UK PM addresses joint sitting of Australian Parliament

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Monday, March 27, 2006

British Prime Minister Tony Blair

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair addressed a special joint sitting of the Australian Parliament March 27, 2006. After introductory speeches by both the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and the Leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley, Blair spoke on globalisation and trade, security, terrorism, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also touched on the Middle East and climate change.

Mr Blair started by reminiscing about his childhood, when he lived from the age of two until five in Adelaide, South Australia. "I remember returning from the hospital where my sister Sarah had just been born, looking at her in the back of the old Austin that we drove; running errands for our neighbour, Mr Trederay; taking showers under the garden hose in the heat on the lawn; visiting friends up-country in the Adelaide Hills; and being chased by magpies as I ran across the open ground near our home."

Globalisation, trade, and development

He talked about the inevitability of Globalisation, but warned that it should be tempered by social justice. "Globalisation is a fact, but the values that govern it are a choice. We know the values we believe in: democracy and the rule of law, but also justice, the simple conviction that, given a fair go, human beings can better themselves and the world around them." He later linked security with justice, saying "there is no prosperity without security and no security without justice. That is the consequence of an interconnected world."

He described the two perspectives on trade as "open or closed", meaning those who support free trade and reduction of tarrifs, and those who are more protectionist. Mr Blair was firmly in the "open" camp, but he warned that poverty must also be tackled. "Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing. In this World Trade Round we have the opportunity to make it ebb. At stake, obviously, is our commitment on world poverty and development." According to Blair, rich western nations have a long way to go before their markets can be considered open. "Europe’s agricultural protection is a policy born of another age and it is time to end it. But change in Europe alone is not the answer. America must open up; Japan, too."

He also linked trade to development, saying that the connection was a matter "of justice, because the poorest nations need to be able to stand on their own two feet and trade in our markets."

Terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan

He warned of the immediate threat of "Islamist extremism", but argued that terrorism did not begin with the September 11 attacks in the United States, but rather had a much longer history. "It simply came to our notice then. Its victims are to be found in the recent history of many lands, from Russia and India but also Algeria, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Kenya and countless more."

He acknowledged that the decision to invade Iraq was as divisive in Britain as in Australia, but sought to justify military action, saying "for almost three years now we have been in Iraq with full United Nations support. From the outset our forces in Afghanistan have been there with UN authority. In both cases, there is the full support of democratically elected governments." He also spoke of the gains made by both Iraq and Afghanistan. "In each case, the people have, for the first time, been offered a chance to vote. In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine."

He spoke in support of the US Alliance, but said that maintaining some independence was important. "I do not always agree with the United States. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have."

Israel and Palestine

Mr Blair called on the United States to work for security in the Middle East, and especially for a two state solution. "once the Israeli election has taken place, we must redouble our efforts to find a way to the only solution that works—a secure state of Israel and a viable, independent Palestinian state."

Climate change

Mr Blair emphasised the need to focus on climate change, and said that it was even more important now with the crisis over oil prices. He noted the differences between the Australian and British approaches to climate change, and argued that co-operation was needed. "At some point we must bring it all together. There will be no agreement worth having that does not involve the United States, China and India, as well as the rest of us."


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.