US – Australia Dialogue on Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

  • Speech, check against delivery
26 January 2017

Thank you Joe.

I join with Ambassador Hockey inwelcoming the lobby of Ambassadors here this evening: John Berry, Jeff Bleich,Tom Schieffer, Kim Beazley, Michael Thawley and also my predecessor StephenSmith who was not only foreign minister of Australia but also a defenceminister. There are so many distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Happy Australia Day.

How fitting it is, if you have tobe outside the country, to celebrate our national day here in Los Angeles, forthere are few nations that enjoy a closer relationship than that betweenAustralia and the United States.

We are allies, partners,collaborators and most importantly friends - we like each other - a lot.

We share fundamental values thatunderpin a corresponding world view and a similar brand of pragmatic optimism. There's a naturalaffinity.

We benefit from a high level ofmutual trust, built up over decades of close cooperation.

Ours is a formal alliance, and theANZUS Treaty of 1951 is the cornerstone of our longstanding relationship.

Following the inauguration ofPresident Trump, Australia commits anew to our essential and enduringpartnership.

The reference in his inaugurationaddress to reinforcing "old alliances" is a sentiment we embrace andtake seriously.

I am looking forward to meetingwith and working with my counterparts in the new Trump Administration.

While there are so many issues forus to discuss, allow me to share with you what I see as some of the mattersthat Australia regards as critical and that we believe the new Administrationshould consider.

I will frame these issues aroundsix themes:

First, Australia can be relied uponas a committed, long-term partner of the United States.

Like the United States, we are afree, open, liberal democracy.

Our courts are independent, ourspeech is free, our institutions are robust.

Our people are free to make theirown decisions - about their faith, their politics - they are free to make theirown way in the world.

We encourage enterprise,entrepreneurialism and innovation.

Our way of life and our freedomshave attracted immigrants from across the globe.

One in four Australians was bornoverseas. One in two has a parent born overseas.

In short, we're much like theUnited States - open and free societies in a world where such values are inshort supply.

Secondly, Australia is economicallystrong and we are well positioned to capitalise on the future economic growthof the Asian region.

We are located at the southern arcof Asian economic dynamism. While growth elsewhere in the world slows,Asia's economy is growing at more than five per cent.

The Asian middle class is expectedto increase fivefold, from 600 million to 3 billion, by 2035.

We are as much a contributor toAsia's rise as we are a beneficiary of it.

Our minerals and resources fuelledand strengthened Japan's post-war economic ascent, building good governance andlong-term, reliable business partnerships.

We have been a major contributor toChina's more recent economic rise.

This economic strength allowed Australiato weather the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s.

We were able to assist ourneighbours to regroup.

Almost uniquely among developednations, we avoided recession in 2008.

In fact, we are now in our 26thyear of uninterrupted annual economic growth - a feat unsurpassed by othercomparable economies.

Open trade and investmentdisciplines us to seize opportunities allowing our national economy to evolveas the world economy evolves. Our recent trade agreements with Japan, Korea andChina give us an access into these major markets unmatched by any majoradvanced economy.

This has made Australia anexcellent platform for United States investors interested in the potential thatAsia offers.

We strive to facilitate and free upthe settings for international trade in our region.

Australia entered into free tradenegotiations with the United States and ten other partners because we believedthe Trans Pacific Partnership had the potential to deliver mutual benefits toevery nation involved.

Australia remains supportive of theprinciples that underpinned the TPP and we are working with the other nations,to realise these benefits by ratifying the agreement.

While the Trump Administration haswithdrawn its support for the TPP I note President Trump's commitment toensuring the United States continues to be a great trading nation of the world.

Australia would welcome USleadership in continuing to support the open global trading framework that hasenabled so much development around the world.

Thirdly, Australia can be reliedupon to play its part in the defence of our region.

It is a fact that Australia hasfought beside the United States in every major war or conflict since the FirstWorld War.

Indeed, next year, on the 4thof July we'll mark the centenary of the Battle of Hamel, when for the firsttime US forces were placed under the command of another nation. Australia's General Sir John Monash led theUS 33rd Division in its first action in that war.

Today, an Australian Air Task Groupis striking Daesh targets in Iraq and eastern Syria, as part of our majorcontribution to the US-led coalition against the terrorist group.

Our Special Forces personnel areadvising and assisting Iraqi services alongside US forces.

We have missions training the IraqiArmy and the Afghanistan security forces.

Australian and US defence forcesare deeply integrated.

Australian personnel are in lineand command positions inside the US military.

Australia has also hosted theannual six-month rotations of US Marines in Darwin.

In the future we will hostshort-term rotations of US aircraft on our soil.

We also work closely with theUnited States on counter terrorism in South East Asia, where we are buildingthe capacity of local authorities to counter violent extremism and address theproblem of returning terrorist fighters.

Our intelligence agencies work atthe highest level of cooperation and collaboration.

Now of course we work closely toowith militaries in our region.

The practical engagement betweendefence forces of the United States, Japan and Australia is a first-orderstrategic fact.

Australia has recently concluded anagreement with Singapore to treble the number of Singaporean military officerstraining in Australia.

We take particular responsibilityfor our neighbourhood, and Australia has acted to prevent state collapse andrestore peace in the South Pacific, when requested by these governments forsupport.

Over and above our militaryalliance, we see the United States as the most important power to ensure peace,stability and prosperity in our region.

The rise of China and other Asiannations, and their success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out ofpoverty, has been underpinned by the rules-based order, instigated and implementedby the United States, and supported by its allies and other likeminded nations.

The key ingredient is the beliefthat one nation's prosperity and security need not come at any other nation'scost.

Australia and the United Statesshare the conviction that human ingenuity holds out the promise of ongoinggrowth and prosperity, as we learn to better manage finite resources.

Again, Australia is a like-mindedpartner for the United States, engaging in our region and beyond, prepared todefend, and when necessary, fight for the values we share.

My fourth theme relates toAustralia's role in Asian diplomacy.

It is a fact that Australia'slargest overseas embassy is in Jakarta, capital of our near neighbour,Indonesia – the world's third largest democracy, home to the world's largestMuslim population.

Indonesia, a nation of 250 million,has demography on its side, and in the next decade or two will almost certainlybe a top ten economy, and possibly top five.

Australia is preparing for a time,quickly approaching, when Indonesia's economy grows larger than ours –potentially many times larger.

We have a fundamental andpersistent interest in getting our Asian diplomacy right.

Australia borders the Pacific Oceanand the Indian Ocean - our region is increasingly described as theIndo-Pacific.

We are actively pursuing apeaceful, stable, prosperous, open, and rules-based order across theIndo-Pacific and beyond.

Australia and the United Statesshare an interest in this succeeding, as does China, Japan, India, Indonesiaand many others.

We are making a strong long-termcontribution to peace and prosperity as the first-choice provider of qualityeducation to future leaders of the region, notably educating students fromIndia and China but in fact most other Indo-Pacificnations.

We also contribute, through ourstrong diplomatic presence, in South-East Asia in particular, to sharedobjectives across the full range of domains, from maritime to cyber.

The geographic centre of theIndo-Pacific is also its diplomatic centre: the countries of south-east Asia,and their Association of South-East Asian Nations known as ASEAN.

This brings me to my fifth point ofdiscussion with the new administration.

This is an organisation of whichneither Australia nor the United States is a member, yet we believe it isessential for the United States to give it serious consideration and at thehighest levels.

There is already a strongfoundation for in 2008 President Bush appointed the first third-countryAmbassador to ASEAN.

This was a smart decision andshowed commendable foresight.

Since 1967 the countries ofsouth-east Asia have been quietly going about the business of building peaceand understanding in their Association of South East Asian Nations, withimpressive and consequential success.

For half a century, Australia hassupported this regional diplomatic framework, as it turned a collection offractious and sometimes warring states, into a cohesive economic communityworth around 2.5 trillion US dollars, and growing at 4.5per cent a year.

ASEAN was founded by Indonesia,Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand with the core purpose ofpromoting peace, the rule of law and mutual respect.

They also sought to strengthen one another'sindependence with respect to the great powers in their sphere.

While every internationalorganisation has limits and shortcomings, the ten ASEAN nations, now includingBrunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, have achieved their core purpose. Australia benefitsfrom this achievement, which, in making our neighbourhood more secure andprosperous, has supported our own peace and prosperity.

Today, the ASEAN member countries –like many others – are wrestling with the implications of China's rise.

Their responses, as individualcountries and collectively, have the potential to shape China's decisions aboutits strategic goals and how to pursue them.

Australia welcomes China's rise andconsistently urges it to assume a leadership role that supports the rules-basedorder and international laws that have well served us all.

Australia is concerned aboutcontinued construction and militarisation of disputed features in the SouthChina Sea, in particular the pace and scale of China's activities.

We don't take sides on theterritorial disputes and will continue to exercise our rights underinternational law to freedom of navigation and over flight. We encourage countriesto resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including theUN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

We welcome ASEAN and China'scommitment to fast track negotiations towards a binding and substantive Code ofConduct in the South China Sea.

ASEAN has an influence throughoutAsia that is not always well understood.

Today ASEAN is the foundation forthe Indo-Pacific's premier forum for diplomacy, the East Asia Summit.

The 18 East Asia Summit membercountries speak for more than half of the world's population and purchasingpower.

Crucially the East Asia Summit is aforum where the US President and 17 other world leaders, including those ofJapan, Russia, India and China, get together to do business.

In the East Asia Summit, leadershave a mandate to tackle economic and strategic issues, such as the South ChinaSea and the Korean Peninsula.

When the twelfth East Asia Summitis held in the Philippines in 2017 later this year, it will be critical thatPresident Trump attend as the leader of the pre-eminent strategic power in theregion.

In giving our full support toASEAN, Australia recognises that there is an ASEAN way of doing things, whichcan appear formal and can at times require patience and understanding, whilerecognising that it has been very effective.

If we seek an Asia in which mutualrespect and the rule of law prevail, as we do, then we should work in thefields that ASEAN and its partners have cultivated for sixty years.

With our diplomatic effortconcentrated in Asia, Australia is heavily involved in maximising opportunityand minimising risk there.

That is why in 2018 Prime MinisterTurnbull will welcome all 10 ASEAN leaders to Australia for the first time foran ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

My sixth point is that we see theUnited States as the indispensable power throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The US presence and its allianceshave provided the stability that has underwritten the region's growth for manydecades.

In Australia's experience and inour observation, Asian countries appreciate this point, and remain deeplyreceptive to an ongoing US presence – indeed the appetite for working with theUnited States is strengthening in many countries.

Most nations wish to see moreUnited States leadership, not less, and have no desire to see powers other thanthe US, calling the shots.

Australia believes that now is thetime for the United States to go beyond its current engagement in Asia, tosupport Asia's own peace, and to capitalise on the era of opportunity thatlong-term United States investment has alreadycreated.

Australia will remain thestaunchest of ally and friend, working closely with the United States to buildon the peace and prosperity that many nations in our region have worked hard toachieve.

Continued US leadership will helpguarantee that it will endure.

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