Bill's Speeches


Thank you madam speaker.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet – custodians of our ancient continent for more than 40,000 years before the arrival of the First Fleet – and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

Prime Minister Cameron, on behalf of the opposition, it is my very great pleasure to welcome you to our country, and to our Parliament.

Your visit is another proud milestone of Australia’s oldest friendship.

And we are all looking forward to your address today, just the second to be made by a British Prime Minister in this place.

Today we celebrate so much that Britain has given us.

Industry, institutions, people and culture.

Generations of British migrants have worked our lands, opened small businesses, raised their families, built communities and started new lives here underneath the Southern Cross.

Like indeed my late father, a Geordie seafarer who came to Australia in 1966.

And our democracy, our faith in the rule of law, our respect for individual liberty and our sense of fair play are priceless gifts from your nation.

Even as we have made them our own, we have never forgotten from whence they came.

I particularly want to pay belated tribute to the British justice system – because without your strong sentencing laws some of my mother’s Irish ancestors would never have come to Australia.

Prime Minister, the first of your predecessors to visit our country did so before Federation - and before he was even a Member of Parliament.

Lord Salisbury, the Conservative icon and one of the great architects of the Empire, visited the colonies as a young man in the 1850s.

Two observations from his lordships journal stand out:

One, his lordship reported there was “less crime than expected”.

Two, his lordship reported that the “customary form of address was: mate’’.

Just over a hundred years later, Harold MacMillan became the first Prime Minister to experience Australian hospitality whilst in office.

As he recalled:

As I drove into Sydney on my first arrival there, I was amazed to see the great numbers of people in the streets and issuing from all houses.

A huge crowd had turned out to welcome me, far greater, I thought, than any similar crowd could ever be in the old country, and I was deeply touched.   

Then someone told me the truth. It was six o'clock…[and the pubs were closing].

Prime Minister, you will be relieved to hear that the days of the six o’clock swill and early closing are long gone.

And much more has changed besides, I can report.

The deep and abiding friendship between our nations has evolved and matured.

Australia no longer looks to Britain out of need, or dependence – we no longer seek to imitate, or echo.

Instead we greet each other as equals and peers - as partners in the world.

Britain has joined Europe and Australia has found our place in Asia.

We sing our own anthems, we celebrate our own cultures.

We enjoy a genuine exchange in education, art, music, cinema, literature and fashion.

And whether it is the Ashes, rugby, netball, the Olympics, the Paralympics or the Commonwealth games, we relish an international sporting rivalry as old as any on earth.

Our sledging can sometimes surprise the uninitiated – but it reflects the depth of our friendship – we can dish it out because we know we will get it back.

We are both good losers – and fantastic winners.

And while Australians may no longer describe a trip to the United Kingdom as ‘going home’ – every year hundreds of thousands of us make the journey to live and work and study in a country that has always made us feel at home.

Prime Minister, I am very pleased that you will have the chance to visit the Australian War Memorial today.

Designed as a tribute to the Australians who fought for their country, King and Empire in the First World War, when it opened our nations were once again embroiled in a deadly global struggle between freedom and tyranny.

In that second terrible war for the fate of civilisation – Britain never stood alone, Australia was with you.

Today, the War Memorial salutes the memory of Australians who have served our nation in every conflict and peacekeeping operation.

So often they have served, fought, fallen, side by side with British soldiers.

From the open veldt of South Africa, to the skies over Europe, most recently in the mountains of Afghanistan and the skies over Mesopotamia, our countries have forged an unbreakable bond of courage and sacrifice – of mutual respect and regard.

Their spirit, their bravery, their shared sense of duty and honour unites our countries in history forever.

Let it – and our shared love of the Westminster tradition, democracy, justice and equality inspire us and guide us in our journey ahead.

Prime Minister, you are most certainly welcome in Australia – and we wish you a happy and memorable stay.