Tony Abbott’s address to Parliament on Mr Modi’s visit

abbott address





Madam Speaker, Mr President.


It is long overdue for an Indian Prime Minister to address this Parliament ”“ given that the leaders of the United States, China, Indonesia, Britain, Canada, Japan and New Zealand have already done so.

But I am personally delighted that this omission is at last corrected.

It is fitting that ”“ in the home of our democracy ”“ we should be addressed by the leader of the world’s largest democracy.

There is so much that we can learn from a prime minister who must try to reach some 830 million voters and whose mastery of electioneering has meant that in India’s recent election he was literally beamed into dozens of different rallies simultaneously all-round the country.

Prime Minister Modi is the first in decades with an absolute majority in the lower house, the Lok Sabha ”“ because he imbued his fellow citizens with the sure hope that tomorrow can be better than today.

He gave credit for India’s success to those who really deserved it; he told voters that their country belonged to them, not to their rulers or to their officials and even here in Australia, the Modi campaign and victory inspired hope because Australians, too, believe in work, family and community; in doing things for love, not just for money; and in living our ideals.

Our two nations have much in common.

We share an ocean.

We share a language.

We share a heritage, as Westminster democracies enjoying freedom under the law.

We even share the same national day: the 26th  of January.

Above all, we share a history.

Way back in 1795, the very first cargo to be shipped out of New South Wales was mahogany and cedar bound for India.

In the Gallipoli campaign that forged our nation, 5000 Indians fought by our side and Prime Minister Modi made a splendid presentation to me at the War Memorial this morning in their memory.

The Australian army and the Indian army were brothers in arms at the siege of Tobruk.

As part of   British Empire forces, our soldiers shared the tragedy of Singapore and the triumph at El Alamein.

Australians admired the way India won independence ”“ not by rejecting the values learned from Britain, but by appealing to them; not by fighting the colonisers, but by working on their conscience.

Through all the troubles of partition and all the subsequent dashed hopes, India has magnificently maintained its democracy.

And although India’s GDP per person is still only about half of China’s, its growth is strong, its economic prospects are bright and its population is likely to overtake China’s in the next couple of decades.

This is why people now speak of the Indo-Pacific as the focus of the world’s economic dynamism.

With China, India is the emerging superpower of Asia ”“ the emerging superpower that is already a democracy.

Gandhi taught that the most powerful force is not weapons but good example.

I remember as a student in India reading Gandhi’s autobiography where he quotes a Gujarati   poet: “for a bowl of water give a goodly meal; for a kindly greeting bow thou down with zeal; but the truly noble know all men as one and return with gladness good for evil done.”

Mother Teresa taught that good words are next-to-nothing without good deeds.

The religions of India taught inner peace in the face of adversity.

This land of the most ancient spirituality, of the exotic and of the familiar has always made an impression on me.

That’s why 30 years ago, I spent three months backpacking from Mumbai, to Rajasthan, to Delhi, to Kashmir, around much of Bihar and back to Mumbai.

Australia’s second Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, had also travelled to India and he wrote way back in 1893 that: “India is truly a land of wonders and extremes ”¦. a country of contrasts and contradictions, of splendour and poverty, profusion and barrenness, vicissitude and adventure”¦.”

One hundred years ago Deakin wanted Indian students to study in Australia ”“ writing that Australia and India “have much to teach each other.”

And that’s exactly what’s now happening.

For over a decade, up to 40,000 Indian students in Australia at any one time.

And from next year, under the New Colombo Plan, Australia will be returning the compliment by sending thousands of our own best and brightest to study at the universities of India.

This is a sign that we are finally grasping the opportunities that India presents.

It was Prime Minister Howard who once said that  Australia and India had so much in common but little to do with each other!

That must change.
Australia welcomes India’s strength in the Indian Ocean.

Australia admires Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to “Come, make in India”; which echoes our own determination that Australia is “open for business”.

But despite that, regrettably, Australia only did $15 billion worth of business with India last year ”“ and that hardly does justice to our two countries’ potential.

We want to be a dependable source of energy security, of resource security and of food security for India.

If all goes to plan, next year, an Indian company will begin Australia’s largest ever coal development which will light the lives of 100 million Indians for the next half century.

If all goes to plan ”“ and no one, if I may say so, has ever made the Indian bureaucracy perform as Prime Minister Modi did in Gujurat ”“ by the end of next year, we will have a free trade deal with what is potentially the world’s largest market.

And I want to make this declaration here in this Parliament: there are two can-do Prime Minister’s in this Chamber today and we will make it happen.

And if all goes to plan, Australia will export uranium to India ”“ under suitable safeguards of course ”“ because cleaner energy is one of the most important contributions that Australia can make to the wider world.

Geologists believe that somewhere between 130 and 300 million years ago, Australia and India actually shared the same land mass ”“ we were so to speak joined at the geological hip.  

We cannot change continental drift, but we can ensure that we are closer friends and partners in the future than we have been in the recent past.

Short URL: