DINNER FOR PRIME MINISTER MODI
MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND
TUESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2014
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.
Prime Minister Abbott, Prime Minister Modi, distinguished guests.
Prime Minister Modi – I’m a lifelong Melbourne boy, welcome to Melbourne.
And in my unbiased view, what a perfect venue for a celebration of our two nations, the birthplace of Test Cricket, the MCG.
For both our homelands, whether it is being played in the charged atmosphere of Eden Gardens or at this great colosseum…
…on the hard-packed sand of our beaches or in the streets and driveways of our cities…
…with a bright red SG and a brand new MRF or a taped-up tennis ball and an old Kookaburra sapphire…
Cricket is the backdrop and soundtrack for our summers.
The stage for millions of childhood fantasies, the prompt for countless animated conversations with total strangers.
It is perhaps too much to say that cricket defines our national characters – but there is no doubt that it reveals something of us.
We are both fierce competitors, we uphold the ethos of fair play.
We may occasionally indulge in gamesmanship – but we put a far greater value on sportsmanship.
Australia and India both respect tradition and we both revere Test Cricket – its icons and institutions.
But we are not prisoners of the past, we are innovators and improvers: Australia pioneered the One-Day game and you have made India the home of T20.
And we both play this sport we love, this global game, with an egalitarian spirit where surnames, backgrounds, wealth and faith mean nothing.
What matters - out there in the middle and in our societies - is merit, ability, hard work and results.
Prime Minister Modi, your marvellous speech to our Parliament this morning drew on these common values - and it went beyond that.
All of us, in the Parliament and around Australia were moved by your oratory. And your optimism, well, it was enthralling.
Your faith in India rang true, as you spoke of a people riding a new ‘high tide of hope’.
A new generation: 800 million Indians aged under 35 “eager for change, willing to work for it” because they believe it is within their grasp.
Let us channel that optimism, let us harness that humanism and idealism –let us combine it with our deep cultural connections, our shared history and heritage.
This combination, this momentum will uplift our economic relationship: the load-bearing pillar of the Australia-India friendship.
We will find the complementarity between Indian “development, demography and demand” and what Australia can supply:
- education and training
- and our services sector
I appreciated two of your comments from our personal dialogue today.
Firstly, you graciously acknowledged that today’s announcements could not have been achieved without the hard work of the previous Labor Government – and we thank you for that.
Second, you told me you had noticed the genuine warmth in the welcome Australians had extend to you.
Prime Minister Modi, it’s true that part of this is due to our shared history of military service and sacrifice: from Gallipoli to Tobruk, Al Alamein and UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
Yes, part of this is due to our shared language and history.
And most certainly it is partly due to cricket.
But above all, the credit belongs to the Indian people themselves.
No Australian is ever upset when an Indian family move into their street – they know good neighbours have arrived.
No high street shop is worse off when a hard-working Indian entrepreneur opens a family business next door.
And every year, our school prize-giving nights will feature Indian-Australian children, high in the lists, winning awards, achieving great results and making their parents proud.
Prime Minister Modi, today you promised:
“Australia will not be at the periphery of our vision, but at the centre of our thought.”
Tonight we thank you for these words – all of us, Labor and Liberal – pledge to do our very best to repay that generosity of spirit, to fulfil our shared ‘tryst with destiny’.
Sir, your visit has brought great joy to the people of Australia – and given us all new hope and confidence in the future of our enduring national friendship, between two great democracies.
Thank you for coming – and best of luck for the series ahead.
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