Speech: Australian Parliament: David Cameron's speech

Prime Minister Abbott, Madam Speaker, Mr President, Honourable Senators and Representatives. I am incredibly proud to be here today in Canberra. It is such an honour for a British Prime Minister to address this magnificent Parliament.

Overseas visits by Prime Ministers can be about protocol and diplomacy. But coming here is like visiting family. And I don’t just say that because my own Australian auntie is watching from the gallery.

There’s our rivalries on and off the playing field, our fondness for teasing each other’s habits and phrases.

Of course we poms are known for our bluntness. And we never really get your tendency to beat around the bush and not say what you really mean.

We have enormous affection for each other. We may live on opposite sides of the planet. But it is hard to think of another country to which the British people feel so instinctively close.

Our ties have been woven not only in the best of times, but in the worst of times. Never more so than in each other’s – and in humanity’s - bleakest hours.

On Sunday, I laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London, 100 years since the start of the First World War. And later today I will lay a wreath in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial.

We will never forget the thousands of Australian troops who stood and fought and fell from Lone Pine to the Somme.

I especially think of those who fell in Gallipoli, which I visited as a young man surrounded by Aussies and Kiwis of the same age as me.

We joked as we took the boat across the straits.

But as we landed and saw that extraordinary memorial, we all fell silent. Moved beyond words by what our forefathers had done together.

Those diggers were not just fighting for their country, they were shaping the identity of a new young nation.

Next year will see the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day, and Britain will mark it with a special service of Commemoration at the Cenotaph.

In almost every major conflict for a hundred years we have fought and bled and died alongside each other.

In the Second World War – from the ingenuity of the Dambusters to the endurance of Tobruk, and in our lifetimes, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq.

Ours is an alliance that has been forged in adversity and tested over time.

Rugged. Resilient. Reliable. Adjectives that sum up this great nation and its people.

There is no more dependable ally when the chips are down.

Read the Prime Minister’s speech at the Australian War Memorial Museum.

Now, if our alliance was built on history alone, it would be inspiring, but static; a sepia-tinged scrapbook of sentimentality.

And if it was just built on trade and commerce alone, it would be rich, but lifeless.

But it is far, far more than that.

Every chapter of Australia’s story has been inspiring.

I think of your indigenous culture with roots stretching back millennia, and I feel pride that Aboriginal Australians are now studying at Oxford and Cambridge and one of those scholars, Leila Smith, is here with us today.

Let me acknowledge the original owners of this land, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

You have always been a pioneering country. And today you are writing another remarkable chapter in your national story.

Your vibrant society, with its citizens drawn from an ever expanding pool, especially Asia. Your thriving economy – 23 years without a recession. Your cheerful irreverence - and your conviction that what matters in life is not where you come from but where you are going to. Your readiness to step up whenever international peace and order is threatened.

That is why Britain so admires Australia.

You are a ‘can do’ country. You want to shape the world you live in, not be shaped by it.

And our nations share a similar outlook on life.

We never think twice before jumping in to help.

Only last month, your Foreign Minister strode across the room towards me at a summit in Italy. I wondered for a moment whether I was heading for what I’m told we now need to call a ‘shirt-fronting’. But no, Julie – who is a great friend of Britain – said that Australia would add 100 beds to our Ebola treatment facility in Sierra Leone.

Typical Australia. Always there, with action not words.

And let me say this: what our troops and our health workers are doing on the front line of fighting this disease is beyond brave – and we should be incredibly proud of them.

Our people are as close as ever. More than 600,000 Brits visit every year. And there are a million visits to Britain by Australians every year.

And I am pleased that we are making some progress of making that process of visiting easier – by cutting the cost of air passenger duty and extending the use of e-Gates for regular Australian visitors to the UK.

But for a while our political relationship fell into a state of what William Hague called ‘benign neglect.’

It is extraordinary to think that no British Foreign Secretary had visited Australia in nearly twenty years. I was determined to change that.

Now you have had three visits in as many years, and a British Prime Minister twice as well. You might think we are starting to overdo it. But the scope for working even more closely together really warrants it.

After the tough decisions of recent years, Britain’s economy has turned a corner. The fastest growing economy in the G7. Employment up 1.75 million in four years, more than in the rest of the European Union put together. Unemployment at 6 per cent and falling.

We have found again our buccaneering spirit and our determination to seek new markets and new opportunities.

For the first time since the 1970s the UK is expanding our presence east of Suez, opening diplomatic posts across Asia.

Our economic prosperity underpins our national security – and we are using it to modernise our armed forces with the most modern equipment. New fighters. New hunter-killer submarines. Renewing our nuclear deterrent. The Type 26 Global Combat Ship, the world’s most advanced frigate. Two new aircraft carriers, the most powerful the Royal Navy has ever put to sea in its history.

We value our co-operation with you in the five power defence agreement and the five eyes intelligence sharing partnership.

And of course it is also true that British and Australian Prime Ministers naturally tend to click, whichever party we come from.

There is so much that doesn’t need to be said.

But let me say it is a particular pleasure to work with you, Tony Abbott. A strong leader and a strong friend to my country and to me.

And I hope you will allow me to make a special mention of John Howard – the very epitome of steadfastness and loyalty who has given me so much wise counsel over the years.

And from the other side of the House, I learned with sadness of the recent passing of Gough Whitlam.

But the very bedrock of our relationship, are the values that we share. We have stood together so often, and do so today, not just because we faced common threats, but because we believe in the same things.

In the rule of law. In the fundamental right of individuals to choose and to change their governments. In open societies and economies and free trade as the only route to thriving, stable societies.

And that the strength of a government is determined by the freedom that flows to its citizens, not the powers it gathers to itself.

These shared values are the beating heart of our alliance. The qualities that make our societies great and our economies strong.

My argument today is that it is these values, the values that bring us together and that have made our countries great, these are the values which should guide us through the challenges we face today.

Our success and security in the future will not come from trying to emulate others; but by being ourselves, by having faith in the values that have shaped our countries, and applying them to the modern world.

Whether it is keeping our people safe from terrorism, winning the argument for free trade over protectionism, or competing with countries which claim there is a short cut to success without the tiresome encumbrance of accountable government and the rule of law.

Let me take each of these in turn.


First, defeating the threat of terrorism and extremism.

In both our countries we have seen some of our young people radicalised, going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, and even appalling plots to murder innocent people back in our own countries.

There is no opt-out from dealing with this. We have to confront this threat at its source.

So it is right that once again, with others, including Arab states, British and Australian forces are operating alongside each other; supporting all those in Iraq and Syria who want a future for their countries where all their people are represented and where there is no place for extremism and terror.

We have to deal with the threat of foreign fighters planning attacks against our people.

Your Prime Minister has given a strong international lead on this, helping to galvanise the UN Security Council with a powerful address.

Later, last month, this Parliament passed new legislation to tackle foreign fighters. And we will shortly be introducing our own new Counter-Terrorism Bill in the United Kingdom.

New powers for police at ports to seize passports, to stop suspects travelling and to stop British nationals returning to the UK unless they do so on our terms.

New rules to prevent airlines that don’t comply with our no-fly lists, or our security screening measures, from landing in the UK.

But as well as dealing with the consequences of this threat, we also have to address its root cause. And let us be frank.

It’s not poverty, though of course our nations are united in tackling deprivation wherever it exists.

It’s not exclusion from the mainstream. Of course we have more to do, but we are both successful multicultural democracies where opportunities abound.

And it’s not foreign policy. Now I can show you examples all over the world where British aid and British action have saved millions of Muslim lives, from Kosovo to Syria.

But that is not actually the real point – in our democracies we must never give in to the idea that disagreeing with a foreign policy in any way justifies terrorist outrages.

No, the root cause of the challenge we face is the extremist narrative.

So we must confront this extremism in all its forms. We must ban extremist preachers from our countries. We must root out extremism from our schools, universities and prisons. As we do so we must work with the overwhelming majority of Muslims who abhor the twisted narrative that has seduced some of our people.

We must continue to celebrate Islam as a great world religion of peace.

A new and pressing challenge is getting extremist material taken down from the internet. There is a role for government in that. We must not allow the internet to be an ungoverned space.

But there is a role for companies too. In the UK we are pushing them to do more, including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive in taking down this harmful material.

We are making progress but there is further to go. This is their social responsibility. And we expect them to live up to it.

And as we confront this extremism together, let us have faith in the appeal of what our modern societies can offer.

Yes, the battles for equality of opportunity for every person of every race and creed are not yet fully won.

But today your country and my country are places where people can take part, can have their say and achieve their dreams. Places where people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Briton or an Australian too’.

And that sense of identity, that voice, that stake in society all come directly from standing up for our values and our beliefs in open economies and open societies.


One of the greatest threats to our values and to our success is the spectre of protectionism. Too many people still seem to believe that trade is some sort of zero sum game. It’s as if one country’s success is somehow another country’s failure.

This has always been nonsense.

Trade enables the specialisation that can enrich all.

But protectionism is even more nonsensical in the modern integrated global economy where a phone can have parts from all over the world, where infrastructure investment can be planned in Sydney and delivered in Sao Paulo; and where the world’s largest radio telescope can have its headquarters in Manchester and its field station in Western Australia.

If we are to bust the myths that stand in the way of the great new trade and investment deals now before us, we have to tell it to people straight.

Opening up trade doesn’t cost jobs, it creates them. It doesn’t undercut wages. It leads to the productivity gains that help to increase them.

Let’s start this weekend at the G20 and take these arguments head on. Let’s see through an EU-US deal that could be the biggest of its kind on the planet. And while we are at it, let’s push for an EU-Australia deal too.

Because if we have the confidence to stay true to our values, we can defeat the protectionist arguments and secure huge advances in prosperity.

For our nations and for our trading partners all around the world.

The alternative model

Finally, there’s a more insipient creeping threat to our values that I want to mention.

And it comes from those who say that we will be outcompeted and outgunned by countries that believe there is a shortcut to success, a new model of authoritarian capitalism that is unencumbered by the values and restrictions that we place upon ourselves.

In particular, an approach that is free from the accountability of real democracy and the rule of law.

I say: we should have the confidence to reject this view and stay true to our values. These are the things that make us strong.

We are democracies. We don’t shy away from self-criticism. We debate our mistakes in public. That can be painful, but it is so powerful.

Our free and fearless press shines a light wherever it is needed, without fear or favour.

Of course that can make life difficult – but it helps drive out the corruption that destroys so many countries.

Our governments – your government, my government – we lose cases in court, because we don’t control the courts.

But that’s why people invest in our countries because they have property rights, and they know that they can get redress from the rule of law and that we have judges who are honest and not on the make.

It is no accident that the most successful countries in the world are those with the absence of conflict or corruption and the presence of strong property rights and institutions.

It is no coincidence that the big ideas – like wifi invented here or the world wide web invented by a Briton – they all come from open societies.

Nor is it surprising that many of the world’s leading businesses refuse to set up their headquarters in places where their premises can be taken away from them.

These attributes – our rule of law, our democracy, our free press – these aren’t weaknesses, they are our greatest strength.

In the great sweep of history, sometimes freedom is on the offensive, sometimes on the defensive.

In 1988, my predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, spoke to you in Parliament. A year later, the Iron Curtain was ripped away, and the Berlin Wall fell.

Looking back, it seems inevitable.

It did not seem so at the time.

Time and again our leaders called for that Wall to be torn down, because they had confidence that in the end freedom would prevail.

As our generation fights that battle we need to resist the idea that says that nations can enrich their citizens while forever bypassing the building blocks of democracy.

Or that freedom is reserved for certain peoples or nations. Or that women don’t deserve equal rights and opportunities in every country on earth. Or that there are some countries that are just not suited to democracy.

Accountability, human rights, free trade, open societies – these are the values that are the best basis for the fulfilment of human ambitions and dreams, more so than ever in the twenty-first century.


Here in this Chamber and in the House of Commons back in Britain, we sometimes let the brickbats fly. We sometimes say some pretty rude things to each other. We can trade insults and put-downs.

Not everyone quite gets it.

Walking in New York a few years ago, a man shouted at me across the street – ‘Hey Cameron, I watch you on TV, Prime Minister’s Questions, I love your show.’

As you can see I’m as bad at an American accent as I am at an Australian one.

The reaction to that I will never forget. Strewth!

But let’s take this moment here today to pause for a moment, to reflect and take a step back.

Because sometimes we can take what we have for granted. And we should never do that. Never.

Never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Never forget that we live in countries where the press is free, the law is fair, the right to redress is universally available, property rights universally enforceable, the freedom of speech the foundation of our democracy.

And let us remember that these things – these incredible values we share – are not just what make our societies strong; they make our economies strong too.

They’ve made our countries great – and if we have the courage to stand by them, they will continue to do so now and for generations to come.

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At least he announced this new legislation before a Parliament. Might have been nice for him to do so in the Commons, though.