Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: WELCOME TO SENATOR MCCAIN - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - MONDAY, 29 MAY 2017

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Senator McCain, I echo the comments of our Prime Minister.

 

It is indeed an honour to welcome you to our country and to our Parliament.

 

I can't promise that your visit will guarantee better behaviour during Question Time, but I certainly believe that our Parliament is better for your presence.

 

I think you represent all of what we hope our alliance should be.

 

The fact that you are the third generation of your family to help put meaning to the close relationship between Australia and the United States is testament to the importance of your visit.

 

You served alongside Australians in the Vietnam conflict.

 

Your father and your grandfather, in the Second World War. 

 

Your father, a submarine commander. 

 

Your grandfather, a commander of the carrier fleet in the Pacific.

 

Yours has been a life lived in service of your country.

 

But I think what gives you a special quality is that your courage, your integrity, and your example set an example for citizens of all nations.

 

Senator, you once said that you: “fell in love with your country while you were a prisoner in someone else's.”

 

After your A4 Skyhawk was shot down, and through 5 and a half years of unimaginable pain, you held onto the idea of America.

 

In your words:

 

"It’s faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people."

 

Senator

 

Our two nations' alliance is a friendship built upon shared sacrifice for common cause.

 

We hold to that same idea, that same faith in people. The same belief in what the idea of America represents.

 

Not just for your citizens, but for everyone around the world who believes that we are all created equal.

 

In our meeting immediately prior to this Question Time, I asked you a question which, no doubt you've been asked thousands of times: "How did you get through that 5 and a half years?"

 

Because when we see that sort of human struggle, we all ask ourselves, "How?"

 

You replied that you had faith in God, faith in your country, and faith in your fellow prisoners.

 

You gave a valuable insight. You explained to me that you believed that your captors wanted to convince you there was no chance of release.

 

They wanted you to give up hope - and you never did. Your faith in your fellow prisoners was part of that.

 

And you reminded me why the constant fight for human rights everywhere is a struggle just as important now as it was then. That lesson from then, applies now.

 

The argument that when people are being encouraged to give up on their human rights, to expect there is no release, or no rescue - and you said to me very clearly that is an important quality that Australian democracy shares with American democracy - that wherever we go, we never give up the human rights of other people because when we do that, we give up their hope.

 

You remind us that our democracies share that fundamental respect for the liberties of us all. 

You are most welcome in this parliament.


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