From maiden speeches to announcing their dismissals and delivering heartfelt national apologies, Australia’s leading politicians have delivered an abundance of speeches to the nation, but there are some which stick out in the memories of those who witnessed them far more than others.
Some speeches remain as relevant and powerful in today’s Australia as they were at the time the words were spoken, with Aussies still able to recite them, while others are remembered for their audacity.
One of the most powerful political speeches in recent times was delivered by then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard when she branded former Leader of the Opposition, and later prime minister, Tony Abbott a misogynist over his “repulsive double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism”, during a passionate deliverance on October 9, 2012.
“The Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man,” she said, “Not now, not ever. The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office.
“Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.
“Let’s go through the Opposition Leader’s repulsive double standards, repulsive double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism. We are now supposed to take seriously that the Leader of the Opposition is offended by Mr Slipper’s text messages, when this is the Leader of the Opposition who has said, and this was when he was a minister under the last government – not when he was a student, not when he was in high school – when he was a minister under the last government.”
Another speech that has gone down in Aussie history is the address given by former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on the steps of Parliament House following his dismissal in 1975.
“Ladies and gentleman , well may we say God Save the Queen because nothing will save the Governor-General,” he said. “The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned ‘Malcolm Fraser’ who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur.
“They won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House, even if the inside has been silenced for the next few weeks… Maintain your rage and enthusiasm through the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the more contentious speeches to have garnered huge attention was delivered by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson during her maiden speech to parliament back in 1996 shortly after she was elected as the Federal Member for Oxley.
The now-prolific pollie shot to prominence following her parliamentary debut, in which she said: ” I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.” She also used the opportunity to discuss her beliefs that “Aboriginals received more benefits than non-Aboriginals” and of “reverse racism” which she said was being applied to “mainstream Australians by those who promote political correctness”.
Another speech – most likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons – is the maiden speech made earlier this year by Katter’s Australian Party Senator Fraser Anning, who was slammed, and later sacked, for using the term “final solution” during his address.
Addressing the Upper House in August, Anning said: “I believe that immigration to our country should be a privilege, not an obligation. We as a nation are entitled to insist that those who are allowed to come here predominantly reflect the historic European-Christian composition of Australian society. Those who come here need to assimilate and integrate.”
Adding: “The final solution to the immigration problem, of course, is a popular vote.”
The longest-serving Aussie prime minister of all time Sir Robert Menzies delivered countless public speeches during his two leadership stints, between 1939-41 and 1949-1966. Perhaps his most renowned though, was Menzies’ Forgotten People speech from May 1942, which cemented him as one of the country’s greatest politicians.
“If we are to talk of classes, then the time has come to say something of the forgotten class — the middle class — those people who are constantly in danger of being ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the false war; the middle class who, properly regarded represent the backbone of this country,” he said.
“I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole.”
Paul Keating’s may have given his famous Redfern Speech more than a quarter of a century ago but the former Labor leader’s words are still just as powerful today.
“It was we who did the dispossessing,” he said. “We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases and the alcohol.
“We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine that these things could be done to us.”
The address, delivered on December 10 1992, was the first time an Australian leader admitted the impact of white settlement on Indigenous people.
However, it was Labor Leader Kevin Rudd who finally delivered the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples on February 13 2008.
“The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future,” he told the Lower House. “We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
“We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”