Address to India 75th Anniversary of Independence Reception, National Museum of Australia, Canberra
I acknowledge the country and the elders, customs and traditions of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people.
In particular, Nin Jannette, thank you for your generous welcome to country. And to you, Your Excellency [Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner], for bringing us all together, for hosting us, and for the introduction.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent the Government here tonight, as a firm friend of India and of Australia’s growing Indian communities.
I thank all of my parliamentary colleagues who have joined us.
And I make special mention of my friend, Michelle Rowland, who has done so much to bring the Parliament and the Indian people closer together –
As a prominent, powerful and persistent voice for Indian‑Australians – in her own community and across our country. Thank you, Michelle.
What an auspicious occasion – 75 years of Indian independence – and so important we mark it here, and around the country.
On Saturday we celebrated with Brisbane’s Indian community in Roma Street Parklands.
The Ghandi statue there, unveiled by Prime Minister Modi during his visit in 2014, reminded me of another famous Indian landmark.
It’s about three‑and‑a‑half hours north of here by car, in Bathurst.
Now, Bathurst might seem like an unlikely location for a statue of India’s first Prime Minister.
But if you’re in town, and you wander through the Peace Garden, at the edge of the park, you will find it.
The bust of Pandit Nehru ji.
A gift from the Indian people –
Signifying and celebrating the unlikely and unprecedented friendship between one of their independence heroes, Nehru, and Bathurst’s own home‑town hero – Prime Minister and Treasurer, Ben Chifley.
We are reminded that on the 13th of June 1951 – at the Hotel Kurrajong, just down the road from here – Chifley gave an interview to a visiting journalist from India.
The Labor Party’s old statesman was passing on a message to his friend, the revered leader of a young democracy:
‘Tell Nehru not to lose heart, but to carry on. India will still show the way to peace.’
Those were actually the final words in his final interview – Chifley died later that evening.
From that unlikely friendship has sprung decades of goodwill and good fortune between our two nations.
Goodwill and good fortune that we toast tonight, as India marks 75 years of independence.
India is the world’s largest democracy; a beacon of progress and innovation; and a nation turning extraordinary economic growth into social advancement for its people.
Australia’s relationship with India is one of dosti – friendship.
We saw that friendship on display when Prime Minister Albanese was embraced by Prime Minister Modi at the Quad meeting in Tokyo a few months ago, just hours after being sworn in.
Through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and our Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, our ties will only grow stronger.
And the Foreign Minister has done just that today – announcing nine new grants from the Australia‑India Council to deepen collaboration between our countries.
We look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi here for the Quad meeting next year.
And I look forward to visiting India for the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting next year.
Together, Australia and India have a shared duty to ensure a peaceful, inclusive and resilient Indo‑Pacific regional order.
A region where the rights of all states are equally respected, regardless of mass or might. Prime Minister Modi describes this as our ‘sacred duty’.
And, as in so many areas, India shows us the way.
You can be a populous nation, a powerful nation, a prosperous nation – and yes, you can be free and fair as well. India offers a model to the world.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Modi unfurled the Tiranga flag at the Red Fort – a tradition undertaken by each Prime Minister since it was first done on that first independence day in 1947.
Except… it wasn’t quite the first, not really.
Thanks to time zones, technically, the first was here, in Canberra. Specifically, at 34 Mugga Way, Red Hill.
The home of your predecessor, Your Excellency.
At midday in Canberra’s winter sun, a few hours before the unfurling in Delhi –
More than 300 people gathered to watch the tricolour raised –
Sending a message of support and solidarity to 300 million newly‑free citizens on the other side of the Indian Ocean.
The day before, on the eve of independence, Nehru told his nation:
‘At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…
‘We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again…
‘…the day appointed by destiny.’
Tonight, we celebrate India – her freedom, fortune and future promise.
We celebrate her discovery, and her determination to see destiny fulfilled.
We celebrate the extraordinary contribution of the Indian diaspora to own national life.
And in our celebration, we are reminded that through 75 years of progress –
The greatest gift that India gives Australia and the world is her people.
Jai Hind. Long live India. Happy independence day.