Australia-US Dialogue on Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

  • Speech, check against delivery
29 January 2019

…You might think that if you've beenin the cold and shovelling snow that might be an odd thing to say, but trustme, I left a part of Australia that on Australia Day last Saturday this pastweekend it was 47 degrees Celsius where I live in Penrith, in Western Sydney – soI'm quite happy for a cool change.


There are a lot of people in this room,very many familiar faces and very many friends who are important to theUS-Australia relationship. And in addition to my friend and colleague Joe, theAmbassador, I wanted to acknowledge two other individuals.

Firstly, let me acknowledge StephenSmith, a distinguished predecessor of mine in both portfolios – that's a recordI'm sure we'll both hold proud for a long time and he's indeed a distinguishedpredecessor. It is becoming a habit–we were in New Delhi together two weeks agoand have made the transition now to Washington. Stephen thank you for the continuedwork you do in national security and international relations, and I lookforward to continuing to work with you into the future.

And secondly, a new friend ofAustralia, Arthur B. Culvahouse, here this afternoon, likewise has a long anddistinguished history of public service supporting no less than threePresidents and Presidential Nominees, and will soon add to his impressiveresume the title of US Ambassador to Australia. I very much look forward towelcoming you to our nation's capital when you arrive, I hope, in March.

There are also, as I said, very manyfriendly faces. There are particularly some faces here today with whom I'vemade friends while they were working with my good mate, Jim Mattis. And I wantto thank them for their contributions to the Australia-US relationship duringthat time. You know who you are and you know how important it was and I verymuch appreciate you being here this afternoon.

Can I also thank the Press Club forhosting me today, the United States Studies Centre and the Perth US-Asia Centrefor their work in putting together this very valuable US-Australia Dialogue onCooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

That work has been a significant newaddition to this year's G'Day USA program, which shows that this annual event isnot only highly valued, it is growing in scope and relevance.

It is as you know, our annual publicdiplomacy program in the United States, and it's in its 16th year – Ithink that's very telling. It's a really strong message about how it promotesthe best of Australia's ideas, invention, innovation, and talent to audiencesright across the United States.

I know that my good friend andcolleague the Minister for Trade and Tourism Senator Simon Birmingham has justspent a couple of days in Los Angeles promoting some of our cultural andentertainment exports – he has passed the torch to me here in Washington to shinea light on Australia's focus on ensuring a prosperous, stable and secureIndo-Pacific region.

As Joe will tell you, I always welcomeany opportunity to visit the United States. It's a special relationship, we do havea unique affinity.

First forged on the battlefields of theWestern Front in World War I, forged in mud and blood and values, whereAustralians and Americans fought side by side at the Battle of Le Hamel. Wehave fought side-by-side in every major conflict since. And I want toacknowledge those members of the ADF who are here this afternoon and anymembers of the United States military who are with us as well, for what you doin a very difficult job that we ask of you every day of your lives.

Led by Ambassador Hockey, we markedthat centenary milestone last year as "100 years of mateship". We continuedthose efforts around the world, and today in places like in Afghanistan andIraq, in work of countering ISIS on other counter-terrorism operations at themoment.

Through our strong, modern strategicalliance we continue to collaborate as closely as any two nations on the planet,including through civilian and military intelligence collection, in defencescience and technology, and the operation of classified civilian jointfacilities.

And we cooperate closely acrossgovernment and industry on trade and investment, innovation, energy,environment, science and technology, and education.

We also share a unique spacecollaboration program with NASA, which stretches back to before the Apollo 11Moon landing of 1969 – the 50th anniversary of which we willcelebrate in July this year. As a veryyoung child, an infant really, I recall those first images of Neil Armstrongsetting foot on the Moon, and I note with pride that those images beamed fromthe Moon were received first in Australia, in the town of Parkes in my homeState of NSW, before being relayed to the United States and the world.

Today, satellite ground stations inCanberra and Parkes, and AB I promise we are going to Parkes, are the only onesin the world still able to track NASA's Voyager 2, which is now more than 18billion kilometres from earth.

So the Australia-US partnerships nowextends into interstellar space.

Our two economies are the two fastestgrowing in the developed world, underpinned by pro-growth policies, includinglower taxes, freedom of choice, and trade and investment as engines of growth.

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreementis a leading example of this. Since its introduction in 2005, two wayinvestment has more than doubled to $1.6 trillion Australian dollars.

The resolve that we have to supporteach other in the toughest of times and in times of peace and prosperity, isfounded in our shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, mutualrespect and steadfast dependability.

We also know and we must regularlyremind ourselves that strong alliances need to be worked, need to be worked on.They need to be nurtured to ensure that the inevitable vicissitudes of life invibrant democracies are managed and addressed as they occur.

Each of us here today knows well thatthe alliance between Australia-United States is unique and enduring. AsMinister for Foreign Affairs, and previously as Australia's Defence Minister, Ihave been privileged to help steward that relationship for a number of yearsnow.

The nature and the fields of collaborationin the Alliance are as you would expect, constantly evolving. The challenges weface today are different to those of even a decade ago.

One of our key tasks is to ensure thatour alliance is contemporary and relevant.

At the annual Australia-United StatesMinisterial Consultations in Palo Alto last year, we made a commitment to worktogether, and with regional partners, to shape an Indo-Pacific that is open,inclusive, prosperous and rules-based.

We were in Palo Alto facing the regionto reinforce that message.

We committed to a joint work plan, withdiplomatic, security and economic dimensions, to advance our shared strategicinterests in the region.

For Australia, geography grounds ourinterests to the Indo-Pacific region – which is the most dynamic and diversepart of the world, stretching from global economic powerhouses in North Asia toliterally microstates in the South Pacific and to the disparate and fast-growingstates of the Indian Ocean.

For decades, Australian Governmentshave devoted considerable attention to shaping our region, and we have builtenduring bilateral partnerships within it.

Our approach has been consistent andclear – we want a region in which the rights of all states are respected onequal terms, and where adherence to agreed rules and norms of behaviourdelivers lasting peace and nurtures growing prosperity.

Our neighbours value this consistencyand commitment, and they recognise the value that we bring, as an independentand clear voice seeking to shape our region for the better.

Ours is a policy framework ofinterlocking approaches:

  • strong partnerships with key democracies such as Japan andIndia
  • support for ASEAN, ASEAN centrality and its institutions,particularly the East Asia Summit
  • support for an open integrated regional economy
  • a strong, productive relationship with China
  • and crucially, the Australia-US Alliance and our support forthe strongest possible engagement in the region.

We continue to build this integratedstrategy as a matter of the very highest foreign policy priority. Working withour partners, we seek to shape a balance in the region that is favourable tothose interests.

I have relatively recently visited bothChina, in November last year, and India earlier this month, two of the region'smost significant poles.

In between those two visits, I've alsoconducted talks and visits in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand andMyanmar. Next week I will be in to the Solomon Islands, in Tuvalu, and in NewZealand.

Those visits build on the strongregional engagement I chose to take as Minister for Defence.

These visits, and the importantopportunities to engage with those counterparts and leaders in the region,emphasise Australia's commitment to our bilateral relationships in theIndo-Pacific and the continued focus and commitment we have to our regionalneighbours.

We are working, as all of you know, ina region that is increasingly complex and contested.

By 2030, the Indo-Pacific is expected tobe home to the world's five largest economies: China, the United States, India,Indonesia and Japan.[1]

Economic dynamism brings newopportunities, and increased capacity to solve problems and to improve lives.

The strategic transition underway inthe Indo-Pacific is as profound as the economic transformation that drives it.

Significant shifts in relative powerare taking place that challenge the way our alliance has traditionallyapproached collective security and strategic challenges.

Increased major power competition isnow part of our Indo-Pacific landscape.

So we need to be innovative in the waywe think about and respond to the new dynamic forces at play in the region.

It is in our interests that theseshifts and the attendant challenges do not jeopardise the long period ofstability and growth that the Indo-Pacific has experienced, which has liftedhundreds of millions out of poverty to the benefit of us all.

Australia's aim in the Indo-Pacific is straightforward: to ensure that as the region evolves, it evolves peacefully, so thatcountries like Australia can prosecute their interests free from coercivepower, and so that economic momentum is sustained.

That is why we are committed to workingwith our partners across the region to strengthen political, security andeconomic architecture and to help build regional norms.

That is why we are such strongsupporters of ASEAN's leadership – as I said particularly in its role asconvenor of the region's most important forums, including the East Asia Summit.

That is why we engage with otherimportant regional institutions, including the Pacific Islands Forum and theIndian Ocean Rim Association; as well as 'mini-lateral' groupings such as theTrilateral Strategic Dialogue between Australia, the United States and Japan,and the Quadrilateral Group.

Respecting, supporting and enablingthese important institutions is the fuel that empowers the regional rules-basedorder, which in turn underpins the stability and prosperity of our region.

That support, I contend, is consistentwith US objectives.

To demonstrate that, today I want tocanvas four of the key shared initiatives we discussed during AUSMIN 2018.

Firstly, the strengthening ofinfrastructure investment in the region.

One week after AUSMIN 2018, Australia,the United States and Japan stated their intention to pursue a trilateralpartnership supporting infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific.

We were able to announce that inNovember of this year at APEC, the finalisation of the signing of the MoU andpractically as well, the three of us also announced our support for the PapuaNew Guinea electrification partnership with New Zealand – a high qualitypartnership with sustainable financing to support Papa New Guinea's goal ofdistributing electricity and power supply – reliable power supply – to 70 percentof the Papua New Guinea people by 2030.

The broader partnership itself willmobilise investment in projects that build infrastructure, address developmentchallenges, increase connectivity, and drive economic growth – complementing anumber of existing efforts in the region.

We know that the infrastructure needsin the Indo-Pacific are massive – estimated by the Asian Development Bank at$26 trillion [US dollars] over the period 2016-30.

Australia, the US and Japan arecommitted to sustainable, principles-based infrastructure investment that istransparent, promotes open competition, that upholds robust standards, avoidsunsustainable debt burdens, targets the needs of nations of the region thatneed – as identified by them – and unlocks the potential of private sectorinvestment in the region.

I addition, Australia has recentlyannounced the creation of an Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility forthe Pacific.

This is a $2 billion initiative tofurther support important infrastructure projects across the Pacific Islandsand Timor Leste – both grants and loans delivered in lock step with partnercountries, international organisations and the private sector.

And in December last year, we were alsopleased to welcome the United States to its first meeting of the PacificRegional Infrastructure Facility, which helps to coordinate the delivery ofdevelopment assistance to the region.

Together with the United States, we arealso taking forward the Australia-US Strategic Partnership on Energy in theIndo-Pacific.

Last October just after my first visithere as Foreign Minister, we marked the holding of the inaugural EnergySecurity Dialogue, and we are now coordinating support for the ASEAN Power GridInitiative, which is expected to enhance electricity trade across borders.

Ladies and gentlemen, this iscooperation based on shared objectives – promoting sustainable and secureenergy markets across the region, and cementing international norms such asmarket-based competition and transparency.

In the second of our four initiativesfrom AUSMIN, we focused on stability and prosperity in the Pacific islands.

We undertook during AUSMIN to step upour joint engagement with Pacific islands, with a view to advancing thestability, security, and prosperity of all states in the Pacific region.

A more prosperous and secure Pacificincreases mutual opportunities for trade and investment. It deters potentialrisks from challenges such as transnational crime; biosecurity problems;illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and threats to borders andmaritime exclusive zones.

All of those challenges, plus thesecurity challenge presented by climate, were considered at the Pacific IslandForum Meeting in Nauru in 2018 and consolidated in the Boe declaration of thatmeeting.

We are strongly committed tomaintaining our status as a partner of choice on regional security matters,including law enforcement and the protection of rights under international law,as well as crisis response.

In November, Papua New Guinea agreed topartner with Australia to develop the Lombrum Naval Base in Manus Province. Ithas a long history, familiar to students of World War Two in particular.

This initiative will enhance Papua NewGuinea's ability to protect its sovereign territory and manage its bordersthrough a broad program of mentoring, tailored training, infrastructuredevelopment and shared facilities. It fits well within the priorities ofAustralian Pacific and Maritime Security program. We will see Australian andPapua New Guinean defence personnel living and working side by side at theLombrum base, as they do elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, like they do in PortMoresby.

We welcomed Vice President Pence'sannouncement during APEC in Port Moresby that the United States wishes topartner with us to support this important and sustainable PNG securityinitiative.

At third, and a very important priorityat AUSMIN 2018 was health security.

We committed to advancingimplementation of the Global Health Security Agenda, as championed by theUnited States, and also Australia's Health Security Initiative for theIndo-Pacific.

We have worked together before to goodeffect, including to co-fund vital animal health programs in South East Asia, programswhich help reduce the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as avian influenza.

Now, Australia and the United Statesare working together to help build health security workforces in regionalnations that will work to prevent, detect and provide capacity, to respond toemerging infectious disease outbreaks.

In 2019, we are currently dealing withthe re-emergence of polio in Papua New Guinea, that reinforces for me theabsolute imperative of ensuring that we pursue health security as a keyinitiative in our region.

We will be well served by workingtogether to minimise those risks and be ready to respond.

And finally, in terms of thoseinitiatives, our joint military efforts to promote security across the region.

We very much welcomed the US commitmentgiven at AUSMIN 2018, to raise the number of US Marines in Marine RotationForce – Darwin to its full complement.

The Force Posture Initiatives enhancethe ability of Australia and the United States to uphold regional peace,stability and security; and position both of our nations to respond tocontingencies and natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific.

They are also a very valuable means toengage in joint exercises and expand training engagement with regional militarypartners. Last year for example, personnel from Japan, New Caledonia, and thePhilippines also trained alongside US and Australian personnel during the rotation.I well remember welcoming Lt. Gen. David Berger to Darwin for a visit to the Marinerotation last year, and both of us seeing together how effective, how well itwas working.

USMarines also embarked on HMAS Adelaide, a helicopter landing dock, andtravelled with Australian troops through the Pacific before heading to lastyear's RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii. Not just US Marines though, HMAS Adelaidetook into NukuÊ»alofa, in Tonga. Sri Lankan armed forces also embarked. Pickedup His Majesty's Armed Forces from Tonga, all embarked on HMAS Adelaide, plusone random Canadian where we were never sure where he came from – and moreconcerningly, where he went [laughter]. But to RIMPAC together in a reallypowerful display of cross-regional engagement and a powerful message to theother countries engaged in RIMPAC about the value of that exercise.

So the Force Posture Initiatives are aconcrete demonstration that Australia's alliance with the United States enablesus to work more closely with our regional partners, further deepening ournetwork of relationships across the region, building that familiarity, trust,transparency and confidence.

The initiatives that we are takingforward from AUSMIN are aimed, in different ways, to help to address thestrategic challenges we see ahead.

They are, of course, only a snapshot ofa much broader and deeper story of partnership – but these four avenues ofcooperation are crucial mechanisms to strengthen our efforts in helping toshape the character of the region during this period of rapid change.

It is only natural that we should worktogether to pursue what is clearly a shared goal – reinforcing rules and normsthat we fundamentally believe are essential to the region's future.

The US Administration's NationalSecurity Strategy of late 2017 makes clear that this is a key priority for theTrump Administration.

I want to say clearly, for the record,that the Australian Government strongly supports the sustained level of USengagement and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

And we welcome the bipartisan andbicameral support within Congress for a strong and enduring US role in theIndo-Pacific, most recently enunciated by the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act,the ARIA.

In Secretary Pompeo's words of lastyear, "open a map of the Indo-Pacific today, and it is dotted with US publicand private efforts to foster self-reliance, build institutions, and promoteprivate sector growth."

We see that the United States and theIndo-Pacific are – and will continue to be – integral to each other's fortunes:US direct investment in the Indo-Pacific is valued at US$940 billion [in 2017][2] and supports over 5 million jobs in the region; conversely, direct investmentfrom Indo-Pacific economies into the US is valued at US$640 billion [in 2017]and supports 1.4 million American jobs.[3]

That's true for Australia as well.

We've built networks of free tradethrough formal agreements with ASEAN as a whole, with Malaysia separately,Singapore, Thailand and more recently China, Japan and the Republic of Korea –promoting economic integration, open markets, prosperity and stability in theIndo-Pacific.

And just this month the Trans PacificPartnership, a moment of disagreement between the two members of the alliance, cameinto effect lowering tariffs and improving market access for 11 nations acrossthe region, including Australia.

I would note that the ARIA doesreinforce support for multilateral trade agreements, so perhaps there's hopeyet.

We'd welcome discussions with theUnited States, if there was ever to be a change in position on the agreement.It remains our strong view that the TPP offers the region long-term strategicbenefits by increasing trade and investment among member states.

Trade, of course, has been caught up inthe increased strategic competition between the US and China.

We have both publically and privately acknowledgedboth the US and the concerns of others about some trade and investment practices,including concerns about the protection of intellectual property and the rulesgoverning the involvement of government entities in markets.

These need to be resolved, but it isour view that no one wins from a trade war.

We welcome recent progress towards anegotiated solution with China, and this week's talks are an important step.

But trade cannot flourish, and wecannot ensure our economic prosperity, without stability. Business will notinvest and create jobs without it.

Prosperity and security go hand inhand.

That is why as a country we are doingmore than ever in the region – leveraging our regional connections in pursuitof a stronger, freer, more prosperous region – a region whose success andstability is unquestionably in our interests.

And aspower continues to shift in the Indo-Pacific, the United States has a vitalrole to help to sustain a lasting peace.

Whichbrings me back to the Alliance.

TheUnited States' unique strength has come about in large part because America hasbeen successful in helping its partners to be strong, whether that's measuredin economic, diplomatic or military terms. Australia and the United States haveshared the benefits of our unique partnership.

The Indo-Pacific,as I said earlier, is the most diverse and dynamic region in the world. It hasthe potential to drive global growth for decades, if we work with our partnersand allies to ensure it remains free, inclusive, and rules-based.

So nowmore than ever it is important for the United States and smaller nations, forAustralia and others to work together to ensure that we are upholding thevalues that we share, and that the norms that have helped secure peace and stabilityin the region for so long, are sustained by those relationships.

Thankyou very much for the opportunity to say a few words this afternoon and I lookforward, Simon, to the panel.

[1] Source:PWC report "The World in 2050"

[2] Source:US Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Source:US Bureau of Economic Analysis

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555