2003-10-23 - John Howard
Mr Speaker and Mr President of the Senate, today we welcome a man, we honour an office, we recommit to an alliance and we declare that, above all of those things, common values between nations unite nations and peoples more than individuals or institutions. The things that unite the Australian and American people are shared values: the belief that the individual is more important than the state, that strong families are a nation's greatest asset, that competitive free enterprise is the ultimate foundation of national wealth, and that the worth of a person is determined by that person's character and hard work, not by their religion or race or colour or creed or social background.
Our two nations-that is, the United States and Australia-have fought in defence of those values, beginning appropriately enough on 4 July 1918 in the Battle of Hamel, when on America's national day Australians and Americans first fought together but, I might note, under the command of an Australian, Sir John Monash. On subsequent occasions we have also fought in defence of our common values. I know that I speak for every Australian at this gathering today in saying that we will never forget the vital help extended to us in World War II in the Battle of the Coral Sea and on other occasions. That United States intervention stood between us and potential military conquest. It is something that the Australian people, whatever their different views may be on other issues, will never forget.
The President of the United States and I first met face-to-face on 10 September 2001. As we celebrated at the naval dockyard in Washington the shared partnership of the ANZUS alliance neither of us knew what lay ahead. The next day the world did change, and we saw arising out of those events the character and the strength and the leadership of the man we welcome today. George Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, rallied his own people and the people of the world in the fight against terrorism. He reminded us then, as we should be reminded today, that terrorists oppose nations such as the United States and Australia not because of what we have done but because of who we are and because of the values that we hold in common, and that terrorism-and we should remind ourselves of this again and again-is as much the enemy of Islam as it is the enemy of Judaism or Christianity.
This is a robust parliament. It has seen debates and divisions of view on issues. We had a divided view in this nation on the question of our participation in Iraq. Let me say on behalf of the government that we believe the right decision was taken; we believe Australia was right to join the United States. And I know that all Australians believe that the people of Iraq are better off without that loathsome dictator, Saddam Hussein.
I have spoken briefly of the past and the present, but we share an even greater future. The significance of America to Australia will grow as the years go by; it will not diminish. That is one of the driving forces behind our commitment to a free trade agreement. The contribution of the United States to regional stability and the partnership it will forge with our other friends in the region such as China and Japan will be increasingly important to our nation. For those and many other reasons-as a friend, as an individual and, very importantly, as a standard-bearer for the values that we hold in common-I have great pleasure, Mr Speaker and Mr President of the Senate, on behalf of the government, in welcoming George Bush, the 43rd President of the United States of America.