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Monday, 27 March 2006
Page: 3


Rt Hon. TONY BLAIR (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) (12:16 PM) —The Hon. David Hawker MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives; the Hon. Paul Calvert, President of the Senate; the Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister; the Hon. Kim Beazley MP, Leader of the Opposition; distinguished members and senators of the Parliament of Australia: Mr Speaker, I am grateful to you and to the parliament for giving me this honour of addressing the members and senators of the Australian parliament who are gathered here in this superb chamber. It is good to see my old friend Kim, at whose feet I used to sit, back leading the Labor Party; and it is a privilege to be in the company of Prime Minister John Howard, whose steadfast leadership and firmness as an ally and friend have often given me cause to be deeply grateful. Thank you, both of you, for the kind words that you spoke about me. It has been quite a long time since anyone has been that kind about me.

Australia may not be in my blood; but it surely is in my spirit. My earliest memories are Australian. From the age of two until five I lived in Adelaide. I remember returning from the hospital where my sister Sarah had just been born, looking at her in the back of the old Austin that we drove; running errands for our neighbour, Mr Trederay; taking showers under the garden hose in the heat on the lawn; visiting friends up-country in the Adelaide Hills; and being chased by magpies as I ran across the open ground near our home—early training for later skirmishes with the media. At uni I was reintroduced to religion by an Australian, Peter Thomson, and introduced to politics by another, Geoff Gallop—both dear friends to this day. As you know, I have been back many times. I love the people; I love the place—always have and always will. Australia is just a very special place to be.

We are all familiar with our shared history and our shared sporting passion and rivalry. The English victory in the Ashes was like a carnival of celebration, I have to say, perhaps as much for its rarity value. At the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, you once again showed the world the exuberance and the sheer style that is modern Australia. And you also won rather more than the rest of us. I wrote a speech once about how Britain had to become a ‘young country’ again, and it was Australia I had in mind.

Today I like to think that we share a lot more than history and endeavour on the playing fields. We share an outlook on life: we are both confident, outward bound, ‘up for it’ types of nations. This is a world in the course of choosing. Underneath the daily tumult, the stories of strife and sensation that blast their way into our consciousness, we are in struggle of a more profound kind. Globalisation is a fact, but the values that govern it are a choice. We know the values we believe in: democracy and the rule of law, but also justice, the simple conviction that, given a fair go, human beings can better themselves and the world around them. These are the values that our two countries live by, and others would live by if they had the chance. But we believe in more than that. We believe that the changes happening in the world that make it more integrated, the globalisation that with unblinking speed reshapes our lives, are an opportunity as much as a risk. We are open societies. We feel enriched by diversity. We welcome dynamism and are tolerant of difference.

Left and Right still matter hugely in politics and the divergence can sometimes be sharp, as we all know. But the defining division in countries and between people is increasingly open or closed: open to the changing world or fearful, hunkered down, seeing the menace of it, not the possibility. This is the age of the interconnected. We all recognise this when it comes to economics, communication and culture. But the same applies to politics. The struggle in our world today, therefore, is not just about security. It is a struggle about values and about modernity—whether to be at ease with it or in rage at it. To win this struggle we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western—still less American or Anglo-Saxon—values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.

This is the challenge I believe we face, and ranged against us are of course the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who do not hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively. These are the people we have to persuade. They have to know that this struggle is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity. And, in truth, today there is no prosperity without security and no security without justice. That is the consequence of an interconnected world. That is why we cannot say we are an open society and close our markets to the trade justice the poorest of the world demand; why we cannot easily bring peace to the Middle East unless we resolve the question of Israel and Palestine; and why we cannot say we favour freedom but sit by whilst millions in Africa die and millions more are denied the very basics of life.

If we want to secure our way of life, there is no alternative but to fight for it. That means standing up for our values not just in our own countries but the world over. We need to construct a global alliance for these global values, and act through it. Inactivity is just as much a policy, with its own results. It is just the wrong one.

The immediate threat is from Islamist extremism. You mourn your victims from Bali as we do ours and those from July 7 last year in London—and thank you, both of you, for what you said about that. We can add to them victims from Madrid or September 11 in the United States. But this terrorism did not begin on the streets of New York. It simply came to our notice then. Its victims are to be found in the recent history of many lands, from Russia and India but also Algeria, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Kenya and countless more. And though its active cadres of terrorists are relatively small, it is exploiting a far wider sense of alienation in the Arab and Muslim world.

We will not defeat this terror until we face up to the fact that its roots are deep and that it is not a passing spasm of anger but a global ideology at war with us and our way of life. Their case is that democracy is a Western concept we are forcing on an unwilling culture of Islam. The problem we have is that a part of opinion in our own countries agrees with them. We are in danger of completely misunderstanding the importance of what is happening, as we speak, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops, British and Australian, are alongside each other and I know, whatever our views on either conflict, we are all deeply proud of the commitment, dedication and bravery of our armed forces. But in each case we have nations engaged in a titanic struggle to be free of a legacy of oppression, stagnation and servitude. In each case, the people have, for the first time, been offered a chance to vote. In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. What better symbol of hope and of belief in these values that we hold dear. But in each case also the forces of reaction are at work, trying through the most evil of means, terrorism—the slaughter of the innocent because they are innocent—to destroy this hope.

I know the Iraq war split this nation as it did mine. And I have never disrespected those who disagreed with me over it. But for almost three years now we have been in Iraq with full United Nations support. From the outset our forces in Afghanistan have been there with UN authority. In both cases, there is the full support of democratically elected governments. Every reactionary element is lined up to fight us. Why? They know if they lose a message is sent out across the Muslim world that strikes at the heart of their ideology. That is why they are fighting us hard. We must not hesitate in the face of a battle utterly decisive as to whether the values we believe in triumph or fail. Here are Iraqi and Afghan Muslims saying clearly, ‘Democracy is as much our right as yours,’ and, in embracing it, showing that they too want a society in which people of different cultures and faiths can live together in peace. This struggle is our struggle. If the going is tough, we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through.

But though it is where military action has been taken that the battle is most fierce, it will not be won by victory there alone. Wherever people live in fear with no prospect of advance, we should be on their side, in solidarity with them, whether in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma or North Korea; and where countries, and there are many in the Middle East today, are in the process of democratic development we should be there extending a helping hand.

This requires, across the board, an active foreign policy of engagement, not isolation. It cannot be achieved without a strong alliance. This alliance does not end with, but it does begin with, America. For us in Europe and for you, this alliance is central. And I want to speak plainly here: I do not always agree with the United States. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have. But the strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and in world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in. The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is that they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged.

The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them. Our task is to ensure that, with them, we do not limit this agenda to security. If our security lies in our values and our values are about justice and fairness as well as freedom from fear, then the agenda must be more than security and the alliance include more than America.

That is why I repeat: once the Israeli election has taken place, we must redouble our efforts to find a way to the only solution that works—a secure state of Israel and a viable, independent Palestinian state. It is why we must continue to mobilise the resources and will to turn the commitments of 2005 into action to combat the ravages of conflict, famine and disease in Africa where, as I say, literally millions die every year preventably.

We must focus on the threat of climate change, now made all the more acute by anxiety over energy supply. I know there are disagreements here. We strongly support Kyoto; you did not. But we need also to look to the future now. You have the Asia-Pacific partnership. We inaugurated the G8+5 Gleneagles dialogue. There is the UN process after Montreal. At some point we must bring it all together. There will be no agreement worth having that does not involve the United States, China and India, as well as the rest of us. There will be no resolution without a clear, disciplined framework for action, with measurable outcomes. And there will be no forgiving of any of us if we do not pay attention to the degrading and polluting of our planet.

Then, in the immediate term, we are confronted with the World Trade Round. Again the issue, to my mind, is: open or closed. People in our countries look at the rise of China and the emergence of India, they see the competition, they fear the loss of jobs and they push back. Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing. In this World Trade Round we have the opportunity to make it ebb. At stake, obviously, is our commitment on world poverty and development. But also in the balance is the very idea of multilateral action to achieve common goals. If we cannot put a decent trade round in place when it is so plain that our long-term national interest and the wider interests of the world demand it, this will be a failure with multiple consequences, all of them adverse.

Europe’s agricultural protection is a policy born of another age and it is time to end it. But change in Europe alone is not the answer. America must open up; Japan, too. In non-agricultural market access, we look to leadership from Brazil and India. And we must agree a development package for the poorest that includes 100 per cent market access and aid for trade. This is a cause of prosperity, because we all benefit from open markets; of justice, because the poorest nations need to be able to stand on their own two feet and trade in our markets; and of self-interest, because if we want to build the right relationship with China the sensible thing is to bind them into the world economy, not put them in opposition to it.

And if all of this were not enough, we have to fight for our values here at home, too. Both our nations have been formed in part by waves of migration, and today’s world is a world on the move. We need rules to ensure such migration is fair. But both Britain and Australia have long since gotten over the fear that different ethnic groups damage our identity and put our cohesion at risk. Today we take pride in our diversity. We know tolerance, respect for others and a basic way of life founded on democratic freedoms are held in common by the vast majority of our people, whatever their race or creed. When the terrorists struck, Britain and Australia reacted in the same way. We did not turn on Muslims; we united against terrorists. In doing so, we sent out a signal of belief; and the world heard it.

So this is a big agenda. It means action on all fronts. There will be many insidious and persuasive voices that will urge us to stay in our comfort zone, high in the stands, and to simply watch the field of play. It is tempting, yet I do not believe our countries will ever truly prefer spectating to playing. We naturally get stuck in. It is our way, and it has certainly always been yours.

In 1939, when Britain declared war on the Nazi tyranny, that same day your Prime Minister announced you were at war too—no ifs, no buts, just solidly with the world. How magnificent and how typical of Australia. We needed you then, and we need you now. Today’s struggle is of a very different nature, but it will determine our collective future. I believe it is one that together we can win. Thank you.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!


The SPEAKER —Mr Prime Minister, on behalf of the House, I thank you very much for your address and I wish you and your wife a successful and enjoyable stay in Australia.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Sitting suspended from 12.48 pm to 2.34 pm