awards

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
September 21, 2005
It is a tremendous pleasure to be here tonight on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary dinner of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation…

…to accept, on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, the Foundation’s World Statesman Award for 2005.

Mr Howard has asked me to convey his deep appreciation for the honour the Foundation has bestowed upon him…

…and to in turn pay Australia’s respects to the brave and bold outcomes that Rabbi Arthur Schneier continues to deliver through this important Foundation.

Indeed, the objectives of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, in protecting religious freedom and human rights throughout the world…

…promoting peace, tolerance and conflict resolution…

…are enduring and noble goals relevant to any age, but perhaps of particular resonance in the world today.

The Foundation provides a bright beacon to guide us all towards these worthy – and achievable – ends.

Mr Howard has now led our nation through almost a decade of unique challenges… …during which Australia and Australians have done much to promote the causes of security, democracy and shared prosperity internationally.

Our spirit as a nation is firmly grounded in values of liberty, tolerance and perseverance…

…values that guide our foreign policies…

…and give us confidence to take action to address challenges head on.

For we believe such endeavours are essential to our future, that of our region and beyond.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The international community today faces some very grave, complex and interwoven security issues…

…from tackling terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to ensuring that weak and failing states do not become failed states.
,br> These are challenges that are global in nature but also have very clear regional dimensions.

Australia, and its region, are by no means immune to these challenges.

To address the terrorist threat we are working on all fronts…

…taking initiatives domestically, building effective cooperation in our region and pushing for enhanced cooperation at a global level.

Australia is also highly active in counter-proliferation cooperation internationally and in our own region…

…pushing for more work to be done by more countries in order to strengthen the rules and systems that exist to address proliferation.

And one of the best ways in which Australia can support regional security and prosperity, is through the promotion of stable and democratic communities based on the rule of law and with sound institutions.

Our development assistance programs in the region are helping to ensure the effective functioning of the bureaucratic institutions of states and the development of vibrant civil societies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While the challenges before the international community are immense, I am one who takes a great deal of optimism from other recent events.

More and more we are seeing the peoples of the world turning to the democratic model…

…from former states of the Soviet Union, such as the Ukraine…

...to our own region, already home to the world’s largest democracy India, and where Indonesia’s embrace of democracy several years ago and its commitment to other reforms should be recognised as an enormous step forward.

Australia is proud to promote the cause of democracy for those oppressed by tyranical regimes.

We continue to speak out loudly against the complete lack of respect for democratic norms and basic human rights repeatedly demonstrated by Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.

With others, we are providing support to Afghanistan in its efforts to achieve stability and democracy.

We are proud of the part we have played in freeing Iraqis from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein…

…and helping establish a system that has already seen free elections and highlighted the extraordinary courage of millions of ordinary Iraqis who look to a democratic future.

This year we have also witnessed the success of the Palestinian presidential elections…

…with parliamentary elections in Lebanon also giving the Lebanese people the ability to decide their own destiny free from Syrian interference…

…and Kuwaiti women being given the vote for the first time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are also optimistic about the opportunities for a lasting peace in the Middle East. Recent developments have seen the Middle East peace process regain momentum…

…and we warmly congratulate the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, for his enormous courage in withdrawing Israeli settlers from Gaza…

…an extraordinarily difficult but important step on the road to peace.

There is now a real moment of opportunity for the Israeli and Palestinian people – though no-one in the international community underestimates the challenges which remain for both sides.

Australia is committed to playing a constructive role in supporting further progress along the road to Middle East peace where we can.

We are making a tangible contribution to the disengagement process, seconding an Australian Defence Force officer to the International Security Sector Working Group…

…and consulting with the Quartet’s Special Envoy on Disengagement, James Wolfensohn, about projects where Australia might contribute to the economic aspects of disengagement.

Ladies and gentlemen

We share with Israel a deep and lasting friendship based on the shared values of democracy and liberty…

…strongly underpinned by the support of the vibrant Jewish community in Australia. In multilateral forums such as the UN, Australia has demonstrated this friendship.

And in the UN this year we are pursuing jointly with Israel, the United States, Russia, Canada and the EU a resolution on holocaust remembrance.

This is an issue of historical and contemporary importance to us – Australia became home to many holocaust survivors, and they, their children and their children’s children have in the decades since contributed so much to our nation as well as the vibrant Jewish community I mentioned a moment ago.

We are committed to the right of the Israeli people to live in peace within secure and defined borders…

…and have long supported a two state solution.

It is vital that the Palestinian Authority continues to reject violence and to control terrorist activities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Australian people and the Australian Government hold in common with the Foundation a firm belief that freedom, democracy and human rights are fundamental values…

…giving nations of the world their best hope for shared peace, security and prosperity.

But there are real challenges standing in opposition to these endeavours and success will not come easily, nor quickly…

…and will rely upon continued cooperation between like-minded nations, communities and their leaders, such as Mr Howard, whom I am honoured to represent here this evening.

Thank you
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