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Community and civic reception speech, Hannan's North Kalgoorlie Historic Tourist Mine, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 20 April 1999: transcript [gold mining industry; Kalgoorlie community; East Timor meeting spirit of volunteerism; Native Title; Barry Haase]

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20 April 1999








SUBJECTS : Gold mining industry, Kalgoorlie community, East Timor meeting spirit of volunteerism, Native Title, Barry Haase


Can I say to you, Mayor, to Barry Haase to Ron Manners to other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great delight to be in Kalgoorlie for the first time as Prime Minister. Kalgoorlie has a special place in, not only in Western Australian history, but a special place in Australian history. It’s a very distinctive part of our country. It boasts a number of things. Kalgoorlie of course is the largest electorate in the world I think and I often entertain my European visitors in particular when we start comparing political notes and I point out that we have an electorate in Australia that is larger than about two-thirds of the European Union put together.

This of course is the second time that I visited the electorate of Kalgoorlie in the space of a month because I went to Exmouth only a short while ago with Barry to see for myself first hand and with the Premier of Western Australia, Richard Court, to announce some special assistance to the people of Exmouth who suffered so severely as a result of the cyclone.

It is not the first time that I’ve been to this city but it is certainly the first time as Prime Minister and I want to thank Barry very warmly for the invitation. It’s an opportunity for me to do what I like to do when Parliament is not sitting and that is as frequently as possible get away from the larger urban concentrations of Australia which are, of course, an important part of our national community, to get around the country to understand first hand through discussion and listening to people how different life is, how important life is to the national good in the regional areas of Australia. And to say to you that I do understand as Prime Minister that there are special challenges and special difficulties. That I do appreciate the contribution that the mining industry in particular makes to the wealth of Australia and to the living standard of Australia.

Only a month or so ago, I opened the Olympic Dam Site in South Australia which is part of the great Roxby Downs Project. And that project is making a huge contribution potentially to Australia’s export income. The gold mining industry is the second biggest export earner amongst the mining industries of Australia and Kalgoorlie is the greatest gold mining producing area in Australia. And it is a city which is rich in the history of this country, it is rich in the history of Western Australia and played, as you all know, a major and decisive role and part in the decision of Western Australia to join the Federation in the name of Paddy Hannon is synonymous with the development of the mining industry and of gold mining in Australia. It incidentally as I remarked to one of my staff coming here this morning, I think it’s the only federal electorate in Australia whose Member was once expelled from Federal Parliament for entirely, I think in historical perspective, inappropriate reasons, for something that would certainly not happen today.

But most importantly this community is an example of how people work together and cooperate together in the regional areas of Australia. And as I moved around here this morning I met people from the local home nursing organisations, I met the Anglican Priest, I met the Pastors of other Churches, I’ve met people involved in Centrelink, I’ve met people involved in the Lyons clubs, people involved in all the different organisations that make a community work. Australians are very good at working together. And as we approach, in two years time, the Centenary of the Federation of Australia, we are becoming a lot more conscious as a nation of what we all have in common and how much we have achieved over the last one hundred years. And I am particularly pleased to acknowledge the presence of people from the Indigenous community of Kalgoorlie and the recognition that all of us as Australians working together have a common interest and a common investment in a harmonious and cooperative and caring future together as Australians as we go into the next century.

Australia has achieved an enormous amount. And it is a huge country, it varies enormously and I never tire of the opportunity of moving around our country and meeting people in different circumstances. And the richest thing about being an Australian is the immense diversity of this country yet the common humanity of the people of this country. Although we live in different circumstances, and this community is a long way away from the settled suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and very different from the tropical areas of Far North Queensland and very different again from some of the mountain areas of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and yet the sense of community and the sense of cooperation and the national spirit is as deep and strong in all of those areas as it is in the next. And, although we live in different areas and we face different challenges, we have so many things in common particularly the common values we all have as Australians.

I’m very conscious, as Prime Minister of our country, of the role not only of Australia in a domestic sense but also the role of Australia in the world community. And like any other nation we have opportunities and responsibilities. I’m very proud of the fact that Australia’s economic strengths at the present time has enabled it to stare down the worst of the Asian economic downturn. But in saying that I’m conscious that not everybody in Australia is enjoying the benefits and the bounty that come out that come out of that economic success. And it’s the responsibility of the community to remember at a time of relative national prosperity, that there remain people within our community who continue to need our help. But we shouldn’t lose sight of what Australia has achieved. We are performing better than most, we are seen in our region in particular as being economically very strong and one of the advantages of that is that we are listened to more carefully and more respectfully. We speak from a greater position of strength because of our economic achievements than would otherwise be the case.

I will, next week, meet the Indonesian President, Dr Habibie, to talk about the concerns I have about what is happening in East Timor. I will do so as the Leader of a country which has developed a friendly relationship with Indonesia, not an uncritical friendship. No true friendship is always uncritical. A true friendship in a personal level as well as at a national level, is a friendship that is based upon long and shared common experiences but is also a friendship that enables you to speak with candour and openness when the circumstances require. All Australians are concerned about what is happening in East Timor, all want a just and peaceful solution. We must all remember, of course, that it is part of Indonesia. And ultimately a proper resolution, a positive resolution of what is occurring there can only happen through the involvement, the consent and the support and the active participation of the Indonesian Government and the armed forces of that country. But our relationship with Indonesia is important to us. It’s a nation of more than 200 million people, it’s our nearest neighbour and it’s within close flying distance, particularly of Western Australia. But I will go to those talks as the Leader of a country which has been a good friend but not an uncritical friend and a country whilst understanding the political and cultural differences of our neighbour is also a country that is concerned about human rights, is concerned about justice and is concerned to ensure the fair treatment and decent future for the people of East Timor.

But, ladies and gentlemen, it’s always a special privilege for a Prime Minister to come to regional Australia, to talk to people, to listen to them, I hope in a small way to encourage them and, most importantly, as Barry has done on behalf of the broader community to express my thanks and my respect for all of those people who work in such a tireless, unselfish and open hearted way to help those who need assistance and to make our community work more effectively.

There are many things that make up the matrix of Australian values and one of those things is our great spirit of volunteerism. And you find volunteerism and a willingness to help each other, some even call it mateship, in rural and regional Australia to a n even more pronounced and marked degree than you’d find in other parts of Australia. And the willingness of everybody to dig in and help and work together, particularly in adversity, is an instinctive Australian characteristic. And we really do do it better than any other country in the world, and it’s one of those precious Australian assets that we must always hang onto and we must always work very hard to preserve.

Now, as you are aware, the Federal Government out of the Federation Fund, which is a one billion dollar fund designed to support projects that will in part honour one hundred years of the Australian nation and also contribute valuably to the infrastructure of this country, out of that we have contributed the sum of some five million dollars for the marvellous enterprise for which Mr Manners is principally responsible. And the Hall of Fame that will quite rightly and properly honour the contribution of the mining industry of Australia to this nation. The mining industry is an integral part of the Australian economy. The contribution of the mining industry to the wealth of this country is incalculable. And it will always be part of the policies of my government and the policies of Coalition Governments generally at a State and Federal level, to support and to help and to promote and to defend the mining industry of this country. And that applies in relation to a whole range of things, many of which have been under debate recently and continue to be under debate, matters relating to Native Title and a resolution of that issue is important to the people of this district because while ever there is uncertainty surrounding investment there will be less investment. As surely as night follows day if you have uncertainty about an industry you will get less investment. And the sooner that that is resolved the better it will be for the people of Western Australia, for the people of this district and for the people of the Australian community generally. And it’s been the desire of my Government, and I believe that last year we worked out an honourable compromise which was fair to the mining industry, fair to the farmers, fair to the Indigenous people and fair to the generality of the Australian community. And the translation of that outcome here in Western Australia is being held up at the moment. And because it’s being held up the mining industry is suffering and the community is suffering. It ought to be fixed and it ought to be fixed quickly. Because while it remains held up all of those groups, the Indigenous groups, the mining industry and the farming interests of this country which is so very important and the general community are suffering.

But, ladies and gentlemen, can I say to Barry, who’s been in a short period of six months an extremely energetic representative of this vast community and this vast and vast electorate of Kalgoorlie and he is working very hard in Canberra for you. He’s certainly persistent and that’s what you want and that’s what a community like this is entitled to have, you’re entitled to have somebody who will speak up for the particular problems and challenges of a community such as this. I thank Barry very warmly for having me here today, it’s a delight to be amongst you, I wish you well and to all of you thank you most warmly for the contribution that you are making to this magnificent community.

Thank you.



jy  1999-09-02  14:04