Speech by the Editor, David Furse-Roberts.
Tonight’s occasion and this book is all about honouring a great Australian and a great standard-bearer of the Australian Liberal tradition who stands on the shoulders of such giants of our democracy as the Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes; the great architect and builder of our early Commonwealth, Alfred Deakin; the great champion of liberal free-trade, George Reid; and of course, the great Sir Robert Menzies who founded the modern Liberal Party. In your own right, you not only healed a divided party but gave Australia a surer sense of itself and the values it stood for. In more recent years, you have also emerged as a much needed voice for the cause of Western civilisation in our public and intellectual life.
On the night of your historic election victory in March 1996, you pledged to serve the wellbeing of not only those who had voted for you but those who had voted against you. It was a generous vision for public service, channelling that old Biblical injunction to seek the peace and prosperity of the city.
In your almost twelve years as prime minister, you and your treasurer, Peter Costello, embarked on bold economic reforms to bring great prosperity to Australia with record job growth, business productivity, overseas trade and investment. In never losing sight of the human dividend, you also did much to nourish the social and spiritual capital of our country, with your magnificent support for our great charities to help our poor lead dignified lives; your resolve to rid Australia’s youth of the scourge of drugs; your staunch advocacy for marriage and family as the building blocks of society; and your support for new, affordable schools to educate children in the faith and values of their family’s choosing.
The great genius of your prime ministership, Sir, was to bridge the new with the old. During your time in office, our ties and friendships with our Asian neighbours deepened while our historic affections for Great Britain and the United States were revived. At the same time as welcoming new people of every tongue, tribe and nation into the fold of the Australian family to enrich our cultural fabric, you instilled pride in the traditions that made Australia great, particularly in our free, egalitarian spirit; our beautiful flag and constitution; our Judeo-Christian inheritance; the Anzac spirit of mateship forged in the dust and machine gun fire of Gallipoli, and not least, in that hallowed game of cricket.
As prime minister, your contribution has shone brighter by the year. To end with an old saying of Winston Churchill, “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. Ladies and Gentleman, this is what our twenty-fifth Prime Minister did for Australia. Thank you.
David Furse-Roberts is a Research Fellow at the Menzies Research Centre and is the author of Howard: The Art of Persuasion, Selected Speeches.
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