Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (14:06): I join with the Prime Minister in congratulating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election to the highest offices in the United States of America. It is indeed an historic victory, one based upon a platform of decency, honesty and progressive leadership. It is also based upon respect: respect for science and respect for education but, above all, respect for the American people, whether they voted for Joe Biden or not.
I’m sure we all took great heart from the President-elect’s vow to be a president who seeks not to divide but to unify. We have seen this already with the hand that he has extended to the many Americans who had hoped for a different result. And we see it in Kamala Harris’s election as the United States’ next Vice President. Her ascension is truly history in the making. She will be the first woman to hold the office, the first woman of colour and the first daughter of immigrants. The power of this might not be immediately obvious to all, especially to those who have been unable to take it for granted—generation in and generation out—that the halls of power will be filled with people who look like them. This makes it a change; this is a step closer to a truly United States.
It is what all of us hope in our hearts for a nation that is a dear friend and a valued ally. Our alliance with the United States is, without doubt, our most important. It sits at the heart of Australia’s security arrangements and it is based upon our common values, at the core of which is support for democratic principles. Forged by John Curtin when our very nation was facing our darkest hour, our alliance built on those most fundamental values: the right to vote, the right to be heard and the right to be free. When the alliance began in the depths of World War II those values were under threat across the planet from totalitarian regimes. Our nations fought for those values at great human cost. Those values must be respected. The democratic process must always be allowed to run its course, no matter how bumpy it can get—and I suspect there are few people in this chamber who didn’t get much sleep, due to the time difference, watching those results roll in after last week’s election.
We are certainly not shrinking violets here in Australia, but when we look to the US and its democracy we’re sometimes struck by the scale and the energy of it. It is robust and it is fought hard, but even in its occasional untidiness we see a democracy that has survived the tough tumult of history—a democracy which has passed yet another test. We revel in it, but we do not take it for granted, which is why we must always speak up in favour of democracy, in favour of having every vote counted. One person, one vote, one value: that’s the principle that both our countries hold dear.
And while we witnessed the strength of US democracy, we also see the dangerous circus of conspiracy theories casting shadow and doubt. They should be called out for the nonsense that they are. We need to stand up for democratic values here and abroad. Indeed, this should be the first instinct of anyone who is leader of a democracy. Labor looks forward to the US reprising its leadership role in global institutions. Labor welcomes the incoming president’s commitment to engage with our region on critical issues, including climate change, by signing up to the Paris accord and by re-engaging with the World Health Organization. The US has played such a critical leadership role in the world, and we cannot afford for it to retreat from the world or, particularly, from our region.
We are pleased that our great friend and ally will be guided by a president who not only has accepted the reality of climate change but also is ready to pursue new industries and jobs of the future. Joe Biden’s victory means that big players in our region—the US, Japan and South Korea—are committed to reducing carbon emissions, supporting growth in renewables and moving towards net zero by 2050. It gives me great confidence for the future. I know Joe Biden. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him. I know firsthand that he is a great friend of Australia. I know that he will work with the government of Australia and that he will be a great partner with us—on trade, on a range of issues. Above all, he has shown a remarkable resilience. He was declared elected on the 48th anniversary of his election to the Senate—a remarkable career. He is someone who shows just how passionate and committed he is to his great country. He will bring that experience, that passion, that energy and that commitment to the presidency of the United States and to the world, and that will be a very good thing indeed.