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Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Page: 3

Rt Hon. STEPHEN HARPER (Prime Minister of Canada) (10:39 AM) —The Hon. David Hawker, Speaker of the House; the Hon. Alan Ferguson, President of the Senate; the Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister; the Hon. Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition; distinguished representatives and senators of the Parliament of Australia; ladies and gentlemen: Monsieur le président, c’est un honneur et un privilège pour moi d’être le premier ministre qui s’adresse pour la première fois à votre parlement au nom de la population canadienne.

Mr Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me, as was mentioned, to be the first Prime Minister to address your parliament on behalf of the Canadian people. Laureen and I have been utterly and completely charmed by the warm Australian hospitality we have encountered every step of the way on this, our first visit together to your wonderful country. Thank you all for all of your kindness.

I would like to begin by congratulating the government and people of Australia for hosting such a successful APEC summit. In particular, the progress made toward forging a new international consensus on energy and environmental policy is a credit to the unity and goodwill of all APEC members and, especially, to the chairmanship and leadership of Australia.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate Prime Minister Howard’s visit to our parliament last year. His address to a joint session of our parliament was a warm and eloquent tribute to the deep friendship between our nations. I believe that the warmth and closeness of the relationship between Canada and Australia today is a remarkable thing, for it was not born of proximity or necessity. We started at opposite ends of the earth, our dreams guided by the North Star, yours by the Southern Cross.

L’Australie est née en anglais, le Canada en français—à Québec il y a quatre cent ans l’année prochaine—reflété jusqu’à ce jour par la présence des francophones et de la ‘nation québécoise’ au sein de notre pays uni.

Australia was born in English, Canada in French—at Quebec City 400 years ago next year—reflected to this day by the presence of francophones and the ‘Quebecois nation’ within our united country. But even after we both came under the British Crown, for centuries our countries doggedly pursued their own destinies.

En bout de ligne, cependant, c’est par nos valeurs communes que nous avons découvert notre véritable similitude. Les batailles épiques du vingtième siècle—contre l’impérialisme, le fascisme et le communisme—nous ont opposés contre les ennemis communs de notre plus grande civilisation. Bien que nos troupes se soient rarement battues sur le même champ de bataille, elles se sont battues pour les mêmes idéaux.

Ultimately, it was through our shared values that we discovered our true kinship. The epic struggles of the 20th century—against imperialism, fascism and communism—pitted us against the common enemies that threatened our greater civilization. Though our troops rarely fought on the same battlefield, Canadians and Australians fought for the same ideals. And, of course, in the First World War, the spark of our respective national identities was lit: ours at Vimy Ridge, yours at Gallipoli. In these great national tests and those ever since, our familial bonds have been renewed and strengthened. We have become like cousins—‘strategic cousins’ in the words of your military historian John Blaxland.

Et aujourd’hui, malgré notre immense distance géographique, le Canada et l’Australie suivent des chemins remarquablement similaires.

Today, despite the vast distance between us, Canada and Australia follow remarkably similar paths. We have built on the enduring strengths which we inherited from our European ancestors, added the common experience of multicultural, immigrant nations and sought to achieve reconciliation with our first peoples. Of course, Canada and Australia have also borrowed and adapted the traditions and institutions of British government and American federalism, as the Leader of the Opposition noted.

I cannot help but notice, however, that you have done a much better job than us with at least one of our Westminster institutions, the upper house. I see there is division of opinion on that! As one Canadian political scientist I know likes to say, ‘When we look at Australia, we suffer from “Senate envy”,’ because in Canada, senators remain appointed, not elected. They do not have to retire until age 75, and may warm their seats for as long as 45 years. By the nature of the system, they are not accountable to voters. So it is a rare pleasure for me to be among senators who are elected by the people they represent.

The mandate to govern, when it is given directly by the people, is a great honour and a great responsibility. It is the very essence of responsible government and it is the mini-mum condition of 21st century democracy.

Le Sénat australien démontre comment une chambre haute réformée peut fonctionner au sein de notre système parlementaire. Et les Canadiennes et Canadiens comprennent que notre Sénat, tel qu’il est aujourd’hui, doit soit changer ou, comme les anciennes chambres hautes de nos provinces, disparaître.

Australia’s Senate shows how a reformed upper house can function in our parliamentary system. And Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change or, like the old upper houses of our provinces, vanish.

Mais le Canada et l’Australie ne peuvent qu’apprendre l’un de l’autre, nous avons beaucoup à offrir aux autres. Nous sommes des démocraties prospères, pacifiques et stables, des sociétés libres, ouvertes et pluralistes. Nous aspirons vraiment aux plus grands idéaux de la civilisation, mais nous n’avons pas la capacité ni la volonté de conquérir ou de dominer. Pour toutes ces raisons, le Canada et l’Australie sont dans une position unique pour être une force de changement positif dans le monde.

But not only can Canada and Australia learn from one another; we have much to offer others. We are stable, prosperous, peaceful democracies. We are free, open, pluralistic societies. At home, we share an overriding belief in giving all of our citizens ‘a fair go’. That is why we have a large and growing middle class to which hundreds of millions of people in the developing world aspire to belong. Abroad, we are committed to free and fair trade, helping those in need and defending global security.

We have fought and sacrificed for just causes, but we have neither the capacity nor the will to conquer or to dominate. We are fast friends of, but fiercely proud of our differences with, our other strategic cousin—the United States. In sum, our two countries genuinely aspire to the highest ideals of civilization, however imperfectly we sometimes achieve them. For all these reasons, I believe Canada and Australia are uniquely able to serve as a force for positive change in this troubled world. And we should commit ourselves to the service of that cause, together. I do not suggest or embrace this duty lightly. It is guided, in part, as Prime Minister Howard mentioned, by the sombre anniversary we are marking today.

September 11, 2001 was truly a day that shook the world. Six years on, the horrific images from that morning still evoke anger, sorrow and—as intended—terror. The buildings may have been American, but the targets were every one of us: every country and every person who chooses tolerance over hatred, pluralism over extremism, democracy over tyranny.

We have been struck again and again in London, Madrid, India and many other places, including, of course, Bali. Canadians mourned your losses, and we redoubled our efforts to stand with you. Two dozen of our citizens died in New York on 9-11. And 70 Canadian soldiers and one of our diplomats have fallen in Afghanistan—as well as a Canadian carpenter, murdered by the Taliban after he built a school for the children of a remote Afghan village. So both our countries have been bloodied by terror. And both of us are doing our part to confront and defeat it.

En Afghanistan et ailleurs, nos deux pays sont engagés à collaborer, comme l’a dit le Premier Ministre Howard lors de son allocution devant notre parlement l’année dernière ‘pas seulement pour le mieux de l’Australie et du Canada, mais pour le mieux de tous les peuples du monde’. Cette cause est à la fois noble et nécessaire. Car comme l’ont démontré les événements du 11 septembre, si nous abandonnons nos semblables à la pauvreté, à la brutalité et à l’ignorance, dans le village mondial d’aujourd’hui, leur misère deviendra éventuellement et inévitablement la nôtre.

In Afghanistan and elsewhere, both our countries are committed to working together, as Prime Minister Howard said in his address to our parliament last year, ‘not only for the betterment of Australia and Canada, but for the betterment of all the peoples of the world’. This cause is noble and necessary. Because, as 9-11 showed, if we abandon our fellow human beings to lives of poverty, brutality and ignorance, in today’s global village their misery will eventually and inevitably become our own.

And, friends, we should not underestimate our capacity either to influence events or to influence others. At enormous human and financial cost, we have both built solid reputations as defenders of freedom, democracy and human rights. We have worked closely to build multilateral institutions and establish international law. Our peacekeepers and peacemakers have saved countless millions from war and devastation. Our aid programs and relief workers have helped poor countries across the globe improve the lives of their citizens.

Our histories have set an inspiring example. That is symbolised by this great institution. As the Leader of the Opposition said, this parliament, like our own, enjoys a continuous democratic tradition rarely equalled in the history of the world—unbroken by tyranny or conquest, unbroken by civil war or social disorder. What an extraordinary achievement that is.

We were buffeted by the same forces of economic depression, social unrest and political tension that drove other countries over the brink into political authoritarianism, economic collapse and much worse. So, why not us? I leave it to historians to debate the details. For me, two strengths shine clearly above all the rest: our democratic spirit and our devotion to equality of opportunity.

Democracy is more than free elections, as essential as those are; it is a conviction, a habit of mind, an instinctive sense of fairness, self-restraint and compromise. Our democratic spirit gives us the confidence to meet new challenges and to strike out in new directions.

Equality of opportunity springs from the same principles. It is about removing the roadblocks that prevent others from getting ahead in life, creating the economic conditions that reward hard work, providing a safety net and access to social services, and keeping taxes low and fair for everybody.

In recent years, both of our economies have enjoyed very strong growth. I know that Australia has been on a prosperous roll for a decade. I urge you, as I urge my countrymen, to never think that that happened by accident. It had everything to do with prudent policy choices, far-sighted leadership and careful fiscal management.

I believe that one of the great dangers facing both of our countries today is complacency about the economy, complacency because many of our citizens have long forgotten, or have never experienced, economic recession. But we cannot take our continued prosperity for granted. We face unprecedented new competition from emerging economic giants like China and India. It is more important than ever to make the right, and sometimes very difficult, policy choices. The wrong choices could unravel our progress and prosperity far more quickly than many people would care to believe.

The world needs us—to continue to serve as powerful models of prosperous and compassionate societies, independent yet open to the world. That is the Canadian and the Australian way. It is evident in our collaboration within the World Trade Organisation—our work for a successful and ambitious outcome that will lead to freer and fairer trade for developed and developing countries alike. It is evident in our shared efforts, demonstrated at APEC, towards effective international action on climate change—action that seeks to balance economic and environmental imperatives and thus to realistically engage all the world’s major emitters. And it is evident in our leading roles in security and development in Afghanistan, particularly in its southern provinces.

It is a great comfort to our troops in Kandahar to know that there will very soon be 1,000 Aussie soldiers—there are already several hundred—next door in the province of Uruzgan. And I know that they greatly admire the solidarity that all parties in this parliament have shown in support of this United Nations mission.

Alors que la technologie, le commerce et, oui, la menace du terrorisme rendent notre monde de plus en plus petit, le Canada et l’Australie sont de plus en plus proches.

As technology, trade and, yes, the threat of terrorism make our world smaller and smaller, Canada and Australia are growing closer and closer. Two-way investment between our countries hit $12 billion last year.

Every year, 200,000 Australians visit Canada and 100,000 Canadians come here. The vast majority are young people. As often as not, when you are on a ski lift at one of our mountain resorts, a cheerful attendant will welcome you in that distinctive Aussie accent—at least we think it is distinctive! This annual pilgrimage of young people between Down Under and the true north augurs well for even closer relations between our countries in the future.

Voilà pourquoi j’ai le grand plaisir de dire que nos gouvernements viennent de conclure un accord pour renouveler et élargir notre programme de travail d’été pour étudiants.

That is why I am so pleased to report, as Prime Minister Howard mentioned, that our governments have just concluded an agreement to renew and expand our student working vacation program. This will give more young Canadians and Australians the opportunity to visit each other’s country and to widen the personal relations that increasingly bind our nations as a family.

In my experience, our people feel equally at home in both our countries. We both appreciate the God-given beauty of our vast natural landscapes. There are some differences in sports and other things but, unlike most other nations of the Earth, we understand that football is not a game played with only the feet. With familiarity, we learn to appreciate each other’s versions of the game. And, Prime Minister, I promise you that, if I can get you to a top-level ice hockey game, you will see why you should never again propose that I watch cricket!

Ladies and gentlemen, in the course of the past week, I heard a suggestion for a new metaphor to describe the relationship between our two countries: bookends, spaced well apart, but holding together a vast store of knowledge, expertise and experience, not just for ourselves but for all those who aspire to share it. But, in my view, perhaps the comparison to family is still the best one. As proof, let me conclude with a somewhat amusing anecdote from one of my predecessors, Lester Pearson.

In the 1940s, when he was a young diplomat in Ottawa, he one day found himself with your Prime Minister JB Chifley, the young Princess Elizabeth and her infant son, Charles. At the time, Canada-Australia relations were, I gather, in a somewhat strained condition, so when Pearson wrote of the encounter in his diary, he said:

I hope that relations ... were not further disturbed by the fact that I was able to make the baby laugh while Chifley was not.

That sounds very much like family to me. I thank you once again for the wonderful opportunity to address you, to share this close relationship that we have as countries. Merci beaucoup. God bless both of our great nations.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

The SPEAKER —Mr Prime Minister, on behalf of the House I thank you for that address. I wish you and your wife a successful and enjoyable stay in Australia. I thank the President of the Senate and senators for their attendance. The sitting is suspended until the ringing of the bells.

Sitting suspended from 11.09 am to 2.40 pm