Introduction to General Peter Cosgrove MC AC
The Sir Paul Hasluck Foundation Annual Lecture
The Daniel Mannix Building, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
11 April 2013
E & OE
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second annual Sir Paul Hasluck lecture. My name is Mitch Fifield. I am one of Victoria’s twelve senators in the Federal Parliament, a director of the Sir Paul Hasluck Foundation and your parliamentary host for this evening.
The Sir Paul Hasluck Foundation was established last year by the Foundation Chair, Senator Brett Mason, along with fellow directors – Senators Michaelia Cash, David Bushby, Cory Bernardi and Arthur Sinodinos. The objective of the Foundation and this lecture is simple – to honour the thought life, the service and the legacy of a remarkable Australian. A writer, a poet, an author, a publisher, a diplomat, an historian, an academic, parliamentarian, minister of the crown and Governor General of Australia. And, quite probably, one of the two most qualified and able Liberals never to have had the opportunity to serve as Prime Minister of the nation. Sir Paul was a towering figure and remains so. Not just in parliamentary and Liberal politics but across many disciplines.
The Hasluck family have been gracious in granting their permission for the establishment of the Foundation and generous in their support of it. And we are delighted to be joined tonight by Sir Paul’s son Mr Nicholas Hasluck and his wife Mrs Sally Anne Hasluck. The Foundation was fortunate to have the Honourable John Howard deliver the inaugural Hasluck lecture last year at Sir Paul’s alma mater – the University of Western Australia. And the Foundation is extremely grateful to the Australian Catholic University for hosting the lecture this evening. And if I could convey the thanks of the Foundation through Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Pauline Nugent for that support.
It is my great privilege to introduce to you the Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, General Peter Cosgrove, who has accepted the Foundation’s invitation to be the 2013 Hasluck lecturer. But I must confess to feeling a little inadequate for the task of introducing General Cosgrove. My military service is somewhat meagre compared to that of the General. General Cosgrove served as Chief of the Australian Defence Force. I served as a Private in the Australian Army Psychology Corps, and a reservist at that. General Cosgrove served in Vietnam and was awarded the Military Cross. The closest we in the Pysch Corps came to going tactical was the odd skirmish against the Dental Corps. On those occasions we would pretend our Corps motto was psych swiftly. Anyway, General Cosgrove. Private Fifield will persevere.
General Cosgrove we know scaled the peak of the Australian military to become Chief of the Defence Force. And on that journey he represented all that is best in the Profession of Arms. He has had a successful post military career as a highly regarded company director, university chancellor and patron of many causes. And he is, in common with Sir Paul, a thinker and a writer across a wide range of subjects. We will hear more of this tonight. But General Cosgrove also has a more direct connection with Sir Paul having served as Aide de Camp to Governor General Hasluck. This is a delightful connection for the Hasluck Family and this lecture.
There is one contribution of General Cosgrove that I would like to dwell upon briefly. Australians have long been justifiably proud of their military. But there was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when that pride had sepia tones and found expression more through a sense of nostalgia about campaigns long since passed and people no longer serving. There was pride in our military, but it was more in retrospect. Our military was almost seen as quaint or perhaps boutique. Or even viewed as an insurance policy, good to have but unlikely to ever be called upon. Perhaps this perspective was a product of our comfort or the Vietnam years.
But circumstance and Peter Cosgrove changed that impression. East Timor, INTERFET and General Cosgrove’s character, leadership and judgement saw the Australian Defence Force become an object of contemporary rather than just historic pride. In Peter Cosgrove we saw our best selves. He presented to the world a face of Australia with which we could identify and of which we were proud. He was a person who was serious as the task required, but in no way fussy. Australians – we like that.
Through General Cosgrove’s command of INTERFET and his subsequent appointments as Chief of Army and Chief of the Defence Force, Australia’s military was far more prepared for the unforseen challenges of the coming decade than would otherwise have been the case. In the post-Vietnam period there is probably no commander who has done more to lift the morale of the ADF and to engender Australian pride in those who wear the uniform. Peter Cosgrove is a great Australian.
Ladies and gentlemen. Will you please welcome to deliver the 2013 Sir Paul Hasluck Foundation Lecture – recipient of the Military Cross, Companion of the Order of Australia – General Peter Cosgrove.