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Address at the CER 20th anniversary reception.

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8 March 2003



Thank you very much Helen, your husband Professor Peter Davis, parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m always very happy to be in New Zealand. This is the fourth visit I’ve paid to your country since becoming Prime Minister of Australia, and it’s an opportunity again to express how close Australians feel to New Zealanders, and how important our shared history, our shared sense of the same values, and our shared commitment to a future in partnership, just how important that is to all Australians.

A lot of things bind us together - history, language, law, and all the other things of which we are very conscious. I think I’m on fairly safe sporting ground in just simply saying congratulations to both of our cricket teams for getting into the super sixes. And I can’t let the occasion go by without extending my very genuine commiserations in relation to the America’s Cup. You successfully defended it once, which is more than what we were able to achieve, and I wish you well in your future endeavours.

But we’re here tonight particularly to mark the extraordinary success of the Closer Economic Relationship, and in doing that I want to pay tribute to two men in particular - Doug Anthony who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and Brian Talboys, who I think were the two people in the respective Governments of the time that worked harder and deserve more credit than anybody else for bringing about CER, which came into being 20 years ago this month back in 1983.

And over that period of time, it has stimulated the explosion of economic links between our two societies, and if you look back over that 20-year period, the two economies in many respects are barely recognisable. The change and reform that has occurred in both countries - the deregulation of the New Zealand economy was a trailblazer for many other countries, and the strength and the vitality of so much of

what you have now is due to reforms carried out in the 1980s and continued by successive Governments. And the same applies with Australia. Reforms carried out by Governments on both sides of the political debate in Australia have produced a situation where we’re very pleased to see that in terms of OECD performance, Australia has probably had the best five or six years we’ve had since the 1960s. And a very important part of that has been the strength of the relationship, economically and business wise, between Australia and New Zealand. And what has underpinned it have been the principles of CER.

And your Prime Minister is absolutely right when she says that the CER is a model in the eyes of the World Trade Organisation, a model for what a free trade agreement should be like. And it was put together years before many of the other free trade agreements that have become perhaps better known around the world in the 20 years that have gone by since. And it has been of great benefit to both countries. There will be sectors in Australia that will say New Zealand got more out of it than we did, and there will be sectors in New Zealand that will say Australia got more out of it than the New Zealand sectors did. But overall it tells a story of a 500 per cent expansion in the trade and the importance of New Zealand as an export market for Australia is very impressive indeed. And the stimulation of trans Tasman investment, the way in which increasingly the companies of our two nations operate on the basis of a truly common market between Australia and New Zealand, is an everyday feature of their business life.

And I, like your Prime Minister, am keen that the momentum is maintained. I would like still closer economic linkages, and I’m delighted that Dr Cullen and Mr Costello were able to sign that agreement a few weeks ago that solved the triangular tax issue that has bedevilled the operations of a number, particularly of New Zealand companies over recent years.

So can I say to you Helen that Janette and I are delighted to be your guests again in New Zealand. The opportunities that are given on these visits, and likewise the opportunities when you come to Australia, as you do on a regular basis, to talk about developing further an already very close and intimate bilateral relationship, are quite without parallel. It was Dr Johnson who said that you should keep your friendships in good repair. There is a deep and abiding friendship between our two nations, and it is based on a lot of things of which so many of us are very familiar.

But all friendships do need to be kept in good repair. They should never be taken for granted, and I have tried in the time that I have been Prime Minister of Australia, to work on the relationship between our two countries, never to take it for granted, always to try and seize an opportunity to make it better and stronger. And I’m very happy to say in the dealings I have had with Helen in her time as Prime Minister, as was the case in the dealings I had with her two predecessors with whom I have dealt, the response from the New Zealand side has been the same. And as a result, over that period of time, although we’ve had differences and there have been difficulties on individual issues, commercial and otherwise, we’ve always been able to work our way through on the basis of mutual respect and commonsense, and that will always guide



my focus to the relationship and I want tonight to join all of you in celebrating a huge success.

The partnership between our two nations, our two business communities, that has added value to both, has generated jobs for Australians and New Zealanders, and has brought our two countries closer together, consistent of course with the maintenance of our own distinctive identities and our distinctive ways of doing things. Let us record our thanks to those who pioneered CER and let us continue together to build further on a relationship that is very important to all of us in this room.

Thank you.