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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1790


Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aff airs)(12.34 p.m.) —I thank Senator Cook for his gracious contributions and the previous speakers for their remarks. Senator Cooney paid tribute to Senator Troeth. As is his usual wont, he made a very erudite contribution and I thank him. I share his regard for Senator Troeth's contribution as well. It was in contradistinction to Senator Schacht's contribution.

Madam Acting Deputy President, your predecessor in the chair had to reprimand Senator Schacht and tell him that he should put the normal appellation before the surnames of people in the other house. It is for a very significant reason that that is done, as you know. Senator Schacht should not throw stones, because he is in a glasshouse. A small slip of the tongue in the pronunciation of his own surname might lead to an appellation that could be misconstrued. It is in his own interests that he should do that.

In his contribution, Senator Schacht attacked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer. I take the opportunity of reading into the Hansard the words that Mr Downer actually used when he addressed the Georgetown Library when making a gift donation for the newly established Australia and New Zealand Studies Centre. You will recall that Senator Schacht attacked Mr Downer for anti-Catholic remarks. It is very fortunate that, being a practising Catholic myself, I was here and I knew that that was a complete distortion of what actually occurred. I would like to read the contribution that Mr Downer made at that time. He was at a Jesuit institution and said:

Thanks very much, Jeff, and Father O'Donovan, Your Excellency, the Australian Ambassador and Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much for your introduction, Jeff. I am certainly delighted to be here in this world-famous and truly great Jesuit institution. I have to confess two things. One of them is that my press secretary who is back in Australia at the moment was himself a Jesuit priest but is not anymore. I don't know what one can say about that.


Senator Bolkus —Are you sure about this?


Senator HERRON —I am sure. I have the context and if you want me to incorporate it I am happy to do so.


Senator Bolkus —You may want to do that, but there may have been other comments as well.


Senator HERRON —Do I have your permission to incorporate it?


Senator Kernot —Is it a transcript?


Senator HERRON —It is.


Senator Kernot —A correct transcript?


Senator HERRON —It is. Then it has `(Laughter)', Senator Kernot, and it goes on:

He is happily married though.

And another thing is, and this is another rather unfortunate coincidence, that if you take the 148 electoral districts of Australia, mine has the smallest proportion of people of the Roman Catholic denomination. That is, of course, a characteristic of South Australia which is very much dominated by people from the Church of England and what used to be the Methodist Church and is now the Uniting Church.

But I am not here to talk about religion. I am here to talk about the Australia and New Zealand Studies Centre which, I think, is a truly excellent initiative and we as Australians are delighted to see this centre of study established and to provide the support we do provide for it.

This is the context that Senator Schacht misrepresented.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reynolds) —Are you seeking leave to incorporate the document?


Senator HERRON —If that is the wish of the opposition, I am happy to incorporate it.


Senator Bolkus —Including the laughter?


Senator HERRON —It has `(Laughter)', yes. It was a joke. You wouldn't understand that it was a joke. I seek leave to incorporate the speech in Hansard .

Leave granted.

The document read as follows

PRESENTATION BY THE AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, MR ALEXANDER DOWNER, OF A GIFT DONATION TO GEORGETOWN LIBRARY FOR THE NEWLY-ESTABLISHED AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND STUDIES CENTRE

7 JUNE 1996

WASHINGTON, DC

(Introduction by Father Von Arx)

MINISTER DOWNER: Thanks very much, Jeff, and Father O'Donovan, Your Excellency, the Australian Ambassador and Ladies and Gentleman. Thank you very much for your introduction, Jeff. I am certainly delighted to be here in this world-famous and truly great Jesuit institution. I have to confess two things. One of them is that my press secretary who is back in Australia at the moment was himself a Jesuit priest but is not anymore. I don't know what one can say about that (Laughter) He is happily married though.

And another thing is, and this is another rather unfortunate coincidence, that if you take the 148 electoral districts of Australia, mine has the smallest proportion of people of the Roman Catholic denomination. That is, of course, a characteristic of South Australia which is very much dominated by people from the Church of England and what used to be the Methodist Church and is now the Uniting Church.

But I am not here to talk about religion. I am here to talk about the Australia and New Zealand Studies Centre which, I think, is a truly excellent initiative and we as Australians are delighted to see this centre of study established and to provide the support we do provide for it. And Georgetown University, as I mentioned already, is one of the really great universities of the world, not just of the United Stated. It has many distinguished alumni including, of course, the President. For us to have this Studies Centre at Georgetown, I think, is something very advantageous to Australia.

Obviously, it is a centre that provides educational ties with Australia and helps Americans understand Australia better than might otherwise be the case. But more deeply than that, I think it is a great opportunity for us as Australians to help to get our message across better in the United States and develop an understanding—a better understanding—of Australia in this country.

It is often said that Australians and Americans have a great deal in common and we share common values and so on. But one of the things we really do share is that as societies we have rather similar but not identical origins. That is, we were countries which had a fairly small indigenous population but with very rich cultures. That Europeans came and settled those societies and totally changed those societies and those societies have subsequently evolved from that point. And indeed, one of the interesting things which is worth exploring is the way the society in the United States has differed somewhat in its evolution from society in Australia. Not, I suspect, as many would easily argue because of slightly different, in fact quite different, migration patterns but because of the different values that the early settlers of those two societies had. And I often argue that it is the values of the early European settlers in a so-called "New World" that very much entrenched for the long-term the fundamental values of those societies.

So, although Australia and United States have a great deal in common there are some quite subtle differences in the values of our societies—in their value systems. And if you go back and look at the early history of the European settlers in those societies, the differences in those people in Australia and the United States helps to explain the differences in those values. So, I think this would be very much something that could be explored in this Centre. It is a thesis that, as you can see, I am getting excited about (Laughter) A thesis that I am personally quite interested in and one that can be extended to Latin American and to examine why Latin American societies are so different today from societies like the United States and Australia and New Zealand and Canada. So, it is quite an interesting issue.

These sorts of issues are things we need to have a better understanding of. I also have to say that I think the stereotypical view of Australia which exists in the United States as it does in parts of Europe, or probably most of Europe, is a view of Australia that is, I suppose, reasonably flattering but is an unsophisticated view of a society which is, in fact, a very interesting and sophisticated and successful society.

I like ministers who go out and sell their country and as far as I am concerned, I think Australia is one of the true success stories of human civilisation. As a society it has worked incredibly well. It is a multicultural society with people from 120 or 130 countries settling Australia but they live in relative harmony and they live with a great deal of tolerance of different cultures, different religions, different denominations and even of rather different values. It is a country which has developed, as has the United States, a high standard of living and generally speaking, I think, as a country which you could describe as essentially a very decent country. Australia is a country which has very decent values and I think internationally makes a contribution to the world which underlies the essential decency of Australian society.

So, we are absolutely delighted that apart from the perspective of Australia that somehow is a place with kangaroos, where people play a lot of sport and beat Americans at the Olympic Games, particularly at things like swimming, those truly important exercises. And in tennis, we used to beat the United States at tennis once. That takes you back. That takes you back a long time . . . (Laughter) . . . when we used to beat them in the Davis Cup. But that Australia is so much more than that and is such a rich and exciting country. I suppose there is one other thing I should mention before I finish about Australia that I think is simply not understood in other parts of the world. And that is that of all the countries that I have ever visited—and I am biased about this as the Australian Foreign Minister—of all the countries I have ever visited, I think Australia is one of the countries that has the strongest contribution and the strongest commitment to the Arts. That is an aspect of Australian society which is little understood and little known. But the performing arts and the creative arts generally in Australia are very rich and very strongly supported by the Australian people. I doubt, as a proportion of the population you would get more support for the Arts in terms of consumers in any country than you get in Australia.

So, there is much about Australia which I think is misunderstood. There is much about Australia which is not understood at all. And we as Australians are very proud of what we have achieved over the last 200 or so years and we would like to go out and tell our story and sell our story more positively and aggressively than we have done in the past. I guess we are sort of shy and modest . . . (Laughter) . . . people but I don't think we have anything to be modest about. I don't think we should be that. I think we should be quite outspoken and positive about our really great country.

As I said, we are absolutely delighted with this Studies Centre and I am very happy that the Australian Government has decided to present some books to the Centre. I had a look on the way here in the car at the books that we are actually presenting, or at least a selection of them, and I know that I have symbolically to present you, Father with one of those books. I have decided to present a different one from the one that I was originally asked to present cause I didn't like that one. (Laughter) So, I thought that Geoffrey Serle biography of John Monash who is not only a great engineer but he is remembered particularly as a great general during the First World War would be a more appropriate book to present you with than the one that I won't name. But before I do that I also want to acknowledge Henry Nowik who is here with us today if I can see him out the back there. Henry has himself presented—as I understand it—presented the centre with some first editions of Patrick White's novels. And Patrick White is Australia's Nobel Prize winning novelist and a wonderful and particularly interesting writer. So, I would like to acknowledge what Henry has done. We are very appreciative of that contribution as well.

So Father, it is with those few words it is the greatest of pleasure that I make the presentation to you and symbolically pass you this biography of John Monash.

(Applause)


Senator HERRON —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.