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Address to the Lansdowne Club St Patrick's Day Lunch

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Address to th e L ansdowne ClubSt Patric k' s DayL unc h

FRI 16 MARCH 2012

Prime Minister

Thank you Peter, for that introduction. He’s always a hard act to follow, showing that you can get away with anything in an Irish accent.

It’s grand to be here again.

Ambassador White - welcome to an Australian St Patrick’s Day event.

Can I acknowledge too my Federal colleagues, Tony B urke and Deb O’Neill, who are here with us enjoying the day.

I know that J oe Hockey is here too, travelling as J oe O’Hockey today, and wearing a borrowed green tie.

I’d like to acknowledge the friends and colleagues from state and local government.

Many friendly Irish faces and names -there are K eatings, there are K ellys, J ohnno J ohnson is here, and so many other friends.

Welcome too, to my fellow speakers today. B arry O' Farrell, for one.

A long standing friend of this Club and of course, a man who’s got a considerable promotion since St Patrick’s Day last.

B arry, I don’t think you view it as your role to make my life easier, but you’ve made it easier in one respect. I didn’t have to text you this morning to make sure that you and I weren’t wearing the same outfit.

To K ristina, who’s here, it was always a risk and the problem was she was always going to look better in it. K ristina it’s great that you’re here today.

I’d also like to acknowledge Mr. Alan Shatter, the Irish Minister for J ustice, Equality and Defence. Welcome.

We know Ireland has been doing it tough -really tough. And it must sometimes feel for our Irish friends that history is a nightmare you’re still trying to escape.

We admired the days of the Tiger and through those last decades felt your growing pride and your new prosperity and now we feel how bitter it must be to face tough times again.

B ut even in these tough times Ireland is proving to itself and the world it’s a great nation, a great people with great strengths to draw on. And one of those biggest strengths is your Irishness itself.

In international politics they talk about ‘ hard power’ and ' soft power' .

Hard power -the power of coercion and payment, fleets and armies, silver and gold.

And soft power -the power of co-option and attraction, influence and ideas -story and song.

Well surely, Ireland is a soft power superpower.

Proved by the fact that we can never say no to you and we can never stay mad with you.

And we know that Ireland is going to be back where it wants to be.

Now today, here, it’s serious business here at the Lansdowne Club marking St Patrick' s Day. And it has been serious business in this city for a very long time.

Did you know at Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day dinner in the 1830s they would toast ‘ The commercial interests of the colony’?

Even back then, they were telling their families accountants and financial managers that this was a business lunch. And so the story goes on.

It’s a day to honour the Irish,and the honorary Irish as well. So it’s no surprise either that at those very same dinners here in the 1830s they would toast ‘ the sons of St George, St Andrew and St David who have honoured us with their company this day’.

So I’m glad all these years later you can make me, a daughter of St David, so welcome amongst you.

It’s a big day for the Irish, and it' s a big day for Australians too, because we know without the Irish we would be a very different place.

Our society is this wonderful and complex multicultural tapestry.

B ut at the start of European settlement, Englishness and Irishness were the original warp and weft of the people, the weave and the cross-weave of our national personality.

We do love the larrikin. There’s one or two of them here today I’m sure.

It was Manning Clark who said the larrikin is like this: ‘ Almost archly self-conscious -- too smart for his own good, witty rather than humorous, exceeding limits, bending rules and sailing close to the wind, avoiding rather than evading responsibility, playing to an audience, mocking pomposity and smugness, larger than life, sceptical, iconoclastic, egalitarian yet suffering fools badly and, above all, defiant.’

Could you have a larrikin without Irish emigration?The answer is no.

And if we' re more English than we like to admit -well, we' re not nearly as Irish as we would like to be.

This year I took the opportunity to make the Federal Cabinet just that little bit more Irish.

I already had that fine Sydney Irishman Tony B urke, a grand representative for all the Irishmen who’ve been in the great south land for a century or more.

B ut this time, I thought two was better than one, and if I could get one who came out here on a boat himself, all the better.

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So, it was great fun to read out the names of each of the new Ministers last week, but none more so than that fine Melbourne Irishman, B rendan Patrick O’Connor, proudly a member of my Cabinet.

And I know that his brothers Michael and B rian, his sister Siobhan, and his parents, Philomena from Tipperary and Michael Sr, a grand K erry man, we’re very pleased too.

It’s good to have another larrikin joining Tony B urke in the Cabinet.

Even if it means we won’t get not going to get that much business done in their portfolios this afternoon.

As you all know, we wouldn' t be without the Irish for a moment. It' s as if Ireland were Australia' s marvellous, admired, absent uncle.

Sending wonderful gifts in the post and ringing us up at odd hours with mad anecdotes, just when we' d almost forgotten him.

B ut for all that, he’s our favourite uncle, given we know what Australia would be like without the Irish - just like New Z ealand.

Think about it!

I’m going to pay for that in my next bilateral discussion with J ohn K ey!

I’m sure it’s a good thing, a very good thing, that you all have the weekend to recover from this lunch.

So we can be very confident in the pursuit of national productivity that you will be at work on Monday.

And I do want to say this too. That hasn’t changed either. Patrick O' Farrell reminds us of the United Irishman J oseph Holt -a true political prisoner - sent here after 1798 and who found himself farming near Sydney, and he said in 1803: ‘ My usual time to commence to sow cropswas the first Monday after St Patrick' s Day. it requiring a few days to get the men sober.’

Enjoy the lunch!

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