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Transcript of address to the Red Shield Appeal launch: Newcastle: 31 March 2006\n\n

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31 March 2006



Thanks Phil. That was very, very generous of you. Lord Mayors, I know there are a number here, my good friend Bob Baldwin, I noticed he was called honorary rather than honourable a moment ago. Honorary normally means, Bob, you don’t get paid, so perhaps we can save a few bob for the cause and not pay you any more salary. But to Commissioner Les Strong, the Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army, I understand Sharon Grierson, the Member for Newcastle is also here, ladies and gentlemen. I simply want to say that I am really delighted to be with you today. I’m delighted to support the Salvation Army appeal not only here in the Hunter, but also throughout Australia. The is no organisation in this country or around the world that is a greater example of old fashioned, straight forward humanity than the Salvation Army. It’s an organisation that I learnt as a child growing up in the suburbs of Sydney; it’s an organisation that looks after people who need assistance. I was fortunate enough not to be in that category but I knew a lot of people who were and the way in which the Salvation Army reached out to people that no other organisation bothered with has been with me ever since.

When I first became Prime Minister one of the very first things I did was to get together a group of people to look at the issue of youth homelessness. Now I don’t pretend that we’ve solved that problem. I suppose no society ever completely solves a problem like that, what you might do is ameliorate the problem. And I made as chairman of that group a Salvation Army officer, Captain David Eldridge from Melbourne who had a wonderful record of community service and caring for people. He did a great job. And for the whole of the time that I’ve been Prime Minister I have been greatly aided and assisted by people from the Salvation Army who are not just there to give me counsel and advice, and heaven knows like anybody else I’m always in need of a bit of spiritual and other advice, but I’ve had somebody there who’s been able to give practical advice.


I had Major Brian Watters, as many of you know, from the Salvation Army, as chairman of the Australian council on drugs. And as a result of the advice from him and many of his committees, I believe we have made, at a Government level, through the injection of a lot of money and through a lot of cooperation with state governments across political divides, we have been able to make a difference in that area. We’ve been able to see the death rates, the heroin overdoes, significantly decline over the past few years and we’ve begun to get together programmes of diversion when people look as though they’re going to get in trouble with the law because of drug abuse, we’re confronting them with the choice; you either face the possibility of getting caught up in the criminal justice system by going to jail, or alternatively you go into a course of rehabilitation and treatment. Take your pick. And by confronting people with that kind of choice at a critical stage in their life, it can make quite a difference. Now the Salvation Army’s input into those sort of policies through Brian Watters has been immense.

Now I mention those two personal examples to illustrate a broader point and that is the intense practicality of the Salvation Army. It is at core and at heart a traditional orthodox Christian organisation and is never ashamed to proclaim its values and its faith. It’s also an organisation that puts those values and that faith into action. It’s a very practical organisation. It’s an organisation that, in so many ways, helps people in a non-judgemental fashion. (inaudible) to establish a linkage with a person is to assist them in a non-judgemental way and that’s what the Salvation Army does. It’s not the only organisation; there are many other wonderful organisations in our community. I don’t seek to say it’s the only one, but it’s an organisation that is always there. Not surprisingly it was one of the first organisations helping out in Innisfail, an organisation that’s always helped people who’ve been caught up committing crime and in jail and helping some of the, what we use in the old language, the down and outs in our community in a way that perhaps other organisations, or very few, were willing or able to do.

So it’s been a friend of everybody’s, the Salvation Army. It’s been a friend of Australians in peace time and as any returned serviceman in this audience will know, it’s been a friend of Australians in war time. It’s been a friend of battered wives and mothers; it’s been a friend of people who in every different way have been down on their luck.

So I’m very proud of my association on a personal basis and also through the Government with the Salvation Army. It’s been an organisation that’s involved itself very heavily in the welfare programmes of this Government over the last 10 years where we’ve tried to involve the welfare sector not only in helping people, but also giving us advice as to how we can better help people. Governments are very good at some things; they’re very good at writing cheques although most of you think they don’t write enough. Perhaps some of you think that you contribute too much to their capacity to write cheques, but whatever the case may be, they’re good at some things, but they’re not very good at others and when it comes to helping people who need help, there’s no better organisation than one like the Salvation Army or the Wesley Mission or the Society of St Vincent de Paul. You can name very quickly a number of great organisations that are all in that category. So my esteem for the Army is unlimited. I think it’s a great organisation that’s done wonderful things for this country, it’s done wonderful things for individuals. It’s given comfort and hope and it’s reduced loneliness in a way that very few organisations can do.



The other reason why I’m delighted to be here today is that I have had a long association with the Hunter District, with Newcastle. I have come here on many occasions. I admire the spirit of this city. It’s changed enormously, I don’t say that in a judgemental sense, it’s always been a great city and it’s always been a great area. It’s just that it had to face an enormous amount of change and a lot of that change occurred in the early years of the Government with the closure of the steel works and the inevitable process of adjustment. And that is, while it’s not a distant memory, it’s something that the city and the area has taken in its stride. And one of the reasons it took it in its stride was that there was a willingness for people to cooperate across the normal divides and I remember putting together a task group that involved people from business, people from the trade unions, people from the churches, all of whom were willing to help to work together to help in different ways. And it indicated the great spirit of the city and the way in which it has moved on to another phase of its existence. And that is an enormous tribute to the spirit of the people. It’s an enormous tribute to the backbone of Novocastrians, it’s an enormous tribute to the great Australian capacity to change and adapt. We have many great qualities as a nation and as a people we have many great qualities, but no quality is greater than our capacity to adapt when there is a need for change, but in the process of adapting, holding on to that essential Australian ethos. And that essential Australian ethos of mateship and of

helping people who’ve always been, who’ve always needed help is of course very much part of the spirit of this city and also very much part of the ethos of the Salvation Army.

So I wish this appeal well. The Federal Government, I’m happy to announce, will contribute a quarter of a million dollars to the Salvation Army national appeal. Of course, as a help as indicated, all donations, no matter what size, anything over $2 is fully tax deductible and it will always remain so, so please give and support this appeal generously.

The Salvation Army of course is a participant in many of the welfare programmes, the Joblink and many of the other programmes; to help people with drug problems and all these sorts of other problems; the Federal Government funds. And their record, their work is exemplary and its work that I admire and I praise very much.

So for those reasons, ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be back in Newcastle, it’s great to be back in the Hunter. I like this area very much. You’ll forgive me for saying what a great job Bob Baldwin is doing, my recently appointed Parliamentary

Secretary and Member for Paterson. But this is an occasion to pay tribute not only to Bob, but also to respect the contribution of other members of Parliament of different political persuasions that represent this area. Because at a gathering like this we’re not into party politics, we’re in to helping the community, we’re into supporting and honouring one of the great practical Christian organisations of our time and that is the Salvation Army.

I wish them well, I wish the appeal well and I know that you will all support it very, very generously. Thank you.