An alliance for the future

US State Department Washington DC
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

Madam Vice President

Secretary of State Blinken

Distinguished guests

We meet today at a time when our world faces a set of profound challenges.

Far and wide, we are confronted by threats to peace and tests of the international rules-based order.

And here in United States we can see the weight of global leadership that your nation carries.

I came to Washington this week to continue the work of facing our alliance to the future.

Strengthening our economic partnerships in cloud computing, innovation and through a new Technology Safeguards Agreement.

Working with President Biden to turn the Climate and Clean Energy compact we signed together in May into a commercial reality, with new progress on critical minerals and supply chains.

But – above all – in these challenging times, I stand here in Washington as the leader of America’s steadfast ally.

That’s what the friendship between our nations means.

We stand together, in the cause of peace. 

We work together to build a more free, stable and prosperous world.

Eight decades ago, Australia looked to America when our own need was most dire.

We recognise the world is looking to you now.

And we know it does not look in vain.

American leadership will meet this moment.

And as allies we will face the future together.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It remains a remarkable tribute to your nation – including many people who worked from this very building that in the aftermath of the Second World War, America did not seek to rebuild a world governed by strength of arms, fear of force or the will of one great power.

Instead – as President Truman said – you sought a ‘just and lasting peace’.

Understanding that peace would only last, so long as it was just.

That is why your forebears worked with ours – to give life and shape to the United Nations.

To help build a post-war world of rules and rights, of essential freedoms and basic fairness.

Where every country – big and small – could shape its own destiny and secure its own future.

Where the sovereignty of every nation is respected – and the dignity and liberty of every individual is recognised.

Where peace is secured not solely by the presence of the great powers but by the sovereign acts of middle powers and small nations and the collective responsibility of the international community.

Of course, that vision and those values have not gone unchallenged.

We see this now in Ukraine, where Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion seeks to subjugate an independent nation and oppress a free people.

Australia may be half a world away from Ukraine, but we are proud to be one of the largest contributors to its military and humanitarian needs.

We stand with Ukraine to support its courageous people – and to defend a fundamental principle.

The right of every sovereign nation to peace and security.

And the responsibility of every sovereign nation to respect the rules that hold the world together.

Be it in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific – or indeed the Middle East.

Australia unequivocally condemns the atrocities committed by Hamas and the destruction their acts of terror have inflicted on innocent lives in Israel and Gaza.

And we stand with our international partners in calling for access to life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

In my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to personally thank the President for the courage and leadership he has shown.  

As a true friend of Israel, not only did he stand by them in this terrible time.

He offered wisdom as well as solace.

Calling for all parties to allow safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians.

And the President used the power of his office to assert an undeniable principle: every innocent life must be protected.  

Israeli and Palestinian.

That is American leadership in action.

Generations of this leadership have been instrumental in shaping a world which is more prosperous, more open, more free and more inter-connected than our forebears could have imagined.

Australia has benefited from this – and Australia has helped build it.

From my first day in office, when I flew to Japan to take part in the Quad, the Government I lead has made it a priority to reinforce the architecture of our region - investing in our capabilities and investing in our relationships.

Strengthening our vital links with Japan and Korea, as a proven economic, security and energy partner.

Deepening our engagement with Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and across South-East Asia.

Taking our strategic partnership with India to a new level, both bilaterally and through the Quad.

Strengthening the bond we share with our Pacific Islands family, where for more than half a century, Australia has been the region’s single largest economic and development partner.

Investing in our multilateral engagement: the Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, and as founding members of APEC, the G20 and the United Nations.

Because, as a constructive middle power with global interests we understand the value and importance of dialogue.

Which is why Australia strongly supports the Biden Administration’s efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

As a great American President and the father of the current US Ambassador to Australia, proved 60 years ago, during the Cuban Crisis, the true measure of a superpower’s strength is the ability to pull the world back from the brink of conflict.

Once again, that has become the test of our time.

China has been explicit: it does not see itself as a status-quo power.

It seeks a region and a world that is much more accommodating of its values and interests.

This is where it is the responsibility of every nation that has benefited from the stability and prosperity of the international rules-based order through the last three-quarters of a century, to work together and protect it.

Securing the sovereignty that confers every nation’s right to determine its own destiny.

Protecting the freedom of navigation which is central to our shared prosperity.

Upholding the human rights which are central to every individual’s life and liberty.

And working together to maintain peace – not just in the Taiwan Strait but wherever it is at risk.

This means investing in our capabilities to prevent competition escalating into conflict.

And investing in our relationships to maintain the dialogue that safeguards stability.

This is where Australia, like the United States, has been working to stabilise our relationship with China.

We are clear-eyed about this.

We are two nations with very different histories, values and political systems.

Australia will always look to co-operate with China where we can, disagree where we must and engage, in our national interest.

Our approach has been patient, calibrated and deliberate.

And that will continue when I visit Beijing and Shanghai next month.

Secretary Blinken – you and so many of your colleagues today devote your energy and intellect to building a more stable and secure world.

Striving for peace is hard work.

It demands new effort and new resources, new creativity and new resolve.

But whenever we consider the costs, the obstacles or the difficulties of this course – we need only consider the alternative.

Because the closing-off of economies, the collapse of diplomacy, the cutting of ties, the burden of conflict and the devastation of war are catastrophic for the world.

That elemental understanding was the basis of the alliance America and Australia signed, 72 years ago.

Ours was not a pact against a mutual enemy.

It was a pledge to a common cause.

These were the words to which we put the names of our nations.

“Reaffirming desire to live in peace with all peoples and all Governments and desiring to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific area”.

And it is in this same spirit Australia has struck the new trilateral AUKUS agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.

A decision we have taken that is anchored in our own national sovereignty – and in the sovereign interests of the United States and the United Kingdom.

From early in the next decade, Australia will take delivery of US Virginia-class conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.

This will be the first time in 65 years, and only the second time in history, that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology.

It speaks for the intersection of our interests, the deep trust underpinning our alliance – and the reality of the world in which we live.

AUKUS is an unprecedented level of partnership, conceived for a time of unprecedented challenge.

This technology offers Australia a new level of deterrence and a new capacity to contribute to the stability of our region and the security of our partners.

For Australia, the rationale for AUKUS is straightforward: we want to contribute to strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific.

We are not looking for conflict – we are seeking to prevent it.

Making it crystal clear to any aggressor that the risk of conflict far outweighs any potential benefit.

The past few weeks have reminded us all that American leadership often means walking a lonely road and shouldering a heavy burden.

As a friend, Australia walks beside you and as an ally we help you carry the weight - especially when the going gets tough.

Of course, there will always be challenges here at home that seem more pressing, more relevant and more real than the concerns of other nations far away.

It is natural – indeed it is understandable – for some to greet any new call for American global engagement with ‘why us, why now, why there, why again’.

But the promise of America has never been fulfilled in isolation.

The greatness of America has never been confined to your borders.

And the people of Australia are not looking for a free ride.

We are a middle power - and a leader in our region.

And Australians always pay our way.

We pull our weight.

We do our part.

We always have.

We will always will.

That’s one of the points I took the opportunity to make to key members of the House and the Senate in person today.

The AUKUS bills before Congress represent a multi-billion dollar boost to America’s industrial base – and a game-changing manufacturing opportunity for Australian workers.

It will mean Australians and Americans can work and train side-by-side in allied shipyards.

And beyond submarines, AUKUS will enable seamless co-operation between our two nations in defence science, technology and industry to help meet the new strategic challenges of our time.

Ladies and Gentlemen

This is not my first time in this famous building.

In my 20s, I was invited to take part in a State Department Program.

Obviously the US intelligence community saw something in me.

I asked to see the ways different groups interacted with American democracy.

I got the full spread: the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood.

Yet for all the diversity of views and arguments across the different issues, there was also a unifying belief.

A sense that ideas mattered – and participation mattered.

Showing up. Taking part. Making a case.

It spoke for a common faith in the power of people and also a shared respect for the responsibility of government.

Those are founding principles of both our democracies.

They are ideals that the United States – and the State Department – seeks to share with people from every part of the world.

Citizens who want to help solve the humanitarian challenges their nations are facing.

People who want the world to act on climate change.

People who want to see the jobs and prosperity of new economic growth shared across their society.

And people who believe – as we all do - that the best way of achieving these goals, is a system where representatives derive their power from the consent of the governed.

Of course, this is not easy or predictable.

But only dictatorships pretend to be perfect.

Democracies are proud to be human.

We serve a work in progress.

A continuing search for a more perfect union, a shared desire to build a better world.

And that’s why all of us know that preserving democracy isn’t just a matter of celebrating it.

We have to nurture it, nourish it, strengthen it, renew it and defend it.

Making sure it has a practical meaning for the people it serves – and making sure it is ready for the future it seeks to shape. 

Everything that is true for our democracies, holds true for our alliance.

In a time of conflict, uncertainty and rapid change – there is always the temptation for nations, democracies and citizens to look back.

To search for reassurance instead of seeking renewal.

But as important as our rich history is, our alliance is focused on the future.

Advancing the vital interests we share - and building on the universal values we hold.

Democracy and peace, freedom and fairness.

They are our North Star, our Southern Cross.

They bring us together. They light our way – and they can still light the world.

That is why ours is an alliance with a bright future.

Because it is an alliance for a better future.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour today to conclude with a toast:

To a friendship of great warmth and a partnership of true purpose.

The people of America.

The people of Australia.

An alliance for the future.