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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Richard, and thanks to everyone who is here. Can I also acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, elders past and present and future and can I acknowledge any veterans who are here and any serving members of our Australian Defence Force and thank them for their service. Richard has already acknowledged, of course, the players and the captains and coaches and my colleagues, the Deputy Prime Minister who was an absolute cricket tragic, still playing and his last grand final was just this last season completed. I’m sure he’ll be backing up again. So I’m qualified to carry some drinks today, he’s actually qualified to do a bit more than that. So it’s great to have the Deputy Prime Minister here. 

It’s also great to have the Attorney-General here. Christian Porter is also another great cricket tragic in our parliamentary ranks and I know he wouldn’t miss out on this and it’s great to have you here as well, Christian. This Prime Minister’s XI match has a tremendous heritage going back to 1951 and it has always played an important role in the annual cricketing calendar. And it’s always been an opportunity for experienced players to show their leadership and to share their skills and for new and emerging players to come into the ranks and show the selectors what they’re capable of as we’re going into a new season. 

This is a very strong squad which I’m pleased to have worked with Cricket Australia, but I’ve got to say they’ve done the heavy lifting. I was very happy to approve the roster, as I’d call it in my favourite code, but it is a very strong team of youth and experience and to have Dizzy, Jason Gillespie, coaching the team for the first time this year. He needs no introduction to any cricket audiences anywhere in Australia or around the world for that matter. And Jason, it’s wonderful to have you as part of the squad this year coaching and to have co-captains for the first time also this time with Peter and Dan, it’s wonderful to be sharing this opportunity with both of you. 

But I’ve got to tell you, there’s a bit of a record to follow. George did a great job last year as our captain, ensuring it was the first time the PM’s XI had won for quite a few years when we had the game against South Africa last year. So, no pressure, but I’m sure you’ll do a fantastic job and you’re up against an incredibly strong team from Sri Lanka this year. 

It’s also great to see this year going to a T20 format. I think that’s going to be great for the cricket-watching public here in Canberra. I was talking about it on radio, local Canberra radio this morning [inaudible] and here in Canberra, it’ll be one of two fixtures that they’ll have played in this wonderful part of Australia. And so it’s a great opportunity for people after work tonight to come down to Manuka and enjoy what I think will be a tremendous match between these wonderful and highly-strength teams. We’re obviously going into a three match T20 series a with Sri Lanka, which I think is going to be tremendously exciting and I want to thank all the Sri Lankan players and the captain and everyone for being here and being part of this important match, but also what I know will be a very exciting series coming up and will lead into a great series with a matches also with the touring teams from Pakistan and New Zealand and with the Kiwis playing those big matches both on Boxing Day and the New Year’s Test up in Sydney. That’s going be a tremendous summer of cricket.

Of course, to Peter, we welcome him in his capacity as being part of the wonderful Ashes squad, which has brought home the Ashes to Australia and retain those. And we thank all of that team for the wonderful efforts they put in over there in the United Kingdom. But to all of the players who are going out there today, and I’ve got a particularly mentioned Daniel Fallins from the Sutherland Shire District Cricket Club. I’ve got to say, there is one requirement in this team, that there must be someone from Sutherland on each occasion and we’re pleased to see that. He certainly got there on merit and I’m really pleased to see, I’m sure [inaudible] will also be pretty happy to see you playing out there this evening.

It’s also great to see those who are backing up again this year. Jason, from New South Wales, Jason Sangha, and you were part of that winning team last year and we’re looking forward to seeing a great effort from you this evening. Can I also make mention of our female cricketers as well. Now, the Governor-General has a female team and that’s his province and I think that’s a fantastic part also of our cricketing calendar. But I want to acknowledge our female cricketers, the Southern Stars who recently won their three game one-day international series and a three-game T20 international series against Sri Lanka. And they have set a new world record for the most one-day international wins by a women’s team in a row, which is 18. And to see the great strength of our women’s game in cricket as we’re seeing in so many other sports codes at the moment is just wonderful to see. And it’s making these great codes, whether it’s cricket or other sporting codes, accessible to women. As Richard knows, it’s something we want to encourage right across the country. That’s why we’re putting serious investments in the changerooms at local sporting fields all around the country to make them accessible both to men and to women, to boys and to girls. And so they can look up at the players we’re seeing here today, whether it’s the Australian players or to the Sri Lankan players or in our men’s teams or our women’s teams and they can see themselves in their mind’s eye, whether it’s the baggy green or anything else, and see themselves doing that one day. And we want them to look up to that with some aspiration. 

So I want to congratulate you all for your efforts to get to where you are today, in both the Australians PM’s XI team and the Sri Lankan squad. Lasith, again, I want to thank you for bringing all of your team out and I wish you all the best for the series. I know you always enjoy your time when you’re here in Australia and the relationship that Australia has with Sri Lanka is a very important one and we are great partners in so many areas and we have a deep respect and love for the people of Sri Lanka which I know that the people of Sri Lanka understand when it goes right back to the terrible events of the tsunami many years ago you know where the Australian people were in and most recently with the terrible events that occurred during the Easter attacks you know how Australians poured out their heart to the Sri Lankan people, not only here in Australia, but right across Sri Lanka. And we know that that’s still a process and we want everyone back in Sri Lanka to know that Australians are very much with them as they continue to go through that difficult time. To the 4,000 Sri Lankans odd who lived here in the Canberra, come out tonight and support your boys and to all those Australians who can make their way out after work tonight. Maybe if you’re in the public service, the boss will give you a bit of an early leave pass so you can get to the ground early, like William.

[Laughter]

And we look forward to a wonderful night of cricket. Thank you all very much

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