Graduation address given by Professor Geoff Gallop

Professor Geoff Gallop gave the following occasional address at the Economics and Business graduation ceremony held at 11.30am on 13 October 2006. Professor Gallop is Director, Graduate School of Government, University of Sydney.

Graduation address

It is always a pleasure to participate in a graduation ceremony.

We can celebrate individual achievement and we can reflect upon the vital role played by our universities, not only culturally but also economically.

I’m particularly proud today as the first batch of students from the Graduate School of Government’s Master of Public Administration program are graduating.

At last we are seeing governments recognise the importance of public sector education in any planning for the future of our State and Nation. No society can work well without an efficient, effective and ethical public service.

That the University of Sydney has taken an initiative in this area of study with the strong support of the New South Wales Government is to be commended and I’m very pleased to now be part of that enterprise.

My special thanks to Professor David Richmond who was the inaugural Director of the School.

For too long the emphasis has been on policy and policy making. The recovery of academic and governmental interest in management and implementation augers well for the future. Policies have to be implemented and systems administered.

I trust that the capacities of those who come to the University from many parts of the public sector have been enhanced and refined by their experiences at the Graduate School of Government.

Universities are wonderful institutions. They have the potential to open students up to new horizons. They challenge, they liberate, they teach.

It is all part of what we call “the university experience”.

It involves both the formal and informal aspects of education.

Your graduation today tells us that you have succeeded in your studies. You now have important intellectual and technical capacities that you can take with you into the workplace.

However, universities are also “communities”. Learning to accept differences and to be able to work with others to achieve objectives is just as important.

I can’t stress enough the importance of learning to live with difference. Australia just doesn’t exist in a globalised world, it is a global nation. We rely on overseas trade and investment and we are a multi-faith and multi-cultural society.

This is a strength not a weakness.

Globalisation brings with it challenges but the individuals, communities and nations that best meet these challenges will be the success stories of the twenty-first century.

By all means be firm in your values but always listen and learn from others. The trust that develops from mutual respect is a powerful force for personal and collective advancement. In my twenty years in politics, both here and in Australia and overseas, I’ve seen this confirmed many times, most notably when Australia’s Northwest Shelf Venture was chosen by China to be the sole supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its first LNG project in Guangdong Province. This contract will be worth between twenty and twenty five billion dollars in export income to Australia and was only made possible by thirty years of trust building following Gough Whitlam’s recognition of China in 1972.

In talking of personal advancement I’m reminded of the story of a retiring Admiral who was asked by one of his aides the secret of his very successful career.

“Two words,” replied the Admiral. “Right decisions.”

The aide nodded, then asked, “And how do you make the right decision, sir?”

“One word,” said the Admiral. “Experience.”

“And how does one get experience, sir?” the aide asked.
The Admiral smiled. “Two words. Wrong decisions.”

The implications of this advice are very clear. When volunteers are called for, put your hand up.

When it’s a choice between inactivity and involvement, become involved.

Keep in touch with ideas and don’t be afraid to try them out.

Ask the tough questions.

Take up the challenges that seem too hard.

Explore uncharted waters.

Mistakes will be made but we do learn from experience. That’s how we progress and develop.

Remember that, despite what they say in the economics textbooks, time is the only scarce resource. Use it wisely and for the benefit of humanity.

My final advice to you, then, comes from a book of short stories compiled by Leo Tolstoy and referred to in Ajahn Brahm’s wonderful book “Opening the door of your Heart and other Buddhist tales of Happiness” (2004).

It was about an Emperor who was dissatisfied with the religions and philosophies of his time.

In his journey of intellectual and moral discovery he came up with three questions and three answers.

What is the most important time?

Answer - “Now, it is the only time we ever have”

Who is the most important person?

Answer - “The person you are with, and when you are alone that is you”

What is the most important thing to do?

Answer - “To care”

My very best wishes to you all.