Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of address at the Woolworths Support Office: Bella Vista, Sydney: 23 February 2006.

Download PDFDownload PDF


23 February 2006



Thank you very much Mr Strong. To Mr Roger Corbett, the Managing Director of Woolworths, my other fellow Australians gathered in the atrium of this absolutely magnificent building located in an area of Australia’s largest city which represents in so many ways as an area, and the group of people who live there, the very future of our country as well as they very future of the city of Sydney.

Mr Corbett has been very kind in some of the things he said about me and the Government I lead and I thank him very warmly and sincerely for those remarks. The last ten years have been a very important time in Australia’s life and development and a very important time in the life and development of this wonderful company. But I want to say that the people to whom the greatest debt is owed for whatever may have been achieved over the last ten years is in fact the men and women of this country who together have contributed in their remarkable fashion to the country’s growth and prosperity. And just as the strength of a company and in your case the strength of Woolworths rests on your personal contribution and effort and the job satisfaction that you receive for working for this company, so it is that the strength of Australia is due overwhelmingly to the capacity and the adaptability of the employees of this country.

I speak to many foreign business leaders and time and time again they say to me that the greatest asset Australia has is the adaptability of its workforce. And those of you who’ve worked for this company for a longer period of time than others will know how much it’s changed. You’ll know how it has responded to the changed lifestyle of Australians. We’ve come a long way from the days when weekends were not occasions for shopping. We’ve come a long way from the time when your mother, when you came home from school, sent you down to the shops to buy things for her. And supermarkets and shopping malls have become part and parcel of our lives. We want things to be available as near as possible to 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we don’t want to pay anymore for them if we buy them at 3 o’clock on Monday morning than if we buy them at 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. In other words, we


need a retail environment in this country which is ready and available for the different circumstances in which we live.

And the great success of Woolworths has been its capacity to adapt to that changing environment, to understand that the world has changed. It hasn’t got worse, it’s changed. And in so many ways it’s got a great deal better. It is important that companies like Woolworths do well and make good profits because if they make good profits they not only satisfy their shareholders, but most importantly they can provide an ever growing number of secure, well paid jobs for the people who work for them.

One of the great advantages of this new building is that I guess it will bring many of you much closer to the places where you live and that cutting travelling times between home and work is a way of contributing to that very elusive but very important balance between a family life and work life. We work to support ourselves and to support our families. We also work for personal career and job satisfaction. There is nothing more important in life than your family and your relationships. There is nothing more important than being able to put a roof over your head, to pay off your home, to have a secure job, to raise your children and to live a happy and fulfilled family life. It’s still the great Australian dream and it’s a great Australian dream that should be within the reach of everybody.

As I look around at this vast gathering, I see the face of modern Australia. It’s culturally diverse, it’s enthusiastic, it’s committed, it’s part of a great team effort. And success that anybody achieves in life, if they’re really honest about it, is achieved in cooperation with other people. Woolworths has a great employment record, it does cater for the understandable desire of people to be able to balance their work and their family life. It’s also a company that is increasingly recognising the value of older workers. Incredibly as it may seem, this country will grow shorter of workers as the years go by. I predict that the days of people worrying about unemployment are really drifting behind us, that what we have to worry about is having enough workers for the jobs that are going to be available. And we have to find untapped reservoirs of workers and many enlightened companies are seeing the value of older workers. In order to fully utilise older workers in our community there will need to be a continuing process of change and adjustment. The most important thing is to treat every single employee of a company as somebody who has the same aspirations as you as a manager may have. They have a family, they have a career, they want to get ahead, they want their work to be recognised, they want it to be well paid and they want to be fairly treated. That is the ideal of workplace relations that I see for the future and the best firms are the firms where people work together in that common cause. I know that is a philosophy that is practiced in this company and this magnificent building, the light, the whole ambience of it tells me that this has been constructed by a company that believes that the interests of the employees of the company are crucial to the long term benefit and profitability.

So my fellow Australians, I am delighted to be part of this gathering. I thank you, all of you, for the contribution that you have made to the strength of our country. I thank all of those who weren’t born in this country for coming here and making a contribution to Australia. We are an open, tolerant country. We are the least discriminatory country in the world in my view. We welcome people from the four corners of the earth. The only thing we ask of them is that when they come here they



become Australians before anything else. That is something that they do and they do it magnificently.

So to all of you my fellow Australians and as employees of Woolworths I wish you well. I hope the dreams you have for yourselves and your families in the years ahead are fully realised. I congratulate Roger Corbett and James Strong and the other members of the Board for the leadership that they have given to this company and for the enormous contribution that all of you together have made to the strength and the prosperity and the identity of your wonderful company and I have great pleasure in declaring this building officially open.

Thank you.