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John Howard's Address To State Luncheon 10.3

10 March 2003



Thank you very much Prime Minister, Professor Davis, the Leader of the Opposition, Ministers, Chief Justice, Chief of the Defence Force, two former Prime Ministers of New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen.

Janette and I are again delighted to be in your country. We are delighted to reaffirm the deep friendship between our two nations and the warm affection that the people of Australia feel for your country and your people. We join unanimously in congratulating our respective cricket teams for getting into the Super Six. I report that I will have left the jurisdiction before tomorrow night’s clash occurs. And we look forward to welcoming your magnificent rugby team to our shores later this year.

The links between our two nations are well known. They are of history, of language, of culture and very importantly, of shared values. They are also links that have been forged in tragedy on the battlefield and they are links on the sporting field. And as we look at the world around us and we experience the new dispensation of international terrorism that we must all face, we are most of all reminded of the things that matter to us most, and that is the way of life we have and the things that we believe in, and the things that we stand for.

Australia and New Zealand, never let it be forgotten, are two of fewer than ten countries that remain continuously democratic throughout the whole of the 20th century. It is a small select band and is no mean achievement but the peoples of our two societies are numbered amongst that group which is fewer than ten. This visit particularly marks the signing twenty years ago of CER and I will join Bill English and Helen Clark in paying tribute to Brian Talboys and Laurie Francis and Hugh Templeton for the role they played, but also can I especially record Australia’s gratitude to Doug Anthony who was the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party, Australian version, in the then coalition government. They worked very hard, they had a vision, they believe that Australia and New Zealand could set a pattern and so it’s been, the modalities of CER were in advance of those sorts of agreements and to this day CER is seen as a model for other countries entering into those arrangements. I hope that we can build on the achievements of CER and the agreement signed between Dr Cullen and Peter Costello only a couple of weeks ago which dealt with the nagging problem of triangulation, I think they call it in the taxation parlance, and will mean greater investment opportunities for New Zealand companies and will lead to greater commercial and business harmonisation. We have achieved a great deal already. We have broken many of the traditional barriers to trade, we must try and expand the combined blended business opportunities that the trans-Tasman market offers to both Australian and New Zealand business people.

Your Prime Minister quite correctly pointed to the economic performance of our two countries. We live in a world that is experiencing sluggish economic growth. For Australia’s part we have been afflicted with in some parts of the nation the worst drought in a hundred years and that has cut about 17 per cent off our farm income and it is going to nonetheless leave us with a growth this year of about 3 per cent. Like New Zealand we have a budget in surplus, we have an extremely low level of government debt but we see a fairly sluggish United States economy. We see a continuing weakness in some of the other major economies of the world, most particularly in Europe, where the need for such things as labour market reform, except in the United Kingdom, appears not to have arrived in the political consciousness.

We see, by contrast, in North Asia, in China, we see a nation whose economy is growing almost exponentially. That offers great opportunities for Australia and it also I know is offering great opportunities for New Zealand. So in many ways, as in the past, so it will be in the future, that we will tread paths together. We may not always agree on every single thing, we know that, no good friends ever do, but the fundamentals of the relationship will never be shaken. The fundamentals of the relationship are built on too much history, too many shared values and too many common democratic views as to the sort of world we want to have for our own children in the world in which we wish to live.

We are of course living in a world changed forever by 11 September 2001 and by 12 October 2002. Our own definitions of conflict have to be revised. The old views we had about how we react to situations must be look at anew against this new international order. But one thing won’t change and that is that nations that share democratic values in the end will share common goals and common aspirations. Most of all I am here today to reaffirm the commitment of Australia to this very close and very treasured friendship that we have with the people of New Zealand. Janette and I are delighted to be in your beautiful country again – this is the fourth bilateral visit and the fifth visit, if you count APEC in 1999, that I have paid to New Zealand since I have been Prime Minister. We should never take our relationship for granted, we should always work on it and build it and expand it. I am delighted to say that has been the view of the three New Zealand Prime Ministers with whom I have dealt in the time that I have been Prime Minister of Australia. It is something we should work on and make even better and both of us will be rewarded for this effort.

Thank you.


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