Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Democracy and Effective Public Governance

Location: Bali Democracy Forum VIII, Nusa Dua


Can I start by acknowledging Your Excellency Retno Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, for your very kind invitation and for hosting this important forum; to my many Ministerial colleagues and representatives from over 70 different countries present here today; many distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

As Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs and with responsibilities in Australia’s Departments of Social Services, Attorney General and Immigration and Border Protection, it is my pleasure to be here today to represent the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop, MP.

I am honoured to be here at this forum in which the fine traditions of democracy and good public governance will be examined and discussed.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend this forum and your ongoing commitment to the principles of equality, mutual respect and understanding.

Your work and discussions, since 2008, have fostered regional cooperation and the sharing of best practices in nurturing peace and democracy through good governance.

Australia is the proud beneficiary of English constitutional forms, political values, a system of democratic government, the rule of law and the principles of legality.

This year we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta – a symbol of individual liberty and the supremacy of the law. It has provided inspiration and support for progressive developments in democratic governance worldwide.

Australia is a proud multicultural nation. Since 1945, we have welcomed 7.5 million migrants, including over 825,000 under our humanitarian programme.

Today, about 47% of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was. We are a welcoming nation where rights are balanced with responsibilities.

Our success as one of the most culturally diverse, yet socially cohesive and economically prosperous countries in the world stems from our adherence to the democratic values which underpin Australian society and culture and to which Australian citizens adhere.

These include:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual;
  • the equality of men and women;
  • freedom of religion;
  • our commitment to the rule of law;
  • our parliamentary democracy;
  • that spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of public good; and
  • equality of opportunity for individuals regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

This has created our social cohesion, and that vitally important social glue which has bound our society and helped us face the challenges posed by extremism and terrorism.

With rights, so too do we as a nation feel a responsibility.

Like all of us here, we have a duty to participate in forums such as this – to tell our stories, to enable our friends to see what each of our systems of democratic government and governance looks like – but also to learn.

I hope this event will again be an opportunity for us to examine, exchange and exhort each other to greater heights of governance.

Thank you.