Remarks at reception hosted by H.E. Mr Michael Witter, Ambassador of The Federal Republic of Germany
Speech, check against delivery, EO&E
20 November 2010
Thank you very much Ambassador and thank you for your kindness in hosting Therese and myself here this evening and to your charming wife, Johanna. To those of you who are also strong supporters of the Australian German connection let me say a few remarks but let me begin with music and end with politics.
This is a good indication when you have an orchestra of international standing, the Berlin Philharmonic, visit our country I believe this is a moment for celebration. This is an extraordinary institution. It's been around for nearly 150 years. Those of us who love music know its performances well. For an orchestra such as the Berlin Philharmonic, which has had as its guest conductors over the years, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Edvard Greig, this is no ordinary orchestra. It is an extraordinary orchestra and the world of music represents, I believe, excellence. And the notion of excellence is that which we often associate with Germany.
I read recently that the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic spoke of the importance of music, not simply as an addition to life's endeavours, but essential to life's endeavours. I think there's a great wisdom in that. I think it's a great wisdom not simply in leading a rich and fulfilled life. But also the role which music plays in our international understandings. Music is the language of the soul. Music therefore is an international language.
And in my own foreign service career, having spent most of it in China and the Far East, music is a remarkable instrument through which people of all cultures, all conditions, all religions, all faiths and the absence of faiths experience the common harmony of a song. This is a very good thing.
And so your great orchestra, this extraordinary orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, lives not just within that condition of what it does it does so well but also what its leading lights in its orchestra and its conductor have said explicitly about the central role of music in life.
Of course the other thing that comes directly to mind about the Berlin Philharmonic is its role as a cultural ambassador to Germany itself. My wife Therese and I are enormous fans of Germany. We have been there much. We have travelled there often. We regard Berlin as a great European international happening city. We have stomped around Berlin when Potsdamer Platz was a hole in the ground and waiting to be built again. And I have seen so many changes in Berlin these last few years. These have been extraordinary changes for the good.
The role which Germany plays in the world is an important role. The fact that Germany is such a dominant economy, a global economy, the fact that you have troops acting as peacekeepers right around the world, the fact that the German state through its aid agency is working in so many impoverished parts of the world, all speak so fundamentally of the deep virtues and values of the German people. And this is I think to the greater tribute of not just the current government of Germany but the people of Germany that they represent.
Which brings me to my final point and that is our engagement with Germany itself. Chancellor Merkel is an extraordinary leader and I believe has carved out a place for Germany in the councils of the world. It's been my privilege to spend time with her in Berlin only last year. But beyond that to work with her so deeply in the councils of the G20, particularly when the global economy was in the balance. It's a little known fact in this country that on a week by week basis my office as Prime Minister and her office would be dealing intimately on the details of what we'd agreed at both London and Pittsburgh summits last year in trying to pull the global economy back from the abyss.
The deepness of the collaboration between Germany, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Chinese in that process was very much what underpinned the success of the G20's actions and deliberations during the course of 2009.
I think all of us who had a mind for history - Germany has a particular mind for history given the extraordinary events of the Great Depression as they impacted on Germany in 29 and 30 and the political events which followed - were determined to learn from history in our response to this global financial crisis. And we did so together, collaboratively and well and intelligently. So when the histories are written it will show a level of collaboration which frankly would surprise those who often purport to report on the facts of international relations.
Beyond that of course the German Australian relationship is not just multilateral. Our bilateral relationship is very strong indeed. Our mission in Berlin is active as your mission in Canberra is active. I understand that we have in Australia I think 360 or so German companies here on the ground and more than six or seven hundred of their subsidiaries. Foreign direct investment from Germany to Australia I think stands at some $30 to $40 billion. Some 100,000 Australians are employed in firms which are either directly or indirectly owned by German and parent companies. This is a very good thing.
We believe in an open economy. We believe in an open trading system. We believe in an open financial market. And I think our two countries work very well together.
But to conclude where I began on music. These things are made possible by countries and civilisations who have respect for one another and I think that its deepest level Australia looks at the great cultural tradition that is German and the German speaking people having given us the likes of Bach and Handel and Haydn and Mozart and Beethoven and many others. And to see its current ambassadorial representation in the form of this evening's performance by the Berlin Philharmonic speaks for all the German people and speaks more profoundly of the international significance of music, as represented in the soul of our common humanity.
Thank you Ambassador and I thank all of you for attending this evening.