16 February, 2011
Reply to Prime Minister Gillard’s address to the House
This is a very special day for the New Zealand Parliament.
Prime Minister Gillard, New Zealand acknowledges and welcomes you as the first foreign leader to address the members of our House of Representatives.
It is entirely fitting that an Australian Prime Minister is the first leader to have this honour.
This is also a sad day for the New Zealand Parliament.
Today we acknowledge with great sadness the loss of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan, Private Kirifi Mila, as the result of a motor vehicle accident.
This afternoon when the House is in session there will be a notice of motion recognising the significant contribution made by Private Mila, and I know Members will join me in passing condolences to his family and the wider family of the New Zealand army.
New Zealand’s relationship with Australia is like none other – it is the single most important relationship we have.
We are profoundly committed to it.
We are each other’s closest ally.
Our economies are deeply integrated.
And we are the best of neighbours.
Our two countries always have an eye for each other’s back.
When the going gets tough, without hesitation, we come to each other’s support.
We saw that in the wake of recent tragic events.
When an explosion ripped through the Pike River Mine, Australia was there for us.
You sent your machinery, you sent your specialist experts, you sent your help, your hope, you did all you could to help us bring our 29 men home.
We are so grateful for all that you did.
In the same way, when New Zealanders saw the devastation caused by recent events in Australia, the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi, we felt your grief.
Our natural reaction was to offer all the sympathy and assistance that we could.
Today I would like to acknowledge the victims of the disasters that have struck our countries, and all those who showed what it is to be a good neighbour in difficult times.
That camaraderie comes naturally to our two nations.
It is born not just of geographical proximity, but of shared history, values, democratic traditions, sporting ties and of a profoundly similar global outlook.
Our relationship is not easily compared to any other.
Our comprehensive Closer Economic Relationship Trade Agreement sets the international benchmark for Free Trade Agreements and has allowed our companies to thrive on each side of the Tasman.
We don’t join forces just at the government and business level.
The success of our economic integration is underpinned by ever-closer people-to-people ties.
Trans-Tasman families abound.
Millions travel back and forth across the Tasman each year.
Australians and New Zealanders establish friendships and lead successful lives in each other’s country with ease.
Wherever we go in the world we gravitate towards one another.
Whether in a pub in London, a boardroom in New York, or a beach in Bali, Kiwis and Aussies seek each other out and find familiarity in each another.
With that familiarity comes a good amount of friendly rivalry.
New Zealanders like the All Blacks to win, but we especially like it when they beat the Wallabies.
And we treat it as a mark of respect when our friends across the Tasman claim ownership of such traditional New Zealand icons as pavlova, Crowded House, and Phar Lap.
That competitive spirit is healthy. But in the end it is secondary to the loyalty we feel towards each other.
I was reminded of the depth of our bond when I visited Gallipoli on Anzac Day last year.
It was a hugely moving experience.
It felt as natural for me to share in the memorial of Australians who gathered together at Lone Pine as it did to gather with the New Zealanders at Chunuk Bair.
Our ANZAC men fought side-by-side together on those foreign battlefields, so far from home, they fought for a set of ideals and for the freedom of their fellow countrymen.
Together they perished.
Their ANZAC spirit goes on today.
Our defence forces, police, and development efforts working together, make a major contribution to the stability of our region and our world.
On the wider international stage, our two countries’ voices are closely aligned and are more influential as a result of this.
That is why the common approach to nurturing and deepening the trans-Tasman relationship that we have seen through so many changes of government, is so important.
As we move further down the path of joining up our approaches to business law, expanding institutional linkages, and promoting cooperation across the whole range of domestic policies, I believe Parliamentarians in both countries have a duty of care for the trans-Tasman relationship.
I know that the Members of this House value the personal links they have with their trans-Tasman counterparts, and the co-operative and learning opportunities they gain from these relationships.
This is as true for you and I, Prime Minister Gillard, as for the Ministers and other Members of this House, following a long tradition of close and regular contacts between the Prime Ministers of our two countries.
This afternoon Prime Minister Gillard and I will lay wreathes at the National War Memorial.
We will remember our shared history and the lives lost, almost all on shared battlefields, to preserve the freedom of both our countries.
With the inspiration of the ANZAC legend behind us, and shared values to guide us, I am full of confidence that our two countries have a great future – and that it will be a shared future.
For all the natural rivalry and competition that will always exist between our two countries, it is very often together that we walk out on the international stage, and embrace the significant issues and challenges of the day.
And it is together that we seek to improve the lives of all our citizens.
For the good of both our peoples, long may that continue.