Remarks at Prime Minister’s XI Cricket Dinner
Thank you very much and good evening. I am delighted to be back.
I’m delighted to be the 8th Prime Minister to host a PM’s XI - one of the great highlights of the summer.
It’s wonderful to see so many of you here supporting cricket here in the ACT with such enthusiasm. Let’s give a round of applause for the victors of the match that’s just finished. Charles Lepani, the dean of the diplomatic corp, is extremely pleased.
We are honoured to welcome Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and his wife Professor Maithree Wickremesingheto the match and to Australia. Your visit cements and celebrates the deep bonds between our two countries.
I’d also like to acknowledge some of our other very distinguished guests:
The Chief Minister of the ACT, Andrew Barr – apparently a cricket tragic, and also the Chief Minister of the coolest capital in the world.
You always get a round of applause for saying nice things about Canberra.
David Peever, the Chairman Cricket Australia, James Sutherland the CEO, John Miller, Chairman Cricket ACT, Ric Smith, President of Lord’s Taverners ACT, Walter Mikac, Founder, Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Simon Maddocks, Chair of the Menzies Foundation. Also the delegation, the Prime Minister’s delegation, senior representatives from Sri Lanka. My Parliamentary colleagues including ACT Senator Zed Seselja, who also believes this is the coolest capital in the world, and of course of all of you, members of the diplomatic corp, distinguished guests and friends.
Now, this great tradition was started, of course, by Robert Menzies in 1951. And after a long gap, it was renewed by Bob Hawke. Since then, the PM’s XI has been embraced as an established fixture, especially by another cricket tragic, John Howard.
But tonight, we do not just remember the game’s history, we make it. This is the first time a PM’s XI game has been played as a Twenty20 - an exciting format as we’ve just seen.
Now, the PM’s XI has played Sri Lanka twice since 1986. Sri Lanka won the match in 2008 and the match in 2012 was abandoned because of rain, there’s no prospect of that this evening. So we’re looking forward to a fierce contest today.
Our national summer game has come a long way since 2012, including the launch of the Women’s Big Bash League in 2015, which has great momentum.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka. In that time we’ve built a warm and enduring friendship, and a growing trade relationship that encompasses everything from seafood to dairy cattle, to science degrees to tourism. And it’s going to get bigger and stronger and deeper because of the commitments and the enthusiasm that’s been generated by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visit to Australia this week.
We have links of learning, culture and kinship and we are grateful for the talent, hard work and enthusiasm that the Australia’s Sri Lankan community has contributed to this, our most successful multicultural society in the world, Australia. We thank the Sri Lankan community for all they have done.
Now, as I said last night, there are a few scores to settle after Sri Lanka’s 3-0 victory in last year’s test series, and Australia’s record-breaking score in the Twenty20 game at Pallekele.
The great Arjuna Ranatunga is here with us tonight.
Magnificent in burgundy, it’s good to see you representing Sri Lanka as Minister for Ports and Shipping. We recall, Minister, with some chagrin, it was you who led Sri Lanka to victory over Australia in the 1996 Cricket World Cup final.
So there is history as well as some rivalry in tonight’s game. But stronger than both of those is the spirit of goodwill that really brings this match to life. The camaraderie among the players; the joy and generosity of the crowds. And I hope we see a great many of the community at the game tonight, bringing with them all the passion, energy and sheer love of cricket for which they are known around the world.
The PM’s XI is a wonderful platform for established players, together with promising younger players. In year’s past we’ve had numerous household names lead the Australian squad, including Mike Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee.
And this year, after chatting with Greg Chappell at the Sydney Test in January, I was confident that there would be no shortage of talent.
So it’s fantastic to have the brilliant Adam Voges captain this year. At 35, Adam became the oldest player in Test history to make a century on debut. He retires from his international career with the illustrious test average of 61.87, sitting only behind Sir Donald Bradman on the all-time list.
I’m also delighted to have Michael Clarke, former Australian captain, coaching the team this year.
Alongside the more established names are players like Jason Sangha, who at 17, is the youngest person to play for the PM’s XI.
And of course I also welcome warmly, the captain of the Sri Lankan team, Upul Tharanga, backed by a very talented side.
Importantly, every PM’s XI game is played for a great cause. This year, we play for two: the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation, dedicated to keeping children safe from violence, and the Lord’s Taverners ACT, which creates opportunities for young and disadvantaged sportsmen and women.
I want to thank both the charity partners. They deserve the best possible support.
Finally, I thank Cricket Australia and Cricket ACT for supporting the game again.
The curtain raiser between PNG and the ACT XI this afternoon has set the scene for an exciting night of cricket.
Thank you all for coming, here’s to a great game. Have a good evening.