Speech to the Lowy Institute introducing UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss: Strong allies and steadfast friends

  • Speech
21 January 2022

Thank you very much, Michael. And it is indeed a great pleasure to be back here at Lowy. Thank you so much for the opportunity and the invitation and let me also begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which the Lowy Institute stands, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. Welcome to our small contingent in the room here today, including DFAT and British officials who have done such a great job of bringing together the visit and this AUKMIN. Thank you very much for what you have done.

It is my pleasure to introduce today's address by the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Minister for Women and Equalities and my good friend, the Right Honourable Liz Truss. I've come to know Liz over the past few years as Trade Secretary, as Foreign Secretary now, and as a counterpart in the women's portfolio. We both share a great passion for gender equality, so I was delighted when Liz became Foreign Secretary in September. We met in New York then, then again in Liverpool at the G7+ at the end of 2021 and I'm very pleased that she and Secretary Wallace have been able to join me for the first 2+2 Ministerial in Australia since the COVID pandemic began.

Our interactions yesterday and today, during our AUKMIN consultations have been very productive and very cooperative alongside the Minister Dutton and Secretary for Defence Ben Wallace. In defining the relationship between our two nations, it is tempting to reach for stories from our history – stories of mateship, stories of sacrifice together. And that's fair enough. Our history is a crucial foundation. It gives us confidence in our partnership, it tells us something about ourselves and it brings our people together. But it would be a mistake to think that what binds us primarily today is a misty-eyed view of our past. Yes, our history has contributed to our shared values – those such as democracy, freedom, openness, respect for human dignity and to the rule of law.

But as distinct sovereign nations, we each cherish these principles in our own way, in our own modern contexts. The ways in which our people instinctively embrace these principles today means they are as relevant to contemporary challenges posed by circumstances, like critical technologies like cyberspace and like coercion, as they were during the Cold War or the ongoing threat of terrorism, or indeed the World Wars of the 20th century.

A close UK Australia relationship is vital in today's complex and fractious strategic environment in which authoritarian regimes are behaving as though now is their time to increase oppression internally and coerce others internationally. We are faced with coercion, with disinformation, cyberattacks, with a disregard for the rules and norms that have given us decades of peace and stability regularly.

The Australian-UK relationship is primed for our present reality and focused on being in control of our respective futures, not dominated by the will of authoritarian powers. And that's why the strategic context is so important. As liberal democracies, it is only natural that we stand in solidarity with each other in this contested global period. That means standing up for each other and for likeminded partners; defending our values and our principles; respect for sovereignty; open markets and adherence to international law. That applies whether it is China's actions against Lithuania or in the South China Sea, Russia's aggression on the Ukraine border or the DPRK's testing of missiles in breach of UN conventions and sanctions.

That's also why it is important that these AUKMIN consultations have taken place in person this week. Our two great nations are able to address multiple simultaneous challenges throughout the globe. It's why we are working ever more closely together and with all our partners including across ASEAN, the Pacific, the Commonwealth, the European Union to shape the kind of Indo-Pacific and world we want. That's why our discussions are focused on practical cooperation through measures that include a new Australia-UK Cyber and critical technology partnership, a new Infrastructure Investment Partnership in the Indo-Pacific. We'll also build resilience to disinformation that is designed to undermine liberal values and erode social cohesion. And we will work together to support the Indo-Pacific's health and economic recovery including ensuring more secure, reliable and sustainable supply chains.

The UK Australia FTA signed last month is an historic moment in our relationship. It is a gold-standard trade agreement. Our enhanced trilateral security partnership with the United Kingdom and the United States, AUKUS, will enable us to significantly deeper cooperation on a range of emerging security and defence capabilities including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber. These new areas of cooperation go to the heart of challenges affecting the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo Pacific.

Before I finish, I'd like to remind everyone that in 2017 another UK foreign secretary spoke here, at Lowy, Boris Johnson. And during that, I'd describe it colourful speech, then Secretary Johnson said:

“After we leave the EU, I'm confident that Australia will be at, or near, the front of the queue for a new free trade agreement with Britain. An agreement that could boost even further what we do together.”

Such remarkable prescience! Liz, as former Trade Secretary deserves great credit for delivering that agreement which came to fruition just last month. So Liz, as that Trade Secretary and now Foreign Secretary, perhaps I can challenge you today to predict the trajectory of our nation's relationship over the next five years. Thankfully, a large part of our future is indeed a safe bet. We will be strong allies. We will be steadfast friends. We will be working together to shape the kind of world that we want. And we will remain deeply competitive and parochial of the Ashes and the netball.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

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