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Austrlia Day address



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Leader of the Opposition

26 January 1993

DR JOHN HEWSON MP

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AUSTRALJA DAY ADDRESS

RANDWICK CITY COUNCIL CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY

YARRA BAY BICENTENNIAL PARK LA PEROUSE

C EALTH

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Her Worship the Mayor, Margaret Martin, my Parliamentary colleague, Laurie

Brereton, Henri Szeps - a hard act to follow - other distinguished guests, and fellow Australians. Australia Day is a special occasion for celebrating what is best in our past, for reflecting on our current circumstances and challenges, and for re-committing ourselves to the values and principles that are so much a part of the Australian way of life.

Around Australia today, people are meeting in ceremonies very similar to this one. In fact, there's something around 8,000 people who will today become Australian citizens.

The setting for today's citizenship ceremony, here on the shores of Botany Bay, is a specially poignant one.

These shores remind us of a much longer history of this continent. They remind us that the British settlers of 1788 were not the first inhabitants of our continent, and that the Aboriginal people deserve an honoured and respected place in Australian

fife and the opportunity to share fully in it.

It is also a setting which witnessed the arrival of Governor Phillip's First Fleet.

The story is one typical of nearly all migrants.

/ -It was a story of unreal expectations, conflict, hard work, disappointment and eventual success - which was not necessarily the experience they expected it to be.

They thought they would remain English - but instead they became Australians.

They thought they were establishing a gaol - but instead they built a nation.

The First Fleet had only one asset, and that was its people.

it was, in the words of one writer Robert Hughes, a "Noah's Ark of small-time criminality". Yet, the same ingenuity which allowed those convicts en route to Australia to run a forgery racket from inside the prison ship, making coins from old buckles and spoons where there was no space, no light and no equipment,

eventually, of course, enabled those self-same convicts to become farmers, traders and manufacturers in a new home.

It was from this point, here on the shores of Botany Bay, that a story of Australian adventure began.'

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It was from here that the great agricultural lands were opened up from Queensland to the Kimberleys and fu rther south - lands that generations of Australians have worked so successfully and which have been of such great impo rtance in

generating national wealth.

It was from here that the miners set off, first to Newcastle and eventually to cris-cross our entire continent.

It was from here that the se ttlements spread - to Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Australia's no rth, giving the eager and the anxious and the dispossessed an existence that would be the envy of the world.

For all of its historical impo rtance, Botany Bay is, of course, also a dynamic part of present day Australia.

Over a period of just three life-times, the area has been totally transformed

What was once an untouched shoreline now sprouts Australia's busiest port, biggest airport and most important chemical plants - as well as a number of ve ry nice garden suburbs. What was once a hinterland is now the heart of Australia's oldest city.

But our ceremony here at this historic and important place is as much about the future as it is about the past or about the present.

It is about the decision that 50 people have made to become Australian citizens.

It is about the type of count ry they are formally becoming a part of today, and it is about what our count ry can be in the future.

Not all that far from here, across the bay and on the other side of the railway line, is the place where I grew up.

My suburb was adjacent to Riverwood, which was previously known, of course, as Herne Bay.

Many of Australia's post-war migrants spent their first weeks in their new country in temporary accommodation that was provided for them at Herne Bay - as did others nearby here in the area around Matraville and Maroubra.

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That was many years ago. But one vivid memo ry - pa rt icularly vivid memo ry in fact - that remains with me of those newly arrived migrants at Herne 'Bay is that they saw Australia as a land of unbounded opportunity and they had what could only

be described as an irrepressible optimism in our future.

Indeed, what has made our country unique over many years is that we have offered those of us lucky enough to live here a sense of security, a basic fairness, a commitment to equality of opportunity, and a genuine hope, and a genuine confidence and a genuine pride in Australia's future.

Today, we can still offer these things, but we should not minimise the threats they are under.

A love of Australia involves not just extolling our vi rt ues as a nation but facing up to our realities as a nation.

Australians have long been proud of the sense of security that they have as individuals and as members of families.

But that security is eroded when about one million Australians are unemployed and when so many with jobs actually fear the same fate.

We have always been a country that has given a special value to fairness.

But there is no fairness when so many migrants coming to Australia are being unable to find work for long periods of time.

Or there's no fairness when something like 700,000 kids live in Australian families where neither of their parents has a job.

In fact, there's no fairness in so much of the pain and hardship that this recession has inflicted.

We have long been a count ry that has prided itself on the equality of opportunity that we provide.

But equality of opportunity is eroded when 60,000 eligible young Australians are denied university places or 100,000 others are denied training places at TAFE colleges.

And equality of opport unity is also eroded when our health system fails those who kneed it, particularly our older citizens who for long periods of discomfort, have to wait for the treatment that they need.

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For nearly two hundred years, what distinguished Australia from the Old World was that they had a class system and we did not, and that we had unlimited opportunities and they did not.

Today, however, we are finding that opportunities are diminishing rather than expanding for far too many Australians.

We have also been a country in which all our people can have a realistic hope for a better future.

Yet today, we have more disillusionment and a greater crisis of confidence about our future prospects than has been there for decades.

Let me be quite clear.

Australia is still a great country and it is still a country with unique advantages. But we now face one of the greatest tests and some of the greatest challenges of our history.

The task that confronts all of us in the immediate future is, of course, to fix our most urgent problems - the economic problems of foreign debt, unemployment, bankruptcies etc, and of course the social problems to which they give rise - and to do so in a way which preserves those aspects of Australian life to which I have

referred.

1, for one, have absolute confidence that Australians can rise to this challenge.

But we'll only do so if we face up to certain realities and if we face up to those realities together.

First, we will never make new friends by rubbishing old friends and we will never gain the respect of other countries by beginning with an apology for our own performance.

I, for one, do not feel inadequate about Australia and I am sure that none of you do either.

And I certainly believe that there is far more to be proud of, than to be ashamed of, in the Australian story.

Second, we must work together toward the common goal of making Australia economically competitive with the rest of the world - because, unless we do, our economic, social and environmental problems will only continue to grow.

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Third, we must commit ourselves to realising our great economic potential, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. That potential exists across the board, in almost all sectors and in almost all industries, and we must pursue those policies which will allow that potential to be realised.

And fou rth, we must make the changes to which I have referred on the basis of community support. And this means that all our citizens, irrespective of colour, creed, gender or beliefs can live in dignity, with self-respect and with the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions.

This ceremony today is an important event, not just for those receiving citizenship but in the wider context of our national life.

In order to further enhance the level of commitment to Australia - to its values, institutions and aspirations - I believe we should, as a nation, a ttach a high priority to raising the profile and to raising the significance of Australian citizenship.

I want to encourage all Australians in a ve ry positive way to become citizens by making citizenship more relevant and more easily understood.

I believe we need to recognise and preserve the fundamental strengths of our cultural diversity within an overriding framework of common values and a strong and common commitment to Australia.

I want to specify and reaffirm the rights of citizenship, but not diminish the rights of anyone living in Australia. My aim is not to force residents into becoming citizens but to encourage them to recognise, as you have - that are becoming citizens today - the benefits and responsibilities of that commitment.

I also want to give the concept of Australian citizenship a special significance and a special meaning to all our people and we want to do so, of course, in close consultation with the Australian community.

Accordingly, I am particularly pleased to announce today that a Coalition Government will establish a National Council on Citizenship to be chaired by a prominent Australian. And in the course of the next few weeks I will make the full details of that Council available.

The role of the National Council will be to advise on a clear and unambiguous statement of the rights and obligations of citizenship, in the context of a multicultural society, in order to ensure that we can build productively and fairly on 'our unique heritage.

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It will also identify ways in which a common sense of national purpose and national pride can be further enhanced, ways in which intending citizens can understand more fully the meaning of their commitment to Australia, and ways in which existing citizens can be made more aware of their common values and their common aspirations.

The Council will also be asked for proposals whereby opportunities can be expanded to enable all Australians to maintain, develop and effectively utilise their skills and talents regardless of their background.

The greatest gift of Australia's migrants is that each generation of newcomers has re-invigorated our country with a desire to succeed.

The greatest legacy of each generation of Australians has been to leave this country more prosperous, with greater equality of opportunity, and more distinctively Australian than they found it. i

And the greatest tribute to Australians - new and old alike - is the way we have learned to live together to produce one of the free-est, one of the fairest and one of the most tolerant societies in the world.

I want to state my fundamental conviction that while there is a great deal wrong with Australia's economic management at the present time, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Australian people.

Down the years, the Australian has been a unique blend of larrikin and idealist so that the Australian character has become as distinctive as the Australian accent.

We have never taken anyone too seriously - especially ourselves. We have always worked hard. We have tried to give everyone a fair go, provided they have been pulling their weight.

We have always wanted to win, but not to cheat. We have always wanted to be on top, as long as success didn't go to our heads.

We have always been seen as a land of opportunity providing a fair go for all.

I believe that the time has come to make these very important Australian qualities winners for Australia once again.

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The Australia I want to see develop over the rest of this decade as we approach the centenary of our Federation is an Australia in which we beat our problems rather than let them beat us, an Australia in which certainty and security replace the current uncertainty and insecurity in the lives of so many of our people, an Australia

in which pride and confidence in "being Australian" is given new meaning and relevance, an Australia in which expanding opportunities are restored for all Australians, and an Australia in which the sense of genuine fairness, genuine social justice and genuine mateship is restored.

I also want to see an Australia that at last gives its rightful place to its indigenous people and which gives them every opportunity to share fully in our national life. For so long as the Aboriginal people continue to be disadvantaged -disadvantaged in terms of health, or education, or job opportunities and other community standards - their goal of full participation in their national life will not be

achieved. That is why it is fundamentally important for us to vigorously pursue a concerted national program of both action and reconciliation to address -these inequalities in the most practical and effective way possible.

In a few moments, Australia is to receive 50 new citizens. That is 50 new reasons for hope - 50 new reasons to be confident that we can give our children more than our parents gave us, that we can leave our country more secure and more , prosperous than we found it, and that we can add a new chapter to national

development and pride.

Australia has a bright future - if only we have the courage to seize our chances.

Today, as you take Australian citizenship, you will pledge your commitment to Australia and to your faith in our shared future.

Today, I urge all Australians to make a similar pledge of commitment to and of faith in our great country.

In meeting the challenges we face together, we will make Australia a stronger and a better nation, better able to make the most of its great opportunities which the next decade and beyond offer, and able to do so in a way that is consistent with what is in the best Australian tradition.

May I conclude with a thought from the late Sir Paul Hasluck, a distinguished Australian who gave a lifetime of public service and whose memorial service was held in Perth last week. To paraphrase his thought, our inheritance as a nation

does not amount to nostalgia for the past or for where we may have come from, but is "the fullness of a new experience in Australia".

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REF: TRANSCR\NM\S0163 8.

One was on the state of the economy and where the economy was going. One was on unemployment and alternative ways of dealing with it. And one was on tax reform, including the GST. The Prime Minister walked out of all three debates. In fact, I think almost all of the ALP walked out of all three debates, leaving me speaking to a half empty Parliament.

And quite frankly, to go back to that survey, I don't think young people or old people br Australians anywhere can understand why, when there's such a major issue there to be debated, that it isn't taken seriously and isn't debated so that Parliament does the job that it's supposed to do.

Jmist_

Any other initiatives coming up?

Hewson: M

Oh, we've got lots of things between now and the election.

Jmlst:

Do you have a date in mind? It's 1993 - do you have a date in mind now? i Hewson:

When he'll go?

Jmist:

The election. Date of the election?

ITT: Td^

I think he' ll go before April 3, on the grounds that if he goes beyond that he gets

two very large unemployment numbers.

Ends.

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On this very important day I wish you well in enjoying the fullness of your

experience in our great country - Australia.

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