Speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Thank you very much, Evan.
And I thank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for hosting me today.
It is a great pleasure to be speaking here.
The objective of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, since its founding donor, Andrew Carnegie, established it in 1910, has been to promote international cooperation by advancing knowledge and building relations around the world.
For more than a century, the institution has served the cause Andrew Carnegie described as ‘to hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilisation’. And no one looking at the impact of the Russian war against Ukraine can doubt the continuing suffering war inflicts.
Over its long existence, the Endowment has made vital contributions to our thinking about the world and to the institutions of global governance.
The existence of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and efforts to control the dangers of nuclear weapons and limit their proliferation, all owe a great deal to the ideas, analysis and relationship-building which the Carnegie Endowment makes possible.
And they are all objectives which the Albanese Labor government stands behind.
It is also a great pleasure to be in such eminent company. Ambassadors, distinguished guests, friends -
As I would if I were in Australia, where we begin our gatherings by drawing on the Australian Indigenous practice of acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather, I wish to acknowledge the Piscataway and the Nacotchtank, the traditional owners of the land on which I am standing in Washington DC, and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Washington many times; this of course is my first visit to Washington and my second time stateside as Australia’s Foreign Minister.
I am visiting with my friend and colleague, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and our Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, for the Australia-US Ministerial Meetings, known as AUSMIN.
AUSMIN is the annual convening of alliance partners, an opportunity to assess where we are and where we need to be.
Tonight, we travel on to Japan – another of our relationships that is closer and more important than ever.
As alliance partners of the United States, Australia and Japan recognise, as do many others, the strong and enduring contribution of the United States to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
Evan started the discussion by talking about the alliance. The alliance is a story of two nations working together to secure the peace, to foster prosperity, to enable stability.
It is more than history or tradition; it is a living expression of two countries aligned by who we are, what we stand for, and what we want.
Two of the world’s most diverse countries, both home to ancient cultures and generations of immigrants.
Two robust democracies whose people’s voices and values are heard and protected by the rule of law.
Two countries who share an interest in a world that is open, stable, prosperous – where all countries can make their own sovereign choices.
It is a sure sign of how committed Australia is to our alliance that both sides of our political aisle take credit for it.
Australian conservatives like to point to the fact that the ANZUS Treaty was signed and ratified in 1951, when they were in power.
The Australian Labor Party, on the other hand, correctly insists that it was the turn to America by Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, during our darkest hours in World War Two, and President Roosevelt answering Curtin’s call, that forged our alliance.
With everyone having a stake in the origin story of the alliance, we can see the alliance’s centrality to Australia.
We can be confident it has a durability that transcends the necessary inconstancies of our democracies.
And we can be confident our alliance has a durability that will withstand all nature of the challenges we will face.
As an American ally, Australia has been greatly encouraged by the value the Biden administration has placed on America’s network of alliances.
It is an unrivalled network, with vast reach. And each of those alliances and partnerships is a force multiplier.
The Quad, now reinvigorated and giving more choices to the region, is a force multiplier.
The Australia-US alliance is a force multiplier.
In peace, as in war, we have this alliance because we can achieve more together.
We especially can achieve more in our region, where in the post-war era, American leadership formed not just the basis of the security order - it also formed the basis of the economic order.
It helped assure the rules-based system that underpinned the region’s stability and powered decades of unprecedented growth and prosperity.
But as we all know, for some time now, there has been a reshaping of the region underway.
This changing strategic environment needs to be understood for its impacts on both the security and economic orders.
Both our countries understand that we face the most challenging strategic circumstances in the post-war period.
The region is home to the largest military build up anywhere in the world in that period, with limited transparency and reassurance.
We are seeing our region become more dangerous and volatile.
North Korea has conducted more than 60 missile launches this year.
And in August, five Chinese ballistic missiles were reported to have fallen in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Today’s circumstances have prompted various comparisons with 1914, the 1930s and 1962.
But we are not hostages to history. We decide what we do with the present.
And we decide what we do to help shape the region that we want.
We want to live in a region that is open, stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.
Where disputes are guided by international law and norms, not by power and size.
A region that is peaceful, a region that is predictable.
Where our countries and peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive.
Where our relations are based on partnership and respect.
Where we respect the agency and leadership of regional institutions, whether they be the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the Pacific Islands Forum.
It is clear to me from my travels that this is what most of the region wants, as well.
But I have also observed a region not enthusiastic about great power competition, one which doesn’t want to be forced to take sides.
Countries of the region put a premium on stability, and are wary of anything that looks like destabilisation.
And they seek partnerships that are transparent and create economic and social value.
Australia is responding to these changing circumstances and we are meeting the region where it is.
We are investing in our national power.
We are doing this by creating deterrence, with major military investments in future capability, including through the AUKUS partnership. And we continue to progress enhancement of our Alliance through force posture cooperation.
We are doing this by creating domestic economic resilience, through more robust supply chains, making more things in Australia, and skilling our people.
And we are doing this by investing in our diplomatic power, renewing Australia’s closest partnerships, and advancing our interests and values.
We are bringing more to the table.
Supporting the region’s aspirations for economic development, critical infrastructure and the clean energy transition.
Returning to a constructive role on climate change.
Supporting the Pacific’s priorities in law enforcement and security.
Making major new investments with development assistance and through loans that don’t impose unsustainable debt burdens.
Developing Australia’s economic strategy for Southeast Asia for the next two decades.
We are supporting regional partners to become more resilient, so they have less need to call on others.
In all these ways, we are making Australia stronger and more influential - working to make Australia a partner of choice for the countries of our region.
And the value of our engagement in the region is central to the value we add in our alliance with the United States.
Framing the substance of our engagement is the manner of our engagement.
There is no doubt that some of the way Australia has engaged over the past decade has weakened our credibility, just when we needed it most, in a competition for influence.
We allowed old narratives to re-emerge that positioned Australia as the other.
And the most profound concern of the Pacific family, climate change, was not taken seriously – treated as an ideological extravagance rather than the existential threat that it is.
The Albanese Government is taking a different approach.
We take an approach that puts listening above lecturing.
We take an approach that focuses on creating choices rather than demanding sides be picked.
That confounds old narratives.
That aligns Australia’s interests with those of our partners, whether on climate, infrastructure or economic opportunity.
The Biden administration and the Albanese government have been on the same page on this, as affirmed by both our AUSMIN hosts this year.
Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has declared America is “following the wise counsel from (Singaporean) Prime Minister Lee, who argues that nobody should force binary choices on the region.”
And Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has described the administration’s approach to the region as “not about forcing countries to choose. It’s about giving them a choice.”
This kind of diplomacy creates space to reshape the regional discourse; it creates space for more favourable decisions, for fostering alignment, and for delivering shared value.
Creating shared value is mission critical.
I might refer to Evan’s own comments at length here, when he told Congress earlier this year that:
“The United States was… the principal provider of both security and economic related public goods and other benefits. We kept the peace… But we also enabled prosperity – first, by being the principal source of demand for Asia’s export-led economies to power their way to prosperity, and then also because we were the region’s… standard-setter.”
So for the alliance to respond to the challenges of a changing region, we must accept that while we have done a good job on military deterrence and response capability, we have a great deal more to do to reduce the risk of conflict, and to influence the shaping of the region in our interests.
This is why we are modernising our alliance and broadening AUSMIN to integrate new areas for cooperation, speaking to the region’s priorities.
The US Indo-Pacific Strategy makes clear the US understands the strategic necessity of its consistent role in the region to be “more effective and enduring then ever.”
And the US National Security Strategy makes it clear the Biden administration also understands the imperative of adding value – the need to make serious effort toward improving the lives of people around the world.
America’s network of alliances and partnerships can expand the reach of that value.
For example, my Indian counterpart Dr Jaishankar describes the Quad as a collaborative effort that serves the international community and the global commons.
We see the Quad working alongside ASEAN and other regional architecture to advance our shared interests with the countries of Southeast Asia.
Australia, too, has a big job to do in supporting enhanced American economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. This has to be a core alliance priority.
Economic engagement matters for two reasons.
First, we need to show our partners that we want to do business and create wealth with them.
Second, we need to demonstrate that we have interests we want to nurture beyond security interests.
That their interest in stability and development is an interest we share – that we have skin in the game.
They want the assurance that comes with knowing that their success is our success.
Moreover, US policy needs to be based on a clear understanding of what the rest of the Indo-Pacific wants.
In all of my travels I discuss the future plans of our partners, and listen to their hopes and anxieties.
The region sees development, connectivity, digital trade and the energy transition as vital domains in which consistent US leadership and influence would be welcome.
America’s decision not to proceed with the CPTPP is still being felt in the region – just as the decision not to proceed with TTIP is being felt by Atlantic partners.
Plainly there is a view in Washington that US allies must work together on principles of collective security.
But we have reached a stage in the evolution of our alliances where they will increasingly require a fully developed economic dimension as well.
For Australia, our membership of CPTPP, RCEP and IPEF underlines the point that our national interest lies in being at every table where economic integration in Asia is being discussed.
The broad take up of the Indo-Pacific Engagement Framework demonstrates the appetite for American economic leadership.
Of course, climate action is among the most critical value we can offer the Indo-Pacific, so I am pleased we have now embedded it in the work of the alliance and AUSMIN.
And likewise, recognising the strategic need to get the most out of our alliance we will continue working toward better overall alignment on development finance and development assistance.
A commitment to the region requires greater economic engagement – in itself central to achieving a more favourable equilibrium.
At the same time, Australia sees enhanced defence capabilities as essential for deterring conflict in our region.
Our new capabilities will make Australia better able — in collaboration with allies and partners — to deter aggression and help ensure strategic balance is maintained in the Indo-Pacific.
This means countries of the region will continue being able to make their own choices.
This is why it’s important that we correct suggestions that such improvements in our capabilities are a source of disruption in our region.
One of the persistent claims we hear in the region is that AUKUS is driving an arms race or the militarisation of our region.
Yet as Richard Marles has said:
“Australia does not question the right of any country to modernise their military capabilities consistent with their interests and resources…China’s military buildup is now the largest and most ambitious we have seen by any country since the end of the Second World War”.
He also said, “But large-scale military buildups must be transparent”.
Australia has committed to transparency in our ambition to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
We are steadfast in our support of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime and we are working closely with the IAEA.
Indeed, the Australian Labor Party has a long and proud history of advocating for nuclear non-proliferation.
And in a time of dangerous rhetoric and destabilising behaviour from Russia, we are reinforcing even further Australia’s tradition of robust non-proliferation advocacy.
And as outlined in our AUSMIN joint statement, yesterday we discussed the need for China to take steps to promote transparency in the area of nuclear weapons.
The US 2022 Nuclear Posture Review identifies China’s increasing capability as a threat to the United States and its allies.
But it also emphasises that dialogue can manage risks. It points to the value of strategic dialogue and crisis management.
And so I welcome the powerful contribution by former Australian prime minister and renowned China scholar, Kevin Rudd.
In his recent book he makes the point that managing strategic competition requires guardrails that establish hard limits on each country’s security policies, accept that both sides will seek to maximise their position within these limits, and welcome – if not encourage – areas of collaboration that are potentially in both countries’ interests.
There is enormous wisdom on the management of strategic competition in the perspective of President Kennedy. And as an aside, I should say how honoured Australia has been this year to receive Caroline Kennedy as America’s ambassador – you could have no finer representative.
I quote President Kennedy’s 1963 commencement address at American University:
“Let us focus… on a more practical, more attainable peace - based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions - on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.”
And there is something of a guide in the diplomacy spurred by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
It drove more effective communications between the US and the Soviets, who moved towards measures like the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, increasing transparency and placing limits on weapon numbers and delivery.
The 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement instituted guidelines for the American and Soviet navies to use when operating in close proximity, providing opportunity for questions and notifications – and building confidence.
The 1975 Helsinki Accords added to the bilateral relationship’s framework, agreeing geographic frontiers, avoiding use of force, interference, and human rights dialogue.
President Biden put guardrails on the table with President Xi a year ago, and most recently we saw him use his meeting at the G20 with President Xi to underscore the need for guardrails that enable responsible management of competition.
We welcome President Biden’s leadership.
It is in all the world’s interests that his overtures are met.
We hope that, contrary to suggestions from some analysts, Beijing does see an interest in pursuing a joint strategic framework with Washington.
And we hope that what Kevin Rudd describes as “the turbocharging of Chinese nationalism” has not made international cooperation impossible.
Because the kind of international leadership we need to prevent catastrophe must be supported and encouraged across the political systems of both China and America.
Heads of government need assurance that nationalistic domestic posturing won’t sink their efforts to build safeguards.
Equally, all of us with an interest in a region that respects sovereignty, and is open, stable and prosperous should be clear in our call: that President Biden’s course confirms the US desire for stability and that we look to China to meet it.
The region would be safer if they did.
Those middle and smaller powers which comprise the Indo-Pacific - including ASEAN and its members - have an existential interest in pressing for the management of great power competition.
As I said at the General Assembly this year, each nation must exercise its own agency, we cannot be passive. It’s up to all of us to create the kind of world to which we aspire.
Kevin Rudd explains why:
“…1914 reminds us that once mobilisation starts and even a “low level” shooting match gets underway, all efforts overnight swing from diplomacy to the military and the desperate need to win. Our task is to prevent us from reaching that point. Any option that creates time and space for further political and diplomatic problem-solving is to be encouraged.”
In other words, greater military capability is a prerequisite, but not enough, to keep us safe.
We need to do more than establish military deterrents to conflict. We need to work together to create the incentive for dialogue.
And none of us - big, middle or small - should yield ourselves as hostages to history.
Building the conditions for a peaceful, open, stable and prosperous world in which sovereignty is respected must be the principal aim of Australia’s diplomacy, of America’s diplomacy, of every nation’s diplomacy.
A continuing focus on the concrete steps which can and should be taken to manage competition helps the region understand America as contributing to stability – those kinds of responsible initiatives themselves expand America’s influence.
To be effective in managing strategic competition our alliance needs to be more effective in the Indo-Pacific.
To be effective means ensuring the region has choices, which help protect countries’ sovereignty.
That means we have to compete not just in the traditional domains set out by our alliance. It means we need to offer the region sustained value.
We need to compete in all domains to assure our interests and our ongoing influence, doing more together to foster alignment, because as President Kennedy told us:
“Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation.”
We are several new generations on since then, but as the great builder of alliances and networks, American leadership remains truly indispensable.
Elevating this asset may be the most important guardrail we have.
Thank you very much.
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