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John Howard’s Address At The Opening Ceremony Of CHOGM 2002

The Prime Minister, John Howard has addressed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at its opening in Coolum, Queensland.

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Transcript of the speech given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Goverment Meeting in Coolum, Queensland.

HowardYour Majesty, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. May I welcome all of you who have come to our nation, to Australia. May I wish my fellow Commonwealth delegation leaders an enjoyable and productive Commonwealth conference at Coolum. Particularly do we, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, honour and salute the presence of the head of the Commonwealth Her Majesty the Queen. Ma’am, the modern Commonwealth was first given form by your late father King George VI and in the fifty years of your reign you have served the Commonwealth with great commitment and great dignity and we rejoice in the opportunity of being with you in this fiftieth year of your time as head of the Commonwealth.

The modern Australia that greets all of our visitors is a very rich and diverse country. It is as proud of its scientific and artistic achievement as it is of its prowess on the sporting field. Its cultural and linguistic and religious diversity is a source of enormous strength. Inevitably at this meeting we will focus not only on the past achievements of the Commonwealth but also its current strengths. And more than ever those great strengths of diversity in both religion and race and also in culture, they are more important now than perhaps at any other time in the history of the modern Commonwealth. The terrible events of September last year have driven home to the entire world the importance of reaching out to one another, of respecting difference in race and religion and ethnic background. And no organisation in the world does that better than the Commonwealth. It reinforces the relevance of the Commonwealth in the modern world when you examine those strengths.

The Commonwealth over past years has been a staunch upholder of democratic values and the new governance arrangements that we will discuss when we look at the High Level Review Group Report chaired so ably by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa will give new relevance to those governance arrangements which lie so much at the core of the modern Commonwealth.

There are two other matters that I hope this conference will focus very much on. The first of those is to recognise that the Commonwealth is made up of many nations. Some are rich and some are poor, some are developed and some are developing. And at the end of the day the greatest antidote to those gaps is a more open and a freer trading system. If the developed countries of the world were to do more to dismantle their trade barriers that would do more than any other single act to help enrich the hope and nourish the future of the people of the developing world.

And it’s also appropriate that there be a focus on the youth of the Commonwealth at this meeting and a charge has been made to the heads of governments from the High Level Review Group that we focus on the contribution that youth can make to the modern Commonwealth and the ties through youth that bind us together.

Your Majesty, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, to all visitors to Australia, enjoy our hospitality. We are a warm, direct, open hearted people. We are honoured to be the host nation of the first Commonwealth meeting in the 21st century and we hope that all of you will take away very happy memories of Australia 2002.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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