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Australia Day address: the Australia Day commemoration, Adelaide

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The Australia Day Commemoration at the Carl Linger Memorial


SENATOR ROBERT RILL Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs



26th January, 1993


"Australia - Still

a Place for Opthnigne

This is a patriotic occasion. It is a ceremony where we commemorate the life of the composer of the music of Song of Australia the German immigrant Carl Linger. We remember also the English

immigrant Caroline Carleton who wrote the uplifting words. In remembering their contribution to Australia, we think also of our commitment to "the land where summer skies are gleaming with a thousand dyes".

Australia Day provides an opportunity not only to celebrate and take pride in our country but also the time for sober reflection: to review the past, consider the present, and to contemplate how Australia can secure its Mure.

Despite our current economic hardship, we should remember our strengths and assets, for Australia is still very much a fortunate and wonderful place to live.

Not only do we live in a comparatively tolerant and civilised society, our nation is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, =matched beauty, and enjoys peace and security.

Indeed our lifestyle is the envy of other nations. But the most important thing about Australia is its people who share values passed down by earlier generations: - respect for the rights of the individual; a commitment to civil liberties which allow freedom of movement, association, and ideas; a sense of tolerance and compassion; egalitarianism and a fair go for all.

Them) values are our lifeblood. They underpin our unity of purpose and cement a common bond. And on Austral' Day we should remember and reaffirm our commitment to them.

Yet despite the positive attributes of Australia, there is a widespread feeling that as a nation we have squandered opportunities and lost our way.

Ordinary Australians are losing faith. Why, they ask, in a country of such abundant natural resources, talent, and opportunity are one million fellow Australians without work? Why are we mortgaging

our children's future by piling up billions of dollars of debt? Why is the gap between the rich and poor continuing to widen in what has always been a predominantly classless society?


Arnold Toynbee, in demonstrating and analysing

the cause of the

rise and fall of nations, found that throughout history nations are confronted with numerous challenges. Whether they prosper or decline depends on the manner and character of their response.

Australia's record of facing difficulties and confronting adversity is an Impressive one. While we may not have experienced the types of disasters which have afflicted some nations, we have had our share of setbacks. Our history is littered with booms and busts, natural disasters, triumphs, despair, and recovery.

During a recession as deep as the one we are now experiencing, it is easy to forget other severe economic downturns at other periods in Australia's history. For instance, in the 1840s, 1890s and 1930s Australia experienced the trauma of Depression on a cAlArnitous scale. Chronic poverty became the norm for a significant part of Australia's population.

Images of chronic unemployment during the 1930s Depression - long food queues, evictions, tent cities, and men tramping around the country on sustenance (the "susso") - are still vivid in Australian popular culture.

We have also experienced are share of natural disasters - horrific droughts, floods and buslIfires.

On each of these occasions Australians have met adversity with rare courage, determination, and tenacity. As a nation we have always shown a remarkable resilience and capacity to fight back against an odds. During these times of crisis Australians have rallied together in a common cause. Far-flung communities and disparate sections of society have rebuilt towns, relieved hardship, assisted those in danger

and come to the aide of the impoverished. The nation has rebounded following seemingly insurmountable or intractable problems.

Today, Australia faces another crisis - an economic and growing social crisis of major dimensions. It is now our turn to meet this challenge.

Whilst it is a worrying situation Australia's problems are not insurmountable. But we cannot afford to stagnate or drift as we have been doing. Complacency is an enemy. Apathy should be despised as should any signs of Australians becoming "anaesthetised" to =employment hovering at over 11.0%.



is time for Australians to embace a generational change in policies and attitudes. As Sir Robert Menzies said: "Struggle for existence and for progress brings out the best in man, and leads, as history has repeatedly shown, to strength and endurance."

The ability to change does not merely rest with government. National leadership can and must point the way, but the solution also lies with individual Australians being committed to, and understanding the need for change.

Giving individuals greater control over their lives is essential to achieving both a more prosperous and just society. One lesson which can be learnt from the past decade is that the corporatist state model big government, big unions, big business - is not the answer.

Rather than generating a dynamic economy, it has produced lowest common denominator outcomes, stifled initiative, bred complacency and malaise. It has, in effect, sapped the nation's will.

Thousands of Australians - small business, farmers, ordinary PAYE taxpayers - have effectively been excluded from the decision-making process. Deals have been done, 'mates' have been rewarded and patronisation has become the norm. Vested interests have taken precedence over the public interest. In some cases, corporatism has

fostered outright corruption.

As a result many people have been alienated from the political system with the ensuing consequence that cynicism to politidane or the concept of public service has reached unprecedented levels. The

polarisation between the politically powerful and the politically impotent and the widening gap between the "haves and have note" poses a threat to social stability as well as economic security.

What is so frustrating is that living next door to the fastest growing region of the world there are great opportunities for both our natural and human resources. Our service industries have a comparative advantage in providing educational, communications, banking, and consultant services. We are an efficient producer of minerals and fewId and nu, Muria+ fArsiliti gut Aro ATPAllarit. atriATItifir• ArriltAiivA11161:1 are world class.

Australia should set its sights high. We should be a major processor of raw materials. We should be specialists in sophisticated manufactures. We should aim by the year 2000 to be the most important financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region, alter Tokyo.


We should aim to be the communications hub of the Asia-Pacific

region. We should be the provider of major health services to the region. We should be the region's centre for education services. The Garnaut Report in fact estimated that there was a $20 billion export gain to be realised if Australia had a "normally internationally-oriented economy".

Whether we maximise these opportunities will principally depend on whether Australia is internationally competitive. It means embracing a strategy for economic growth and employment built on greater freedom and incentive for individual&

We want to help build a country with an economy that can compete with the rest of the world. We want young couples to own their own homes and to raise their families in a country of expanding opportunities. We want farmers to be able to keep their land which they and their families have worked so hard to develop. We want those in business to be able to turn their ideas into reality and to be rewarded for doing so. We want trades people and professions to be

able to reap the rewards of their skill. And we want our young people - as well as those returning to education - to know that their skills are equal to the best in the world.

Australia can no longer afford indifference to excellence, adopting a "she'll be right" attitude, or claiming the cause of our problems resides elsewhere.

Australia today is at the crossroads. History has shown us we do have the capacity to overcome difficulties and setbacks. During our brief history Australians have proved themselves to be inventive, ingenious and creative. We have the ability to adapt to changing

conditions and new challenges.

In the way that past generations did not let us down - we must not let down future generations. This should be our commitment this Australia Day.

/ appreciate the opportunity to have given this Australia Day message and congratulate the Carl Linger Memorial Committee for keeping alive the memory of one individual Australian who made a special contribution to our heritage.