Virtual Address, Australian American Leadership Dialogue

11 Aug 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Well, thank you very much, Phil, and greetings here from Australia. Phil is a founder of this Dialogue, one of which I've had an association with for many years. Can I thank you for your continued leadership and thank you for your passion. This is your passion project and I've seen that over a long period of time. So thank you very much for that warm welcome.

I'm very pleased to be able to be here today. To Mark Vaile, it's great that you are able to join us here today. Julie Singer Scanlan, the Vice Chair, Representative Joe Courtney and co-chair of the Friends of Australia Caucus. We have so many great friends at Capitol Hill. And we thank you for your great support of Australia over so many years, in so many circumstances. To Ambassador Sinodinos, my former colleague and good friend. Thank you for the great work you're doing, not just for Australia, but for the relationship, one of the most foundational relationships that I think exists anywhere in the world and in your important role you're doing a great job as a steward of that engagement. To my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues who I know are enthusiastic about this forum. And I thank you for joining in as well today and for the contributions that you'll be making. There are many more on this call, a who's who of those who contribute so much to our shared relationships, including Bob Zoellick. I'll come back to a little later.

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people and indigenous peoples all across Australia, and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging and the indigenous peoples also of the United States. I also acknowledge serving members of the Australian and the United States Defence Forces who may be with us, as well as the many veterans who have contributed so much to our alliance, paid the ultimate sacrifice. I honour their service.

This year the Dialogue, a staple of our relationship with the United States, occurs as we mark two milestones. Firstly, and significantly, the seventieth anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance signed in San Francisco on the 1st of September 1951, in the early years of the Cold War. Over seven decades, our alliance has endured, adapted and has remained strong. And this year we also remember another milestone on another September day 20 years ago when America was attacked and Australia invoked that treaty to stand with our ally. Indeed, as our Prime Minister, John Howard was there in Washington at the time to actually mark the fiftieth anniversary of that alliance. We have stood together in sunshine and in sorrow in the words of President Johnson, and we will continue to do so in an age of strategic contest.

The alliance remains crucial to our national defence and sovereignty and to regional stability. As we reflect on this relationship, we also reflect on what underpins it. Trust, reliability and a shared belief in shouldering the responsibilities of freedom. In our short time available today, let me make some observations about some of the areas where we are squarely facing these responsibilities of our times. Now, as I said in recent times, I've been reading Bob Zoellick, great book 'America in the World'. I understand Bob is with us for the Dialogue. It's a great read, Bob commended it to all. In it, he quotes former Secretary James Baker, a mentor of his, who said “almost every achievement contains within its success the seeds of a future problem”. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a lot like that. Adapting as we go, understanding that as the virus changes, then we must also. The Delta strain a clear example. The challenges we face today are different from what they were at the start of the year. There is no single victory over COVID. You have to keep coming back at it again and again and again. And Australia's record remains amongst the best in the world in saving lives and saving livelihoods. More than 30,000 lives here in Australia saved. If we compare that to what the average fatality rates have been across OECD countries and more than a million people we've been able to get back into work after last year's COVID-19 recession.

But with outbreaks and lockdowns currently in our larger cities, we still have a great deal of work ahead. And the overwhelming focus here and elsewhere is vaccines. The world has again witnessed the exceptionalism of American innovation with the development of world leading vaccines, working with the United States and other Quad partners, Japan and India, Australia is helping to deliver one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Indo-Pacific by 2022. We're also contributing $130 million to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment, and we're investing $623 million to provide vaccine doses, technical advice, training for health workers and cold chain support to countries in the South West Pacific and South East Asia. And we're making great strides, I can assure you, here in the Pacific, Australia is the partner of choice when it comes to assisting them through this pandemic. And that choice has been based on the trust that we have built up with our Pacific family over these many years, and particularly in more recent times through our Pacific Step Up initiative, which has had such great support from the United States.

Our alliance is central to our shared objective of a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific. Our defence cooperation is strengthened and accelerated, as has Australia's own defence rebuild. We are undertaking the biggest regeneration of our Navy since the Second World War, and we're moving to a fifth generation Air Force that includes the F-35, the most advanced Strike Fighter in the world. We've just had our biggest bilateral military training exercise, Talisman Sabre, which saw nearly 14,000 personnel from the US and Australia with contingents from Japan and Korea, New Zealand, Canada and the UK spread out across Queensland. And there were a few spectators out there not too far away looking on. This is about ensuring our defence partnerships that they work seamlessly on the seas, on the ground and in the air.

We have work to do together on cutting edge technologies from hypersonics, integrated air and missile defence, electronic and undersea warfare to space, advanced cyber and critical minerals. As well, Australia wants to build our capacity to manufacture a suite of precision guided weapons. This will not only meet our defence needs, but importantly mean that Australia can become a second, secure source of supply for our ally, the United States. This is all about taking our defence technology cooperation to the next level, where we foster deeper integration of our security related science, technology, supply chains and industrial bases. Australia has never sought a free ride when it comes to our security. I've said so many times, including on the White House lawn, Australia may look to the United States, but we never leave it to the United States. Rather, we're building our capability. We're investing our wealth and treasure to make Australia stronger so we can be ready to defend our nation and a rules-based order in our region, a world that favours freedom and to be able to do so alongside who share our values and beliefs. Most significantly, the United States.

Another great and global challenge is, of course, climate change. And I welcome President Biden bringing together the Leaders Climate Summit. Australia is taking, in our very Australian way, a practical, technology focused approach to reducing emissions while supporting jobs and strengthening our economy. And our policies are working. We've already reduced emissions by over 20 per cent on 2005 levels, which is comparable or better than similar economies and, with great respect to the United States, including the United States and your northern neighbours, Canada and our trans-Tasman partners across the ditch in New Zealand. Achieving our 2030 target will see emissions per capita fall by almost a half and our emissions per unit of GDP by two-thirds. Emissions intensity will drop by two-thirds. We're well on our way to a pathway on net zero. Our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, but to get there through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate jobs and livelihoods. Now we're very passionate about this, technology not taxes, for this reason, because we sincerely believe that this is the only way the world can truly combat climate change. Why do I say that? Developing countries comprise two thirds of the world's emissions and are rising. China's emissions exceed those of the OECD combined. If we do not solve the climate change in developing countries, we, the world, will fail. Now, as Special Envoy Kerry argued within days of being in the job, if not weeks, he said the US could reduce its emissions to zero, but if China doesn't then we achieve nothing, and he was dead right, that's not a criticism of China or any other developing country. It's just a simple fact. Developing countries need new energy technologies that can compete with fossil fuel alternatives now and into the future if they are to adopt them and transform their economies to reduce their emissions. But they shouldn't have to do so at the expense of their economic growth and ensuring prosperity for their people. Technology is the game changer. It always has been. The United States knows that in terms of the revolutions in shale oil, which completely transformed the US's energy security and the geopolitical map. So why now would we think the technology wouldn't be the game changer here?

We're going through a pandemic where technology and science and medical advances championed by the United States developed the vaccine, which is now saving the world from COVID. It didn't come from a conference. It came from technology and investing in technology like we have never done before to produce a vaccine that had never existed before for a virus we had never seen before. That's what technology can do. We're passionate believers in it and we learn it from the United States because the United States has been the champions of technology for generations and generations and generations. You know, for too long on climate change, we've been avoiding the elephants in the room. This is not an advanced economies’ problem only. It is a global problem. Emissions don't come with accents. They don't come with nationalities. They don't have favourite cultural dishes. They affect the globe the same way everywhere. And we have to work to get the solve for technology for the developing world. We have to make it work commercially in their countries and help them introduce those technologies. For us here in Australia, particularly our region, up in Indonesia, over in Vietnam, throughout Malaysia or throughout the ASEAN nations, our great partners in the Indo-Pacific working together with them. That is in our interests because it is building the prosperity of the region on which we depend, but it is also in the interests of the broader world. You know, Australia, we have a strong track record of achieving and exceeding our commitments and we've stuck by our commitments and we've kept them. You know, performance will always achieve more than commitments made but not met. When we make a commitment in Australia, we step up to it and we meet it and we stick at it. We've already deploying renewable energy nearly eight times faster per person than the global average. Our ambition is to be a world leader in the new energy economy. We are partnering internationally to scale up innovation in emissions reduction technologies, and this is part of a sweeping agenda amongst like minded countries working together on the technologies of the future to secure our prosperity and our security.

Artificial intelligence, moving on, machine learning, quantum computing and other technologies offer large opportunities for our societies, and we also know they must be resilient and secure. And that's why we're helping to develop robust global principles and standards that protect our citizens autonomy, privacy and data. We're supporting, but also protecting Australia's research and critical technologies and providing pathways to commercialisation. We have to build capability to protect ourselves from malicious online threats wherever they come from. With the US and others, Australia will continue to champion an open, free, safe and secure cyberspace and to build capacity and resilience to cyber security threats. We know these threats are on the rise, both by sophisticated state-based actors and cyber criminals. And we need to meet this threat head on and we are. As Secretary Blinken has observed, nothing is more consequential to our confidence, to our security and ultimately to our democracies.

Now, of course, our bilateral economic links, they're already strong. And Mark knows all about that because he was so instrumental in the formation of the free trade agreement with the United States. Mark Vaile I am referring to, of course. New investment in Australia. Now, more than a trillion dollars generated an estimated seven per cent of Australia's GDP in 2019. More than 1,100 US companies employ around 325,000 Australians. Nearly a quarter of a million Australians work in the United States, and not a single US product encounters a tariff, not one, when it enters Australia, not one. That economic relationship is built on strong foundations, including the Australia-USA free trade agreement signed 17 years ago. And again, I acknowledge the founding fathers of that agreement, Mark Vaile and Bob Zoellick, again, who were with us today, and I acknowledge them.

In economic terms, our FTA is critical infrastructure, but we need to keep upgrading that infrastructure. Unlike the Cold War, geostrategic competition in the coming decades will be engaged in the economic realm. Our recent experience with economic coercion underlines that. That's why I believe our bilateral strategic cooperation must extend to economic matters. We should consider a regular Strategic Economic Dialogue between our most senior key economic and trade officials. Now, more than ever, we need to be working closely together on the common economic challenges that confront us. And, you know, we've got to deal with the hard stuff. We've got to deal with the reform of the World Trade Organization. We've got to deal with ensuring that there is a working appellate system that ensures that the rules of trade work because where there is no rules, others will seek to exploit and take advantage, and we know all about that down here in Australia with what we're confronting. So we need a working WTO system to ensure that we have a working world trade system that we can rely on to ensure that no country, no country suffers any exploitation against its interests, as we are seeing at present.

Now, beyond our strategic, scientific and economic partnership, we have a role in the world that's less tangible, but just as important. We must continue to demonstrate that liberal democracies work. This, I know, is a key focus of President Biden, and I couldn't tell you how energised I was when I heard the President say that at our Quad Leaders’ Meeting in our first historic gathering. He talked about this as a passion, as a mission. And it's one I sincerely share. And Australians do also. As Australians, we know that our influence with others rests squarely on our success at home, on our open democratic society, on our belief in freedom and a fair go, and on a strong and resilient economy that enables us to fulfil our promise to the Australian people and project leadership abroad. Our example, as great democratic countries and the freedoms that we hold so dear, is the best argument for how we run our countries and what those systems offer to the rest of the world. We believe that democratic elections, the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, even when people don't agree with us, independent judiciaries, accountable governments, deserve our allegiance based on their intrinsic merit and on their capacity to deliver better lives for our people. That open, business-led market economies provide the best means for generating shared prosperity in a world of rapid change. Again, Bob Zoellick's account of US diplomacy captures wonderfully the self-confidence of Ronald Reagan's injunction of “free markets, low tax rates [and] free trade” as “the weapons of peace we must deploy in the struggle to win a future of liberty”.

Working together, I'm confident our countries can support, defend and renovate a liberal rules-based international order that supports opportunities for all. No country did more than the United States to build that liberal order from the ashes of depression and a war after 1945. Ushering in decades of peace and prosperity unmatched in human history. In Australia, the US has no stronger partner today in defending the values and its institutional pillars of what was created by, and indeed, a remarkable generation of American leaders.

At the G7 at Cornwall, I stressed to leaders present, the need now for like-minded liberal democracies to come together in the face of today's challenges, to reinforce our defence and security ties as we look to celebrate the seventh anniversary of our alliance, very soon. To reinforce our economies with market openness, tempered where necessary by active steps to bolster our economic resilience and above all. To reinforce the institutional foundations of a world order that favours freedom. I quoted Benjamin Franklin at the G7 when he talked about the Republic and he said “a republic, if we can keep it”. And I said to those around the table, of a world order that favours freedom if we can keep it, because it requires the same diligence and the same continued passion and commitment as those founders of that rules based system built after the Second World War, led by Americans who believe passionately about what had taken that nation to lead the world in establishing that peace and winning that peace together.

Let me conclude by thanking you for what you do to support our alliance and our common cause as two great liberal democracies. Australian-American Leadership Dialogue is a living expression of friends coming together for a higher purpose. Our two countries have a big evolving canvas in front of us. The responsibilities of freedom are great and I want to personally thank the Biden Administration, who we work very closely with and now as they've come to office and understand and support this very important relationship. I look forward to further meetings as we've already had. I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to secure the peace, prosperity and partnership that holds our peoples dear.

And let me say this in conclusion, regardless of who sits in this office and who sits in the office over there in Washington, we all understand that we carry the stewardship of this relationship. It is one of the most important responsibilities that we have. I take that responsibility, as I know Australians know, very, very seriously. And we are deeply committed to this partnership in this relationship because we see it as the foundation of our security and our prosperity. But more than that, we see it as one of the most necessary partnerships to favour a world order that favours freedom. Thank you very much for your attention.