20 January 2017
His Excellency the Consul General,
My fellow Australians,
My fellow New Yorkers,
One and all.
I begin by honouring the First Australians, who first settled our continent some 70,000 years ago, and whose cultures represent the oldest continuing cultures on earth.
I also honour those Australians who have come more recently to our land, from every single country on God’s earth, all equal members of our great Australian family.
And I wish each and every one of you tonight a happy Australia Day.
On this Presidential Inauguration Day, we reflect on the past and the future of our two great democracies.
Australia and America, while young countries, are among the world’s oldest continuing democracies.
We need to remind ourselves afresh that the democratic project is indeed a very recent project in human history.
It is also a very fragile project which we must continue to nurture.
This is difficult in the challenging times in which we live.
But the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.
Both in America and Australia, these liberties were hard-won.
They should never be surrendered lightly.
Because there is nothing inevitable about democracy in the modern world.
It could diminish or be destroyed more rapidly than it first appeared.
Its future will always hinge on an active citizenry.
Or else it will wither and die under a wave of indifference from the mainstream, yielding to the extremism of the few.
In this country, America, the election of President Trump has seen much division.
That division will continue.
But the fact remains that under the constitutional conventions of this country and the role of the electoral college, he is the democratically elected President of the United States.
And we must all therefore seek to work constructively with him for the good of both our countries and the good of the world.
Mr. Trump’s presidency will be controversial both at home and abroad.
But we in Australia must not allow this division and this controversy to diminish either our friendship or alliance with America.
Presidents, like Prime Ministers, will come and go.
But the democratic values for which our two countries have fought form a much deeper and enduring bond between us.
So on the challenging years that lie ahead, we must continue to tend the garden of this relationship, and this alliance, with great care.
Which is where each and every one of the Australians here present, who have the privilege of living and working here in America, have a critical role to play.
Each and every one of you are ambassadors for Australia.
It is extraordinary what you have achieved here.
In the industries, the universities, the not-for-profits and the professions you each represent.
I hear every day in this city another story from our American friends about the remarkable things you are doing here.
Your actions, your innovations, your values each speak volumes for the country from which we all hail – from the land down under.
So on this 229th Australia Day, I would simply encourage all of you to continue to hold high the good name of Australia in all you do here in America.
And continue to be the human bridge that binds our two peoples, whatever the challenges our two nations may face in the troubled years ahead.