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Wednesday, 1st September 2021

70th Anniversary of ANZUS

My speech in parliament on the 70th Anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty

Check against delivery:

Mr Speaker,

The 70th Anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty is a significant opportunity to not just commemorate our shared history, but look forward to how our relationship will impact our respective futures.

It comes at a time when attention is focused on what conclusions are to be drawn from the 20 year war in Afghanistan, which came to an end this week. 

What is certain is we know the steadfastness of America’s values, as we know the steadfastness of our own.

And there can be no overstatement when it comes to the bond between the United States and Australia.

We joined the UN-sanctioned mission that was largely led by the United States, and through to the end, the Americans were our brothers and sisters in arms.

Unified in the purpose of preventing terrorism, and improving the lives of burdened people; particularly the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Through to the very end, in fact.

If it weren’t for our American allies, efforts to evacuate thousands of Australians and visa holders in the past weeks would have been no more than wishful thinking.

The US presence made the crucial difference to ensuring we were able to take on this difficult task.

And their presence came at great cost, losing 13 of their own as they sought to help others.

Their ultimate sacrifice reflects the heavy duty of leadership.

And it is a weight that America has carried since World War Two, where the origins of ANZUS are to be found – in the war in the Pacific and Curtin’s turn to America.

ANZUS began as quite a specific response to the emergence of the Cold War. It began with a clear focus on the geo-politics of the time – the Korean War was raging.

Of course, geo-political imperatives have not gone away, but the forms of cooperation that underpins our response to them has clearly changed.

The previous Labor Government of which I was a member undertook some of the most significant reforms to strengthen the Australia-US Alliance in decades. 

We reaffirmed the ‘full knowledge and concurrence principle’ for our partnership with the United States. This was first entrenched with Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s Statement to the Australian Parliament in 1984 and it has been reaffirmed by successive governments of both political persuasions since. 

The principle set the foundation for a program of reform directly aimed at new and emerging 21st Century security challenges from space, satellite, and defence communications infrastructure to cyber. 

This included Joint statements on Cyberspace and on Space Security and the establishment on Space Situational Awareness, Defence Satellite Communications and a Combined Communications Gateway.

We upgraded and modernised existing facilities, including the deployment of a new jointly operated US C-Band Radar at the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station, and the relocation of an advanced US Space Surveillance Telescope to Australia. 

The Obama Administration’s Global Force Posture Review was paralleled by the Labor Government initiating its own Force Posture Review; Australia’s first since the 1980’s Beazley/Dibb review. 

This led to President Obama’s 2011 announcement of the rotation of U.S. Marines through Darwin, greater utilisation of Australian airfields in our north and west, and the promise of increased US Navy use of Australia’s Indian Ocean naval base at HMAS Stirling.

Looking forward, Australia’s Alliance with the United States sits at the centre of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

With the US again engaged in a Global Force Posture Review, it is time for Australia too to have a closer look at our own posture to ensure that it fully meets the times. I therefore announce today that a Federal Labor Government will initiate a new Force Posture Review upon coming to office.

The Indo-Pacific would remain a key focus and the Review would ensure the Government is considering both long-term strategic posture, and given fast moving events in the region, short-term needs. 

The review would also respond to the continued emergence of cyber security as a central challenge to Australia’s strategic positioning in the coming decade.

Mr Speaker,

The relationship with the United States is far deeper than a security Alliance alone. The United States has been a core economic partner of Australia and its importance only continues to grow.

The US remains our key capital investor – underpinning Australian innovation and driving both of our countries to take advantage of emerging technologies. 

At the foundation of our shared economic prosperity is the global rules-based order. 

The systems, norms and institutions that guide the world’s interactions and govern disputes. 

The rules of the road – which are being tested in ways that weren’t conceivable in their post-war conception. 

A global pandemic that continues to wreak havoc. 

Terrorism and extremism that continue to find safe haven.

The return of great-power competition.

The undermining of rules-based trade and the use of economic coercion for strategic ends. 

The US and Australia have been close allies in building and strengthening these rules of the road – including in our region. 

But we need to do more, and we can only do more with friends and partners. 

We welcome the return of American leadership in the rules-based order under President Biden, and his dedicated effort in repairing alliances.

But even when the United States stepped back from its long-standing leadership on trade and other forms of multilateralism during the Trump Administration, Australia held the line and, importantly, held the door open for the United States. 

Nowhere has this been clearer than Australia's efforts, together with Japan, to resurrect the TPP in the form of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Indeed, Australia’s partnerships and leadership in the Indo-Pacific is our principal value-add to the alliance. 

And we have an opportunity and responsibility to work closely with the Administration as it develops its Indo-Pacific strategy, including building its economic footprint, particularly in Southeast Asia. 

We must work with key partners such as India, Japan, Indonesia and ASEAN, Korea, the EU and others to strengthen both economic engagement and uphold the rules of the road. 

Many of our neighbours want the balance that will come from greater US engagement, and they are clear that must be economic engagement as well as security partnerships.

Australia should be doing all it can to encourage the US to support Indo-Pacific regional pandemic recovery, reinforce ASEAN centrality and strengthen regional architecture.

As I've said previously, this includes rejuvenating the WTO and its appellate body. 

It includes boosting US economic integration in the region, strengthening regional architecture

We welcome the recent visits by Vice-President Harris and Defence Secretary Austin to Southeast Asia and see these as important first steps in a US step up in the region. We hope to see this grow rapidly in recognition of the vital strategic importance of this region and Australia must be prepared to step up its own engagement to support it. 

At a time when regional uncertainty is high, a deeper US commitment to ensuring all states have the capacity to protect their sovereignty is vitally important.

President Biden’s early embrace of the Quad was a welcome development and there will be much opportunity for further US-Australia cooperation in that context as well. 

Labor remains strongly committed to this.

 Mr Speaker

One final manifestation of how our alliance relationship needs to continue to evolve is climate change; one of the most significant security challenges of the 21st Century. 

Climate change remains beyond this Government’s grasp. 

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update only manages to acknowledge climate change once, stating that it “plays a part” in “greater political instability and friction” which will “reshape our security environment”.

Former Chief of the Defence Force Admiral Chris Barrie and other former senior Australian security and military leaders, such as Air Vice-Marshal Blackburn, have been calling for the Government to fully assess the security risks from climate change. 

This must happen.

Indeed, it is our Pacific partners who face current and existential threats of rising sea levels – and who are urging Australia to step up in word and in deed. 

We know the risk climate bears on our security and we have already vividly seen some of the impact it has had on the operations of the ADF. 

This has included responding to the bushfire crisis over the summer of 2019/2020 and the rising demands on our nation for the ADF to assist in climate driven natural disasters and humanitarian assistance missions such as Operation Fiji Assist.

In the U.S., senior leaders have been talking for years about the security implications of climate change. We know it is having geo-strategic and regional impacts, as well as direct impacts on defence systems, infrastructure and operations. 

Despite this Government’s abstinence, the importance of climate change and the impact it will have on defence and security has been embraced by our Alliance partner, the United States. 

Secretary of Defense Austin has already identified climate change as a top priority for the US military. At his Fullerton address in Singapore in July this year, he described climate change as an ‘existential threat’ and a challenge that we must meet together. 

The US military has acknowledged that climate change is not a future defence problem, but an immediate challenge. It is time that the Australia-US Alliance reflected this reality. 

We should immediately deepen US Australian cooperation on climate change security issues. 

We must develop operational plans to address the natural disasters and humanitarian outcomes. 

We must study and plan for how other states may seek to exploit its impacts on regional security. 

We must develop capabilities and shared responsibilities to mitigate its worst impacts. 

We should cooperate on technological development to take advantage of the economic opportunity that comes from the shift to clean energy to deliver cheaper energy prices and facilitate an expansion of high value manufacturing capacity.

This will assist to build economic resilience in the event of future shocks from pandemics, cyber security, or regional instability.

A cooperative approach on climate change would allow us to work together, to strengthen our engagement with all countries of the Indo-Pacific who equally share this challenge.  

On coming to office, I will make comprehensive co-operation on climate change a hallmark of Alliance co-operation.

Mr Speaker

Let me sum up here, the Alliance will continue to be one of the three central components of Labor foreign policy, along with regional cooperation and multilateralism well into the future.

The Biden Administration’s strategic engagement in our neighbourhood and leadership on climate is critical to realising a region that is prosperous and peaceful, and where sovereignty is respected. 

While so much of the region’s immediate focus is the response to COVID, it’s more profound concern is climate change. 

Australia’s own action on climate change will therefore shape our capacity to live in a region where our interests prosper in partnership with our neighbours and our American ally. 

Our alliance with the US has served us well for 70 years. I look forward to it developing with even greater dynamism for many more.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Rd
Marrickville NSW 2204

Phone: 02 9564 3588

Parliament House Office

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 7700

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734

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