Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. Man is by nature a political animal, and therefore I always acknowledge a fault, in this case an allegation of plagiarism.

As Shadow Treasurer, I also acknowledge that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In this context, I admit that fear follows crime and is its punishment. But no crime is so great as daring to excel. One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors, so my “crime” must be considered in this context.

No doubt, this will throw those in authority off their guard and may give one an opportunity to commit more. As I have said to my Liberal colleagues, always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

I have said many times that it is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs. I stand behind my staff and the original comments I have made. I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. Politics is the art of the possible, as I told the Liberal caucus only last week.

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation, as I explained to Malcolm Turnbull when he asked me if I am a serial plagiarist. My response was that politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

To my critics, let me say that it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.

The allegations in Crikey and elsewhere bring to mind what my father always said to me, “forgive your enemies, but never forget their names”.

Being accused of plagiarism has been an education to me. As Minister for Education, I recall telling a university class, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

My innovative and unique comments were met with stunned silence. Perhaps in the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.

So, I say, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.

Once this plagiarism allegation is put behind us, we set sail on this new sea because there is knowledge to be gained. As I mentioned to Peter van Onselen, the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.

And so, my fellow Australians: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what Australia will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

Peter Fray

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