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Address on the occasion of the opening on the World Jurist Association, Sydney, NSW.

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18 AUGUST 2003

Professor Hans Thummel, President of the World Jurist Association and Mrs Thummel Professor David Flint, Australian National Chairman and Third Vice President of the WJA Distinguished guests Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for your welcome Professor, and your invitation to be with you this morning.

My wife, Marlena, and I are delighted to be taking part in such a leading, international event so early in our new role.

This historic Congress once again brings together a distinguished group of judges, lawyers, law professors and others involved with the World Jurist Association.

May I express my condolences at the recent passing of the Association’s founder, Mr Charles Rhyne, aged 91.

Among his many contributions, Mr Rhyne created the American Bar Association’s World Peace Through Law program - which in 1963 evolved into an international organisation, the World Jurist Association.

Forty years later, the aims of the Association are as relevant and vital as they were back then - namely supporting the rule of law in order to extend and uphold world peace.

Mr Rhyne, I know, is greatly missed.

But his dedication and hard work will be carried on by the many others within the Association who share his passion and ideals, including your current President, Professor Hans Thummel whom I know has been outstanding in his leadership over the last two years.

Guided by the motto “A world ruled by law, not force”, the Association carries out thoughtful, urgent and highly valuable work around the world.

These Congresses for example, are significant international fora - facilitating not just discussion of prevailing issues but also recommendations aimed at bolstering the rule of law.

Indeed, the breadth of topics you’ll be addressing this coming week in Sydney and Adelaide, from terrorism to trade and human rights to the environment - along with the calibre of speakers - is very impressive.

I look forward to receiving a summary of the declarations and resolutions - the practical outcomes if you like - arising

from this Congress, and doing what I can to further the noble aim of the World Jurist Association.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you may be aware, I’m not a lawyer. Rather, I spent most of my working life as a soldier in the Australian Army.

I’d like to think that in those 40 years or so I was taught - and later went on to teach my officers, NCOs and men - that the rule of law underpins all our actions, even in war.

Indeed in the horror, the filth and the carnage that is the real face of war, it is instantly recognizable that those Armies that do not operate under a strong military / civil code of law are those that mistreat - often to an extreme degree - civilian populations and the POW and wounded of the opposing side.

We see examples of such mistreatment on our TV screens every night. I note with pride that former Australian soldiers are invariably made welcome in the countries in which they were formerly fighting; Gallipoli, Vietnam and East Timor being examples.

Yet the rule of law is a principle so fundamental to our society’s beliefs and systems that ultimately it is truly worth fighting for; to defend the values that have formed our institutions and - in Australia’s case - our democratic order.

At its most basic, it’s the reason why a civilised society has a "defence" force; namely to defend the nation's values, of which the rule of law is of primary importance.

The World Jurist Association’s previous Congress - held in Dublin and Belfast - took place in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.

The Statement on Terrorism issued at the end of that Congress was powerful and forthright.

It denounced “all forms of terrorism, irrespective of political or ideological motivation” and sought “active participation of all states and all people towards international peace and security”. It rightly recognised that terrorist action, in attempting to bring about political change through the murder, torture and extortion of innocent people is the complete antithesis of the rule of law.

Sadly, two years on, the shadow of terrorism is still cast over the globe - including over Australia and countries close to our shores.

The terrible impact of terrorism was felt by this country and our friends in Indonesia - indeed by many nations across the world - in October last year when 202 people - 88 of them Australians - were killed in the Bali bombings.

Now - following the recent bombing at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jakarta - the fear of terrorism in our own region has been heightened.

So, how do we deal with terrorism; this violent, murderous threat to the rule of law?

A key challenge - and it’s a daunting one in the face of fanaticism - is to persuade those who still need convincing that improving the human condition in any substantial, cohesive and sustainable way will only be achieved in a world that is at peace through the rule of law.

Unfortunately, terrorists don’t believe in this ideal - that’s one of the things that makes them terrorists.

They thrive on the chaos they create because they hate - and they seldom repent.

It will be critically important over what I expect will be a considerable time frame, to convince such people that violence is never the answer - that it never resolves their grievances or the injustices they claim to feel. Nor can it ever be a justification for their actions.

Part of that communication process could perhaps come from the example of the world's spiritual leaders coming together in high profile meetings and at regular intervals to denounce terrorism in all its forms, and in particular when incorrectly justified as a "holy" war.

The other major challenge is learning how to act as a global community in order to deal with the practical aspect of terrorism, which of course requires global political co•operation.

This is a difficult task, but we now see examples of genuine progress.

For instance, Australian and Indonesian police forces have co•operated admirably in the wake of the Bali bombing - pooling their skills and intelligence in pursuit of a common goal.

And when that explosion ripped through the Marriott Hotel two weeks ago, those same police forces were - as one team - sorting through the wreckage within hours of the blast. Last Friday we saw the arrest in Thailand of Jemaah Islamiah's operations chief, Hambali, a friend of Bin Laden and one of the world's most wanted terrorists, as a result of splendid co•operation between the United States, Thai and other national intelligence and police authorities.

Awful as the reason may have been, this was a good example of different institutions working together - of international co•operation underpinned by a commitment to the rule of law.

Of course, for our part, Australia is currently taking part in another international initiative with the rule of law at its very heart - and that’s the Regional Assistance Mission to our neighbouring Pacific country, the Solomon Islands.

Significantly, in co•operation with defence and police personnel from several Pacific nations, around 1700 Australians are working to end endemic violence in the Solomons and deal with the myriad other problems besetting that small country.

Lawlessness - caused by corruption and steady erosion of the legitimacy of institutions - has pushed the Solomon Islands to the brink.

Clearly, immediate and co•ordinated action was needed.

The Prime Minister of Australia outlined the wider imperative last Tuesday in Parliament when he said: “If Australia wants security, we need to do all that we can to ensure that our region, our neighbourhood, is stable - that governance is strong and the rule of law is just.”

That principle applies even more generally in regions all around the globe.

Although the task in the Solomons is a tough one, there are already encouraging signs that the rule of law - and the people’s trust in it - is gradually being reinstated.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some of the things I’ve spoken about- terrorism, and the collapse of institutions and order - highlight the often frail and impermanent nature of the rule of law.

At any given time - somewhere in the world - the concept is under attack.

But the history of civilisation is the story of a steady expansion of democratic ideals and institutions - though it is a narrative frequently punctuated by ghastly examples of regression.

My learned colleague and immediate predecessor as Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Sir Guy Green, very wisely wrote:

“The rule of law antedates the emergence of democratic institutions and the principles of responsible government, and is a condition of their effective operation.

“A fully representative parliament, free elections, universal suffrage and bills of rights mean nothing unless the rule of law prevails and the executive government is itself subject to the law …”

(The Sir Robert Menzies Oration, Governors, Democracy and the Rule of Law, 29 October 1999)

Put simply, history has proven that without the rule of law, political systems including the police, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and private enterprise invariably become corrupted with disastrous consequences for their people.

Notwithstanding this simple fact, the world is still far from achieving a state where the rule of law prevails, which is why the work of civilised nations and groups such as the World Jurist Association is so important.

I would suggest, however, the legal structures and institutions that signify and safeguard the rule of law in society must primarily spring from the unwavering conviction of individual citizens.

As such an individual, I have a profound belief in the importance of the rule of law and specifically chose to emphasise this last week when I was sworn in as Governor-General.

As an Australian, my belief is rooted in our own history, because the birth of this nation as “one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth” was effected with a scrupulous regard for legality, in accordance with the wishes of the people to federate, and without that loss of life or acts of violence which have so often and so unfortunately marred such events elsewhere.

Indeed, it would be difficult to identify the birth of any other nation which has been as peaceful, as democratic, and as compliant with the law.

But, as I said, in many societies the rule of law is not permanently embedded.

As in the Solomons, it can be formally instituted but then quickly diluted and perhaps even lost.

For the rule of law to take root and prosper as both an ideal and a regime, citizens must feel it and think it - they must live it.

On a day-to-day basis, their belief in and adherence to the laws which govern them and the institutions that make and implement the law must be based on a fundamental confidence in the integrity of those institutions.

Thus my key message to you today is that we must all do everything in our power to nurture a deep and widespread belief in the rule of law, in order to create and maintain civil society both within and among nations.

We must continue to affirm the importance of the rule of law as a basis for the good governance of society.

But sustaining respect for the general rule of law - respect for the rights and responsibilities of all citizens - demands constant vigilance and resolve.

As lawyers - perhaps more than most people - you understand the value of robust and searching debate, and respect for different philosophies and perspectives.

This is a healthy and critical part of the sharing of ideas and experiences - and a recognition that we are a planet of diverse peoples and cultures.

We may disagree on some issues, and those gaps might not always be bridged, but on the basic fundamentals; of being able to walk the streets safely at all times, to know that those in power govern with personal and group integrity, for the right to speak freely and worship whom and where we please, the rule of law is the lynch pin, the key ingredient to happy, cohesive and successful societies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It has been an honour to attend the official opening of the World Jurist Association’s 21st Biennial Congress.

I believe you have put together an excellent program for the coming week, which I’m sure will generate constructive, free-flowing debate.

Most of all, I look forward to the Congress formulating recommendations that have the power to make a tangible impact on people’s lives and - as a result - build respect for and adherence to the rule of law.

I wish you all the very best for the coming week, and I hope our many international visitors find time to see as much of our magnificent country as possible.

By way of conclusion, my wife said to me after the reception at Admiralty House last night:

“What a charming, motivated and wonderful group of human beings you all are.”

And she was absolutely right!