John Howard: Why we punch above our weight

From a speech by Australia's Prime Minister to the Liberal Party conference in Adelaide
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The Independent Online

It's important to understand that the interests of Australia do not lie in having all of our associations and all our relationships in one part of the world. Rather the interests of Australia lie very much in seeing this country as a citizen of the world. [We are] a nation which especially over the last few years has been able to punch above its weight; a nation to be respected and worked with.

And one of the things that I take particular pride in observing is that in the time that we have been in government we have seen a further deepening of our already close relationship with the United States. But that has been done without prejudicing the maintenance and the further development of our very close relations with the nations of Asia. We are co-operating more closely than ever with the government of Indonesia in the common fight against terrorism. That fight has already carried our armed forces to Afghanistan. It's seen us lose 88 of our fellow Australians in Bali. It sees us challenged to the ongoing response to barbarism and terrorist behaviour in Iraq.

And on the subject of Iraq just let me place on record again my rejection of the allegations made in Canberra by a former officer of the ONA [Office of National Assessments] that the government deliberately distorted and misrepresented the intelligence assessments that came to it. All the statements we made about intelligence were consistent with the assessments that we had received from the agencies.

Mr Wilke has not produced any evidence to support his allegations that the government fabricated and distorted its Iraqi intelligence material. The truth is that the government didn't do that. I didn't do it. The Foreign Minister didn't do it and the Defence Minister didn't do it.

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