Statement to the Parliament: 70th Anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty - Australian Parliament House, ACT

01 Sep 2021
Prime Minister


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty — the ANZUS Treaty.

ANZUS is the foundation stone of Australia's national security and a key pillar for peace and stability in our Indo-Pacific region.

For seven decades, it has underpinned vital military, national security and intelligence cooperation between Australia and the United States.  And much more besides.

It has been, and I hope always will be, a shared national endeavour; one that has evolved to meet new challenges based on enduring values.

The ANZUS Treaty was signed facing the ocean we share on 1 September 1951 in San Francisco.

Among its architects, none stands taller than Australia’s Minister for External Affairs in the early years of the Menzies Government - and later Ambassador to the United States - Percy Spender.

It was Percy Spender’s unique foresight and hard-headed realism that helped secure the  treaty - just 11 articles and little more than 800 words - that has stood the test of time.

Sir Robert Menzies reflected on ANZUS, which I consider to be the greatest achievement of his Government, towards the end of his prime ministership.

He said:

“… there is a contract between Australia and America. It is a contract based on the utmost goodwill, the utmost good faith, and unqualified friendship. Each of us will stand by it.”

And so we have.

And for more than a century now.

From the cornfields of Le Hamel to the unforgiving steep terrain of Mount Tambo in Papua New Guinea where stretcher bearer Les ‘Bull’ Allen rescued twelve American soldiers from the battlefield, and was recognised for his bravery with the award of the Silver Star.

Mates helping mates.

This continued in the snow of Korea, the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam and most recently in the dust of Iraq and Afghanistan and the evacuation of Kabul.

Our Alliance is based on trust and mutual respect.

Trust and respect so often forged in adversity, as it was in the Second World War when Prime Minister Curtin, almost a decade before ANZUS, turned our focus to the United States in our most desperate hour.

And it is an alliance based on a positive vision for our region for a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific.

Our Alliance is based on a friendship that has never demanded the silence, or indeed, censure of its critics.

Rather, we tend to ‘the tree of liberty’ across the Pacific.

Ours is a partnership based on hope and aspiration.

We believe in:

Free nations, charting their own destinies.

Free economies, trading fairly and openly.

And free peoples, embracing the future optimistically.

Mr Speaker,

The ANZUS treaty breathes and adapts with each passing generation, stewarded by 14 Presidents and 14 Prime Ministers since Menzies.

Our relationship now spans security and defence, diplomacy, trade, intelligence, shared facilities, space and cyber, future defence capability, and the shared ties of people, culture and outlook.

It embraces collaboration on new technologies, critical minerals, strengthening our supply chains, providing vaccines throughout the Pacific, and meeting the challenges of climate change and the new energy economy.

Our two peoples see the world through the same lens.

The Treaty we celebrate today has leaned into the world, dealing with it honestly as it is, in the hope of it becoming more as we would like it to be.

Mr Speaker,

At the launch of the Defence Strategic Update last year, I said we live in a region “where peace, stability, and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.”

Australia is confronting the most challenging strategic environment in decades.

This strategic environment will challenge us, as it will challenge the United States and our region.

Our alliance will stand resilient in the face of these challenges as we nurture and refresh our commitment one to another.

The ANZUS Treaty states, “no potential aggressor could be under the illusion” that we as allies “stand alone in the Pacific area”.

Our nation’s desire to “strengthen the fabric of peace”, and meet the strategic challenges we face, continues to be served by our alliance with the United States and the Treaty we entered into 70 years ago today.

Together, we share hope; we share burden; we share vision.

We may not be equal in size but there is no doubting the equality of our commitment, our resolve and our dedication to the values that underpin our great partnership.

Together, we have always supported a world that favours freedom.

Our Alliance — and America’s deep engagement in our region — is essential as we look to rebuild from the pandemic, and shape a free and open Indo-Pacific that is stable, secure and prosperous.

In this mission, Australia and the United States work with friends old and new.

Our long-standing ASEAN partners, our Pacific family, our fellow travellers in the Quad, Five Eyes and G7+. We work together, for an Indo-Pacific region

 … where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected …

… that is free of coercion …

… and where disputes are settled peacefully, and in accordance with international law.

For as President Eisenhower declared ‘one truth must rule all we think and do. The unity of all who dwell in freedom is their only sure defence’.

Mr Speaker,

On this milestone, we recall another anniversary.

Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Our then-Prime Minister John Howard was in Washington D.C. on the day of the tragedy.

He saw the smoke plume in Washington.

And he also saw the great spirit and enduring faith of the American people.

On returning home, John Howard addressed this House, saying:

“[I]f our debt as a nation to the people of the United States in the darkest days of World War II means anything, if the comradeship, the friendship and the common bonds of democracy and a belief in liberty, fraternity and justice mean anything, it means that the ANZUS Treaty applies.”

It was the first, and remains the only, time the ANZUS Treaty has been formally invoked.

While ANZUS has only been invoked that one time, the intent of that treaty - the values that treaty represents - have underpinned our deep and enduring relationship with the United States for the past seventy years and will for decades to come.

Last week, we spoke in this House about our response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Attacks that shaped much of the following years.

Last week, the horrific events at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate reminded us yet again of the enormous price our ally has paid for its role in the world.

The United States has so often established the very peace and safety that so many have sheltered under.

From the remarkable achievement of shaping a post-war world that resulted

... in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the postwar rules-based order.

....The Marshall Plan - described by General Marshall himself as a policy ‘directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty and desperation’.

.... The rebuilding of Japan and the security umbrella for the development of Asia.

…. The Berlin airlift that defied Soviet coercion and kept the flame of liberty alive that eventually saw the wall that would enclose them, torn down by the hands of those who it sought to forever separate,

…. The ongoing stand against radical Islamist extremism that blasphemes and perverts their religion and dishonours those who seek to live out their faith in peace.

We must recognise that the peace afforded to so many by the United States, including those who have been quick to criticise, has so often come at such great cost to our great ally, friend and partner.

This is something Australia will never take for granted or presume upon.

As I have said many times, Australia looks to the United States, but we will never leave it to the United States.

We stand by each other, together, and for the truths we both hold dear “in sunshine and in sorrow”, as President Johnson said, and in  the words of Sir Robert Menzies “warmed by the same fires”.

May that always be true.

And finally, as President Reagan reminded us, let us press us on, knowing that “liberty is not an inevitable state and [that] there is no law which guarantees that once achieved it will survive”.

So let us pledge ourselves again here on this 70th anniversary of our great alliance, to renew and modernise our Alliance; to continue to be vigilant and strong; to build the economic strength for the peace and prosperity of all; and for a world order that favours freedom.

Whatever challenges lie ahead, I know that Australia and the United States will go on to meet them with the same courage, the same daring, the same unbreakable bond that has carried us to this day and will continue to do so into the future.

A bond sealed by the sacrifices of all who have served under the flags of Australia and the United States, whom we honour this day.

In whose name we rededicate ourselves to the values and freedoms they fought to secure, uphold and pursue.

And may our prayer be that God continue to bless our alliance, the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia.