanding and, in its fundamentals, it is bipartisan. It is, above all, a partnership of peoples. It is something beyond political parties and beyond administrations. More than 60 years ago another great Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, and a great American President, Franklin Roosevelt, forged that partnership together in the crucible of World War II. Curtin famously wrote in December 1941:

... Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.

It is altogether fitting today that we should reaffirm that alliance in a world of rapid change. But the Australia of 1941 has been transformed, as Australia's standing in the world has been transformed. We now also look to the future in our own region, as both a good friend and a good neighbour among the nations of Asia and the Pacific. We also look to our future in terms of our deep and enduring support for the United Nations and the principles of the United Nations Charter—as we did in East Timor. Above all, Australia looks to itself; to the self-reliance of a proud, a free, a strong and an independent people.

The Australian perspective is bound to differ from time to time from the perspective of the United States. Of course, on occasions, friends do disagree—as we did, on this side, with you on the war in Iraq. But such is the strength of our shared values, our interests and our principles that those differences can enrich rather than diminish, can strengthen rather than weaken, the partnership. Our commitment to the alliance remains unshakable, as does our commitment to the war on terror. But friends must be honest with each other. Honesty is, after all, the foundation stone of that great Australian value, mateship.

Mr President, the world has changed, but there remains an essential truth in Prime Minister Curtin's words of 62 years ago: Australia still looks to America. That is a truth not just for Australia but for democracies everywhere. It is a profound, historical truth which derives its power not from the might of America but from the democratic promise upon which America was brought forth, conceived and dedicated 227 years ago. The equal rights of all nations, respect for the opinions of all peoples and the idea that all men are created equal: these principles, taken together, form the true and imperishable basis of the promise of, and the friendship between, our two great nations. May they never perish from the face of the earth.