The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
RICHARD CASEY'S ENDURING LEGACY
Address by The Hon Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at
the Opening of the R G Casey Building, Canberra, 29 November, 1996.
Today's opening of the R G Casey building is an occasion to reflect on the
rich history of Australia's endeavours in foreign policy, and to look ahead
to the future.
I am particularly pleased to be part of this historic occasion. Twenty years
ago, when I joined the then Department of Foreign Affairs, I learnt first
hand not only how professional Australia's Diplomatic Service is but that
Australia's national interests relied upon an activist approach to foreign
Australia, by its isolation, has to build alliances, work to develop relationships
and seize every opportunity to promote a more humane international order
conducive to the advancement of its national interests.
Now, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the opening of the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade's impressive new headquarters, I have ensured
this building not only represents the future but also captures Australia's
rich diplomatic history. Australians must understand and celebrate their
history: pride in our past helps us face the future with confidence.
Australia's diplomatic history has not been long but it can boast many successes.
Without Australia's contribution the world would be a less secure and less
Naming of the Building
Inside this building are many historic photographs which commemorate significant
events such as the signing of treaties by Australia. I have also ensured
the names of Australians who have made a special contribution to our diplomatic
history are honoured.
The road in front of the building is called Sir John McEwen Crescent after
Australia's longest serving Trade Minister (1956 to 1971). As many of you
know, Sir John McEwen made a major contribution to the development of Australia's
trade ties with Asia and elsewhere, particularly the negotiation of Australia's
important 1957 trade treaty with Japan and the historic 1958 trade agreement
The main conference room is named after Doug Anthony - the Minister for
Overseas Trade and for Trade and Resources from 1975 to 1983 - who, among
his many accomplishments, improved Australia's trade links with the European
Community, the United States and Japan. The library is named after Dr H.V.
Evatt who, as Minister for External Affairs from 1941 to 1949, played a
vital part in the early years of the United Nations. The lecture theatre
is named after Gareth Evans who, among other things, made a crucial contribution
to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Cambodian peace process.
Past Departmental Secretaries to have conference rooms in the building named
after them are Sir John Crawford, W.R. Hodgson, Atlee Hunt, Sir James Plimsoll,
W.J. Scully, Sir Arthur Tange and Dr Peter Wilenski. In doing this, the
building thus pays elegant tribute to the history of Australia's endeavours
in foreign policy and the consistent pursuit of an activist foreign policy.
The Casey Legacy
But the most outstanding aspect of this building is that it is named after
Richard Casey. Richard Casey still remains Australia's longest serving Foreign
Minister, and a seminal influence in many of the great advances in Australian
It was Richard Casey who, perhaps more than anyone, pioneered Australia's
modern relationship with our Asian neighbours. His observation in 1954 that
Australia's interests lay primarily but not exclusively with South East
Asia set the pattern for successive Australian governments. He established
an influential tradition of Australian engagement with our region.
It was Richard Casey who opened and expanded new Australian posts in Asia
in the 1950s. He gave particular attention to normalising Australia's relations
with Japan. He placed a high priority on Australia's ties with Indonesia,
commenting again in 1954 that "We have every reason to want to live
in harmony with our largest and closest neighbour ". It was Richard
Casey who ensured that Colombo Plan initiatives and United Nations programs
brought real economic benefits to countries throughout the region.
Richard Casey was a strong supporter of the United Nations. He played a
pivotal role in the complex international negotiations leading to the conclusion
of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, thereby helping to ensure that the Antarctic
would be kept free from environmental degradation.
Richard Casey understood the breadth of Australia's national interests.
He recognised instinctively that Australia's future prosperity and security
depended on the pursuit of an active foreign policy on many different fronts.
He worked hard to improve security ties with key partners. As Foreign Minister,
Richard Casey's tireless efforts ensured that the security ties established
under the ANZUS treaty in 1951 by his predecessor, Percy Spender, were able
to take root and grow.
Looking to the Future
The R G Casey building therefore is both a fitting tribute to Richard Casey
and to a tradition and pattern of engagement with the region that he set
Richard Casey's prescience on Australia's place in Asia has its modern manifestation
in this Government's commitment to Asia as its highest foreign policy priority.
While Foreign Minister, Casey wrote a book on Asia, which significantly
was called Friends and Neighbours. It is a studied reflection on
Australia's place in the region which drew upon his extensive experience
in diplomacy and foreign policy. It is a book that captures the spirit of
closer engagement with the region and genuine progress in regional cooperation.
In this spirit, the Prime Minister, Mr Fischer and I have just returned
from the successful APEC meetings in Manila where we have once again made
clear Australia's enduring commitment to the region, and this Government's
determination to advance Australia's national interests in practical and
Australia owes much to Richard Casey and his legacy. The naming of this
building after him is one small way of acknowledging his contribution and
of recommitting ourselves to the Casey tradition. In that context, I now
have great pleasure in inviting the Prime Minister, whom we are honoured
to have with us today, to open the building.