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Our future in a changed security environment, Curtin University of Technology. Graduation address, The Forum, Curtin University of Technology, Bentley Campus, \nBentley.

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20 February 2003

Our Future in a Changed Security Environment Curtin University of Technology - Graduation Address

The Forum, Curtin University of Technology, Bentley Campus Kent Street, Bentley

7.00pm, Thursday, 20 February, 2003


For you, the graduates, today marks a significant milestone in your lives. No-one should under-estimate what you have achieved, both intellectually and socially during your time here at Curtin. You are entitled to feel proud of yourselves. And your friends and families are entitled to feel proud of you.

Graduation is a time of challenge as well as of achievement. Having accomplished the significant achievement of completing your degrees, you now face the challenge of what to do with your new credentials.

In Australia we are lucky to live in a country that allows and encourages freedom of choice. We have freedom of political expression. We have freedom of religious association. And we have freedom of opportunity.

It is tempting to take these freedoms for granted. But we can not. Every graduating class faces its own challenges. You are graduating at a difficult and testing time for Australia. Terrorism has threatened the security and freedom we have enjoyed for so long. It has presented us all with the challenge of protecting the way of life we value so highly.

War Against Terrorism

Exactly what the war on terrorism will mean for Australia's future - or for your future - is uncertain. The attacks of September 11 and the Bali bombings were senseless and horrific. Terrorists will stop at nothing to bring down Western democracy. They are willing to kill innocent people because they do not agree with our values and our way of life. They are often willing to lose their own lives in the process.

The war against terrorism is not a war that we sought or wanted. It is a war that was forced upon us - and it is one that we must win. We can not let terrorism prevail over

justice. We can not ignore it or pretend that it does not exist.

We have seen around the world that terrorists do not spare those countries that fail to challenge them. That is why the Australian Government has chosen to take such a strong stand. We have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to protect our country and our community from terrorism. And we will continue to work with our allies to ensure that liberty and justice prevail over tyranny and hatred.

The Australian community has an important role to play in protecting our community life from the threat of terrorist violence. As a community we can help to protect ourselves by being conscious of our changed security environment. We also protect our community by ensuring that the way of life we value is protected. This can be a difficult task. But fostering and preserving our traditions of freedom, tolerance and justice is central to defeating terrorism.

It is a challenge that the Government faces in upgrading security without impinging on people's ability to go about their business and daily lives; in keeping the community informed about the threat of terrorism without causing unnecessary concern; and in giving our security agencies the capacity to deal with terrorism without unfairly impinging on the rights of our citizens.

These are difficult tasks but I am confident that we have got the balance right.

Even so, one of the freedoms that we value so highly is the community's right to voice their views on government action. And I would encourage you all to be active participants in our political process, to respect the views of others and never to take for granted the power that being a citizen of a strong and vibrant democracy gives you.

In recent times we have had a strong public debate over the situation in Iraq and the role of Australia in helping to address the threat posed by that country. The Government believes that threat is not a theoretical one. We believe that we have an obligation to work with others in the international community to deal with the threat posed by persistent failure on the part of Iraq to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, the fact that we live in a country where freedom of political discourse is understood to be a fundamental right gives rise to an obligation on our part to protect such freedoms internationally.

The Government continues to face critics of its stance on the war against terrorism and the action the Government has taken to help protect Australians and Australian interests from the threat of terrorism. In my view those who oppose the Government's position do not fully appreciate the magnitude or the intensity of the threat that Australia faces. The war against terrorism is not a traditional war and in many cases its machinations are not obvious. But let there be no mistake - the war against terrorism is real. We need to be vigilant and we must be alert to the dangers we face.

Of course, vigilance should not lead to hysteria. Australians should not be alarmed and we should not stop going about our daily business. Panic only feeds into the hands of terrorists. Terrorists operate by spreading fear. And giving in or pretending that it will go away will not protect us against terrorism. It is important that we respond to the terrorist threat with vigour and purpose.

A History of Overcoming Adversity

Australians of every generation have faced - and overcome - challenges every bit as severe as the challenges that we face today.

We have fought in two world wars and many other smaller regional conflicts. In the process nearly, 100,000 Australians have given their lives to defend our country and to defend the things we believe in.

We have overcome economic crises. During the Great Depression, one in three people were unemployed and economic hardship affected every aspect of Australian life.

We have survived the ravages of fire, flood and drought. Right now, many parts of Australia are experiencing their worst drought on record. And just last month, more than 500 homes were destroyed by fire in the suburbs of Canberra.

The Australian Character

Australia has prevailed over hardship because of the spirit, character and strength of its people. Those who fought and died in battle, those who survived the great depression and those who overcame fire, flood and drought were, and are, all ordinary people.

These ordinary, but great Australians were, and still are, motivated by simple, honourable and basic ideals. They had faith in the Australian idea of a 'fair go'. They wanted to help their families, their fellow citizens and allies. They wanted to contribute to the community. And they wanted to make Australia and the world a better place.

In keeping with this spirit, it is important to remember that our fight against terrorism is not a fight against a particular race or religion. Our fight is with those who engage in it and who seek to destroy our freedom and Western democratic society as we know it.

As you embark on your careers and the rest of your lives, my advice to you is simple. Pursue your career with integrity and honesty. Treat your fellow citizens with respect and compassion. And contribute to the public good with enthusiasm and optimism. In the long run, these characteristics and these values are more important than money, status or power. And they will return much more happiness in the twilight of your lives, when you look back over what you have done.


Congratulations on completing your studies. I wish you all luck in the next phase of your lives and in achieving the goals that you set for yourself from here. Your potential and ability is unlimited. Use it wisely and make the most of it.

At the time of my graduation, I and my colleagues were full of energy, hope and enthusiasm - we were ready to change the world. I am pleased to see a lot of the same optimism and confidence as I look out at you today. Your confidence is well placed. We live in a strong, tolerant and free country.

With your help, I know that we can ensure that it stays that way.