As the Prime Minister, John Howard, wraps up his visits to Greece and Italy, he has promoted the benefits of globalisation to an audience of Italian politicians and business leaders at a lunch in Rome.
The speech differed little from the speeches Howard has given in a number of places over the past ten days. He attributed a strong Australian economy to major economic reforms over the past 15-20 years and said that the budget surplus had been reduced whilst Australia had become an “aggressive, diverse exporter”.
He said: “I am a very passionate believer in the benefits of globalisation. If you look at the balance sheet over the past 20 or 30 years, you can find examples of previously very poorly developed countries but whose condition has been transformed by them opening up their economies and thereby obtaining the benefits of globalisation.
“But I think it is fair to say that globalisation enjoys a bad press. And that is not meant to be a criticism of journalists. I think it is a recognition though that sometimes Governments and businessmen are not as good as they should be at explaining and selling and communicating the benefits of globalisation.
“I often think of the Korean example – 30 or 40 years ago that country’s major export was wigs. You would hardly think of that as an export or feature of the Korean economy of the year 2002. And it is a very good example of what the benefits of greater openness and globalisation have brought to a previously poorly developed country.”
Transcript of an address by the Prime Minister, John Howard, to a Business Lunch at the St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome Italy.
Jul 08 – Thank you very much Ambassador for your very kind remarks. The Honourable Antonio Marzano, Minister for Productive Activities, Senator Lamberto Dini, the Vice-President of the Senate and former Foreign Minister who I recall visited my country not so long ago, Professor Valori, the Chairman of the Rome Union of Industrialists, Dr Marzotto, the President of the Italian-Australian Business Council, and Sir James Gobbo, Patron of the Global Foundation.
May I say how delighted I am as the leader of a free enterprise Government that a central part of my visit to Rome is this gathering which brings together business leaders of our two countries.
The human and family links between Australia and Italy are very deep and emotionally felt. The contribution of Australians of Italian heritage to the building of the modern Australia is something that Italians all around the world should be immensely proud of. And as Prime Minister of the modern Australia, can I say that those of your fellow countrymen and women who made their way to our country over the years have made a massive and never to be forgotten contribution to the building of our country.
For that reason alone, a visit by an Australian Prime Minister to Italy is important and very necessary. But in addition I want to speak of the economic links and even more importantly, the economic future of our two countries.
I hope with no sense of complacency, because none is intended, I can say to you today that the Australian economy is performing as well as I can remember in my lifetime, probably better. And our rate of growth is probably the best in the industrialised world. This economic growth is no accident. It is the product of 15 years or more of sustained economic reform and contributions have been made to that economic reform by both sides of Australian politics.
Those reforms have included almost total deregulation of Australia’s financial system which was completed in the early 1980s, major reductions in the level of tariff protection so that the Australian economy is now one of the most open in the world, the total or near total restructuring of Australia’s taxation system, a very difficult reform that was carried out some two years ago, major industrial relations reform and very importantly, the conversion of a very large Budget deficit into a significant Budget surplus.
The result of the last mentioned change in relation to the Budget surplus is that over the last six and a half years we have paid off about 57 billion Australian dollars of Federal Government debt. And our Government debt to GDP ratio is only 4.6% against an average of the OECD area of something like 35%.
Australia is now an aggressive, diverse exporter. We see ourselves as a country not only seeking direct foreign investment, but also a country which is now in the business of large direct foreign investment itself. And in the room today are examples of Australian and Italian companies which have practised that.
Over the last 12 months in fact Australia has sent more direct foreign investment from her shores than we have received from other countries. We see our economic future as being tied up with all of the major economic centres of the world. We have in Japan our best customer. We’re also a major exporter to countries such as Korea. But in terms of an overall economic partnership, our relationship with the European Union and the individual countries of the Union is of equal importance.
We also have a major economic partnership with the United States and the Americans are still the largest single source of foreign investment in Australia, although the direct foreign investment from the United Kingdom and other European countries follows it as a close second.
I don’t know whether I should say this before an Italian audience, but although Japan is our best customer, I should inform you that our largest export to the United Kingdom is now Australian wine, it having replaced the old reliance on dairy products which of course disappeared with the entry of the United Kingdom into the common market.
It is therefore a good economic story that I with every conviction bring to you today. But I don’t say that in any sense of complacency. And if I have learnt anything and my Government has learnt anything from the experience of the past few years, it is one simple fact and that is that the task of economic reform and change is never completed.
Australia needs more economic reform. We are embarked at present in an assessment of the international aspects of our taxation system to ensure that they adequately promote our aims. We have embarked upon an important examination of the operation of our tertiary education institutions, which are so very important to the educational and economic future of our country. We are also embarked upon an examination of the adequacy of our competition laws and importantly, my Government is advocating and pressing for further reform of our industrial relations system.
We think Australia needs more economic reform. We also respectfully believe that the industrialised world as a group needs to pursue further economic reform including importantly reform of the world trading system. I welcome indications that are emerging of a willingness of the European Union to examine some aspects of the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is important that the next World Trade Organisation series of negotiations not fail as the Seattle meeting so abysmally failed a few years ago. It will be necessary for both the United States and the European Union as well as other large nations such as Japan to contribute together towards ensuring the next round is successful.
There is every reason ladies and gentlemen to believe that the economic relationship between Australia and Italy can be expanded in just about every field of investment and business activity. We start from the very sound base of warm relations between our two countries, the Australian experience over decades of highly successful, profitable Italian companies investing in Australia and increasingly the same experience in the opposite direction. [inaudible] me and I know those of my Australian colleagues who have come here today, we can build further on that very sound foundation.
And as I look around the room, I think of the diversity of that relationship. The resource sector, airport ownership, financial houses, airlines, so the list goes on. And when I reflect on the economic development of Australia from the 1950s onwards, just about every area of that activity has involved at some point the commitment and investment of the funds of Italian enterprise.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I finally say to you that I am a very passionate believer in the benefits of globalisation. If you look at the balance sheet over the past 20 or 30 years, you can find examples of previously very poorly developed countries but whose condition has been transformed by them opening up their economies and thereby obtaining the benefits of globalisation.
But I think it is fair to say that globalisation enjoys a bad press. And that is not meant to be a criticism of journalists. I think it is a recognition though that sometimes Governments and businessmen are not as good as they should be at explaining and selling and communicating the benefits of globalisation.
I often think of the Korean example – 30 or 40 years ago that country’s major export was wigs. You would hardly think of that as an export or feature of the Korean economy of the year 2002. And it is a very good example of what the benefits of greater openness and globalisation have brought to a previously poorly developed country.
But this is a joint responsibility for business and Government. It is an issue that I will naturally, amongst other things, talk to the Italian Prime Minister Mr Berlusconi about when I meet him tomorrow.
I finally say again how very happy I am on a personal note to be in this beautiful city and to have the opportunity of reaffirming to all of my Italian friends here today the immense warmth and affection that all Australians feel for Italians and for your wonderful society.
Transcript of remarks by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at The Campidoglio, Rome Municipality Building, Italy.
Jul 08 – Well I’d like to thank both the Mayor and Professor Valori for that very warm welcome and also to acknowledge the presence of the Minister, the Honourable Adolfo Urso and Sir James Gobbo, an old friend of mine and Patron of the Global Foundation. And I join the Professor in extending my appreciation to the Global Foundation for the magnificent work it does in promoting the overseas economic interests of Australia and bringing the industrialists of Australia and other countries together.
There is a wonderful symbolism about our meeting here this morning. When I arrived, the Mayor took me to his famous balcony and showed me that magnificent view of the Forum and I thought to myself, that would soothe the greatest anger of the most difficult municipal interlocutor anybody could find. And we do that and we’re reminded of Rome’s ancient glories and then we come in here and we think of the future that both Australia and Italy have together as modern, sophisticated industrialised nations.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have three very simple points that I would like to put to you this morning. The first of those is that Australia when you think about it really does occupy a quite unique historical, geographical and economic intersection in the world. We are the only highly industrialised society that is simultaneously essentially of European origin, with very close political and economic links with North America but located in the Asian Pacific area. And that special intersection gives us, I believe, a special attraction and a special quality to nations such as Italy.
And to emphasise the point, let me remind you that Italy is the largest non-English speaking source of citizens of the modern Australia. Much greater than any other. Yet in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, the language most frequently spoken, other than English of course, is a dialect of Chinese.
The second point I would like to leave with you is that the current strengths and growth potential of the Australian economy has been the result of 15 years of major economic reform which has touched every aspect of Australian economic life. And that if that reform had not been carried out, and I pay proper tribute to the contribution to that reform of both sides of Australian politics, if that reform had not been carried out Australia would not now have probably the fastest growing economy in the highly industrialised world.
That reform essentially covered a number of areas – financial deregulation, reductions in tariff protection, industrial relations reform, taxation reform and very importantly, getting our Budget out of very heavy deficit into balance, which has enabled us to repay very large amounts of Federal Government debt.
And of course, and this is the third point to make, is that I do not believe that that process of reform has finished. That in the modern globalised world, the reform process is never over. And that Australia is pressing ahead in a number of areas including in particular a review of our competition laws, further industrial relations reform, a review of the international aspects of our taxation system. Because we believe that you cannot stand still in the process of economic reform and we think there is a lesson in that for all countries, not only for Australia.
And speaking globally, we believe very strongly that the process of reform must include further reform of the world’s trading system, which works very unfairly against developing countries because trade barriers cost developing countries infinitely more than they gain from direct foreign aid from developed countries.
Australia of course is not a developing country but it is a victim of a world trading system that does unfairly discriminate against our very efficient rural sector where something like 35% of the total value of European Union agricultural production is accounted for by support, about 21% in the United States, yet only 4% in Australia.
Gathered here in the room are industrialists and businessmen and women from both Australia and Italy, who represent the modern face of the economic relationship and also represent much of its future potential. We are both highly sophisticated, modern, technologically driven, IT-literate nations. We therefore, given the base we have of very strong people to people links, I think we have a very strong and bright economic future as partners.
There are already very many highly successful and profitable Italian companies operating in Australia. Many have done so for very long periods of time and I believe that the work of the Global Foundation, and I hope in a small way my own visit, will do something to further build those links. And in that context, I particularly welcome the presence in this room of a number of very prominent members of the Australian business community who have not only been successful activists in Australia, but have also carried Australian investment abroad.
And it is a two-way process. Australia not only seeks investment, but also has the capacity to invest. And it may interest some of our Italian friends to know that over the last 12 months, Australia has in fact directly invested more abroad than has been directly invested in Australia. And that is a sign of the increasing international and global character of the operation of Australian companies and of the Australian economy.
And finally on a personal note may I thank the Italian Government through its representative here today, the Minister, and the Mayor of Rome for their very gracious hospitality. I was saying to the Mayor earlier that I first visited Rome in 1964. On that occasion I think I stayed at the YMCA. I can say that some of the buildings have not changed a lot since 1964. Many have. One thing has remained constant and that is the warmth and the friendship and the vitality of the Italian people which Australians have always been so tremendously attracted to.
Transcript of an address by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the Greek-Australian War Memorial, Crete.
Jul 07 – Your Eminence, Mr Mayor, Mr Prefect, my parliamentary colleague the Federal Member for this area in the Greek Parliament, Lieutenant General Andrianis, Captain Taylor, Ambassador of Australia to Greece and Ambassador of Greece to Australia, ladies and gentlemen.
The Australian war correspondent Kenneth Slessor, in a dispatch from Greece in 1941, said that the Greek spring with its piercing light, its floods of sun, its clear, sharp water and above all its exiled eucalypts reminded Australians, who had last seen their country in Fremantle, more of their homeland than any country they had seen.
This memorial honours the shared sacrifice of the young men of Greece and Australia and other allies who fought for freedom against the Nazis in 1941 in the Battle of Crete and more generally in the battles for Greece that preceded the Battle of Crete.
Two hundred and seventy four Australians died in the battle of Rethymno. Some 500 were wounded and several thousand were taken into captivity. It was a battle that was itself successful but ultimately Crete and all of Greece fell into Nazi occupation.
Ultimately after four years of occupation, the tide turned and Australia and Greece as allies, as nations sharing the same values, sharing the same commitment to personal freedom and liberty, were successful. And today I want to honour the modern friendship and affection between the people of Australia and the people of Greece.
Australians of Greek heritage play a major role in the modern Australia. And from Crete and every other part of Greece, people have come to settle in our country by the hundreds of thousands and have played a major role in shaping the modern Australia. What we in Australia, whatever our heritage may be, have in common with the people of Greece, is a commitment to freedom, to liberty and to shared values.
In celebrating our modern freedom, we must never forget the sacrifices of those who made it all possible, who gave their lives that we might have the freedom we now enjoy. We particularly remember the brave young men of Australia and Greece who died in the various Greek campaigns and particularly here on the island of Crete.
May they always rest in peace.
Transcript of a doorstop interview given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome Italy:
Lleyton Hewitt’s victory?
It’s fantastic. I think there will be millions of very happy Australians this morning. It’s a tremendous performance at such a young age. A very convincing win. He’s got an enormous future in front of him. He’s a very resilient sportsman. He’s got great determination and I’m just so delighted.
Have you spoken with Lleyton since his win?
I just tried to reach him on the phone and he’s on the way to where I rang, and I’m going to try and speak with him in a few minutes.
You’re in Europe. Were you tempted to go over for the game?
I was but duty called. I had other things to do and it is important that I do those. But it was on our minds and he was very much in our thoughts and he’s made it. And it gives Australians great pride when somebody as young as that and as talented as that can win the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.
What will be your message when you finally speak to Lleyton?
Well just warm congratulations and he’s made millions of Australian sports lovers very happy. I spoke to him last night to wish him well, and he was confident without being cocky about it, which is always good. And I’m just so delighted it’s come off for him.
He does occasionally stray into not so good behaviour though. Is that a concern if he’s representing Australia?
Could I ask you how you rate him? You’ve seen a lot of great Australian tennis players…
It’s too early to get into those comparisons and I don’t want to burden a young player with premature comparisons. He is a very talented tennis player in his own right and it is never helpful for anybody, particularly somebody in my position, to say well he’s another X or another Y. He is not another X or Y. He is Lleyton Hewitt, outstanding young tennis champion.
Would you like to see Pat Rafter back for perhaps an even better final next year?
Well I’ve got great fondness for Pat, as many Australians have. What he does with his future is a matter for him and I’ll tell you what, if he did decide to come back, he’d make a lot of people happy.