President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr Prime Minister, Mrs Howard, ladies and gentlemen.
I want to say first how delighted we are to have this wonderful chance to visit your country. We have been greatly impressed by the goodwill and hospitality of Australians and, of course, by the unique colours of the natural world in your country, and by the sophisticated creations wrought by human hands. All that we have seen has been done in a relatively short period of time, and done on such a scale, with such good taste. I am sure that this first state visit by a Russian president will help stimulate a whole range of bilateral cooperation initiatives. Our mutual efforts have enabled us to open a new chapter in our partnership.
Exactly one month from today Russia and Australia will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. It is well known that the historical links between our peoples go much farther back. Both Prime Minister Howard and the leader of the opposition have spoken about the history of our relations. Different people from Russia have visited Australia at different times. Even Prime Minister Kerensky, the Head of the Provisional Government [in 1917], visited here. Even more surprising is the fact that he went on to marry an Australian journalist. This is a sort of unnatural union, even for a former Prime Minister. I don’t know exactly why he did it. Perhaps he was overcome by grief after losing power, in a state of temporary insanity. Or maybe this is just the result of some internal disposition that led him from one mistake to another: first he lost power, then he lost it again.
But, in addition to Mr Kerensky, many distinguished Russian travelers such as Bellingshausen, Lazarev, Kruzenshtern, and Vasilev have visited here. I know that in your country there is still great respect for Nikolai Nikolaevich Miklouho Maclay, a distinguished [nineteenth-century] Russian scholar who passionately loved Australia.
Thanks namely to such bright, talented, courageous people and their interest in the new and the unknown, Russians have long had a lively interest in your wonderful country. Today this interest provides the basis for a profound mutual understanding and the rapprochement of our nations. In Russia we will never forget the glorious and heroic pages of our history, which have already been mentioned here. I mean our alliance during World War II. In our country we recall with profound gratitude the achievements of Australian veterans and their contribution to the defeat of Nazism.
Today we admire the extraordinary perseverance and hard work of Australians. In a relatively short period you have succeeded in creating a dynamic and prosperous nation, a country in which a modern economy and high-tech industry coexist harmoniously with traditional structures, a country that cherishes its historical, cultural, and ethnographic heritage by conserving all of its diversity.
Your country is very like our Russian homeland. For centuries people of different nationalities and faiths have lived there. Russia is organically linked with the West and East. In historical terms we are allied to the traditions of our pan-European home and to the vast Asia-Pacific region.
Here in the Asia-Pacific region large and promising prospects for cooperation are opening up. Russia is ready to actively cooperate with Australia in the international arena, including within the framework of the APEC forum, whose summit the Prime Minister and I will be attending tomorrow. The results of meetings and talks have confirmed the proximity of our positions on energy security and trade links. An extensive range of opportunities for cooperation is opening up in the areas of culture, education and science.
Once again I want to emphasize that the current visit is just the beginning of a great movement that will bring Russia and Australia closer together, help achieve new and specific results, and bring to fruition joint plans and initiatives for the benefit of our two peoples.
Unfortunately, in our large delegation there are no representatives of the opposition, although we do have an opposition in Russia. Moreover, ours is a presidential not a parliamentary republic. Therefore, permit me to have the audacity to speak for the whole Russian people in wishing all our Australian friends prosperity and every success, and in expressing my hopes for the development of our future relations. Thank you.