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Tony Abbott At Oxford: On Tradition, A Revived Colombo Plan, And Decision-Making

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has addressed The Queen’s College, Oxford, on his experience as a Rhodes Scholar at “this enchanted place”.

Tony AbbottAbbott remembered his “sense of belonging” as his plane flew low up the Thames Valley and gave him his first adult view of Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Of Oxford’s values, Abbott said its most important tradition is the contestability of ideas. “There are few subjects on which it can ever safely be assumed that we have heard the last word. There are hardly any arguments where right is all on one side. Truth matters – it matters as much as anything – but it is far more likely to be approached than ever finally to be grasped. This insatiable curiosity and ceaseless questioning that Oxford at its best embodies is the hallmark of Western civilisation (especially in its English-speaking versions) and provides our comparative advantage among the cultures of the world.”

On his approach to experts and policy-making, Abbott said: “As those who worked with me as a minister can attest, my style is to consult with the people that a government decision could impact and to work out for myself what are its real pros and cons. The next Coalition government won’t take an “officials know best” approach to the problems of the nation and won’t make decisions that impact on people’s lives without, as far as is possible, taking them into our confidence first.

Abbott acknowledged that “this century will inevitably be more of an Asian one than the last”. He said a coalition government would “swiftly re-establish the Colombo plan as a two-way street student exchange under which Australia’s best and brightest can study in our region’s universities as well as theirs in ours. It’s my hope that this new Colombo plan will become the Rhodes scholarship of our region.”

Transcript of Tony Abbott’s Address to The Queen’s College, Oxford, UK.

Like about a million other Australians, including Prime Minister Gillard, who also came to Australia as a child, I was born in Britain. As well as people, the British Isles have given Australia our language, our system of law and our parliamentary democracy. The conviction that an Englishman’s home is his castle and faith in British justice, no less than the understanding that Jack is as good as his master, have taken strong root in Australia. As my former teacher, Father Ed Campion, used to say of our country: the English made the laws, the Scots made the money, and the Irish made the songs!

So when the plane bringing me back to Britain flew low up the Thames Valley and I saw for the first time as an adult Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s cathedral and the Tower of London, I had a sense of belonging, not because I was born here but because our culture was. Australians shouldn’t be oblivious to our heritage just because we have refined it and improved it and because we also honour the way it has been added to and deepened by the people of many other cultures who have been attracted to it. [Read more…]