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Bourke Multi-Purpose Cultural Centre, 31 January 2000: transcript of address.

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31 January 2000





E&EO …………………………………………………………………….

Thank you very much Mr Mayor, to Tony Lawler, to Bill Heffernan, ladies and gentleman. I have had the opportunity over the past few hours, arriving here late yesterday afternoon, and last night and again this morning, to meet many of you and to speak to you about the reasons for my visit to Bourke.

I want to say again how tremendously impressed I've been with the spirit that pervades this town, the sense of optimism, the willingness to challenge problems, the recognition that the world has changed, and a desire to embrace new techniques and new approaches and new industries and new ways. I have also been impressed with the sense of community, the willingness to see the entire population of this community as being together, part and parcel of one great rural community. And I do applaud that sense of community, I think it is very important in tackling the social challenges of this area is indeed the social challenges of any community in Australia, if we look at ourselves first and foremost as a united community, and not as separate groups, negotiating with each other to achieve a particular outcome. And I am heartened by the views that have been expressed to me by leaders of the aboriginal community here today and last night, and also the very strong sense of community cooperation that pervades so many of the things that this community does.

I know that there are many parts of the bush that are doing it tough, I know that some people can't change into new industries because the basic economic substrata is not there for the change to occur. I know that not everybody can go into cotton, which is a boom industry of this district, I know that not everybody can go into tourism. And I know how difficult it is for people in wool, and many of the other traditional primary industries. I can't turn around commodity prices, but I can ensure as head of the Government, that you get a decent level of Commonwealth Government services. I can ensure that you have a good overall economic environment, so that if seasons improve and commodity prices come up, you have the capacity to get the benefit of it. We can change and improve things that affect your business operations, such as our taxation system. And I believe that when all the inevitable clatter and mischief surrounding the tiny detail of tax change, when all of that is behind us, people will see the tax change coming in on the 1 st of July as an enormous economic benefit to Australia, including in particular the bush. Because amongst other

things, it's going to bring about a major reduction in fuel costs, such as enormous component of economic operations in this part of Australia.

I am on a week long visit to regional and rural areas of the country. I am visiting some areas that are economically booming. I am visiting other areas that are economically struggling. I am visiting other areas that have got a mixture of the two. And my message is really the same, that I understand there are significant areas of disadvantage, I know how tough it has been for many people in rural Australia, and in the limit of what we can achieve, but we have to be realistic about it, we will do what we can to help. The purpose of the visit like this, is not for me to engage in long rhetorical speeches, but rather to say why I am here, to express the empathy of the Government with you. To express my admiration for the contribution that rural Australia makes to our community and very importantly to get to know you better, to hear your views, to take on board your suggestions, to listen to your submissions which I've done, to take them back to discuss them with my colleagues. But I found it quite encouraging, indeed in some respects, inspiring to visit Bourke, to learn how you are dealing with particular challenges and I think it is very, very much to your credit.

But I want to leave you with this assurance, that the contribution of the bush to Australia's history, to Australia's culture, to Australia's economic strengths, to the very Australian identity, is something that I hold very dear, it is something that means a lot to me and is something that I am determined as Prime Minister to preserve. Albeit it will need in many respects to change, but the basic essence of it will remain because it is part of our identity as Australians, and therefore it's imperative that we preserve it.

Can I finally say to all of those in the town who are providing services, to the school teachers to the health workers, to everybody else, the rural counsellors, the police, all of those people who help to keep a community together, I want to thank all of you for your contribution as well. Thank you very much for the hospitality that you've displayed, I have very much enjoyed being here and I wish you well and I hope to come again. Thank you.