Opening remarks: launch of Centenary Of Australian War Art exhibition

  • Speech, E&OE

Ambassador Beazley, Honourable Members of the Congress, Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, friends.

Over the last two days the sheer breadth and depth of the Australian and United States relationship has been brought home to me yet again. In these two days I had the opportunity to meet with the senior US officials in national security and intelligence, with senior representatives from the White House Administration, Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry, National Security Adviser Rice and with Senator Bob Corker, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, amongst others.

On each occasion, at each meeting, I gained insights and perspectives, I shared information and ideas that I would share with few, if any, others, and the relationship just seems to get stronger and better.

And if the Alliance 21 conference is any indication - so ably held by Brookings Institution and the US Studies Centre - then the relationship is in very good shape and will endure forevermore, particularly given that I have met 60 - or thereabouts - young Australians who are here in Washington, either as part of the Alliance 21 project or on fellowships with the US Studies Centre or indeed as interns on the Capitol.

Last night I was privileged to be a guest of Speaker Boehner at the State of the Union address and while I was jostling around the corridors to take my very special seat in the gallery to witness what is an extraordinary spectacle – the likes of which we don't have in Australia - I met many people who knew and had worked with Australian interns and there was nothing but praise for their energy, their exuberance and their commitment to the bilateral relationship.

We have been allies, the best of friends, partners and colleagues – Australia and the United States – for over six decades. We share common values and we are prepared to defend them and fight to the death if necessary.

And that is why it is so appropriate for us to display this extraordinary exhibition, 'Centenary of Australian War Art', here at our Embassy in Washington – for we have been there together from the beginning.

It might seem remarkable to some that a cliff-strewn coastline – 12,000 kilometres from home in Australia – should be among the most sacred pieces of land in Australian history but that is ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli.

In this centenary year we will remember the sacrifice and service of the men and women of the Australian defence forces who have fought and died to defend our country, our values and who we are. And that fight continues to this day.

Australia and the United States are working together in Iraq where we are fighting non-state actors. We are fighting a terrorist organisation that has territorial ambitions and is driven by a desire to undermine the values that we hold so dear.

So our challenges are always ahead of us but we can be confident that when the United States leads, and Australia is part of that leadership, the world will be a safer and better place.

As the fourth speaker this evening, I only have to thank Dr Brendan Nelson and the Australian War Memorial and Lockheed Martin for enabling this stunning exhibition to take place and I now declare open 'The Centenary of Australian War Art' exhibition.

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