Joint Remarks with Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden

19 Jul 2016
Prime Minister
International and Trade

PRIME MINISTER: …So many important issues, strategic issues, economic issues, but above all, welcome to Australia and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and I are delighted to be hosting you today. We spoke at the outset of our meeting about the values that bind Australia and the United States. We talked about 100 years of shared service of our servicemen and women, fighting alongside each other for freedoms cause. But we talked above all, at the outset, the way in which our two countries define their national identities by a commitment to shared political values for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. We don’t define what is an Australian, who is an Australian, who is an American by reference to religion or race or ethnic background or cultural background. It is that shared passion of our two nations that the people and Australia and the people of the United states, to freedom, the rule of law, democracy and the right of every person to be able to aspire to realise their dreams. Every single one of us, born equal, entitled to the same protection of a free country governed by its own laws.

So we have no stronger alliance, no stronger friendship across every sector; the economy, foreign policy, defence. And we work closely together in freedom’s cause around the world. The Vice President and I with the Foreign Minister and our advisors talked about the need to ensure the rule of law is supported everywhere. In the Middle East where the Vice President has particular expertise I’ll touch on that in a moment. We talked about the importance of the rule of law in our own region, in the South-China Sea, where neither of our countries being claimants to any features in the South China Sea but each of us encourage all parties to resolve such differences as there are, in accordance with international law, in accordance with peaceful negotiation.

The rules based international order, which Mr Vice President, the United States has underpinned for so many decades, has enabled the development of so much prosperity, so many millions – hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty because of the peace that a rules based international order in our region has enabled and we stand for that today, as we always have.

We discussed the recent military progress against ISIL in the Iraq and Syrian theatres. Mr Vice President acknowledged Australia is one of the largest contributors to that allied effort. We talked about the concerns that we see with the spread of fast developing terrorist activity, rapid radicalisation, as seen in recent attacks in Nice and Orlando as well as in Indonesia, Malaysia and many other countries. We have the strongest and most intimate collaboration in intelligence and security and it becomes stronger all the time. The threat of terror is a global one, it is absolutely international and every event is connected one with the other so our collaboration is more important than ever.

And in regards to Iraq, which I hope the Vice President will speak about in his remarks – where he visited 28 times Mr Vice President –I can announce that we will expand the training mandate of our building partner capacity mission in Iraq, to include the training of Iraqi Federal law enforcement agencies and local police. At the moment our training mandate is restricted to training the Iraqi army and as we discussed, one of the most important objectives now in Iraq, is to ensure that the Iraqi police forces, their Gendarmerie Forces are able to maintain the peace in areas that have been liberated from Daesh or ISIL as the Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism forces progress.

We talked also about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is a great free trade agreement, 40 per cent of the global economy. The United States and Australia are partners in that. We await the approval of the US Congress to it and we know that while there are political obstacles, the eloquence of the Vice President and the President, all of the wiles he's developed over so many years in the Congress, all of that political capital is going to be brought to bear to bring the TPP home in the Congress.

We know that the Biden touch will deliver the TPP and that will be very important for economic growth in our region.

So Mr Vice President you've come here for the first time, but with a great family connection, of which you spoke. You've come here with your characteristic warmth and eloquence, with your passion about finding a cure for cancer - your commitment to that. You've come here demonstrating your commitment to the alliance, talking to our servicemen and women. Sharing their stories. Visiting Australians in every walk of life. But what you deliver most of all Mr Vice President is yourself. You deliver your warmth and your passion for those values of freedom that bind our two nations together and we're delighted to have you here as our guest in Australia with your family. Delighted. Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much. It's not hard when you believe it.

Well good afternoon everyone. It's a delight to be here and it's a real pleasure to be in Australia and I mean that seriously.

Mr Prime Minister thank you for the incredible welcome and the undeserved words of praise that you have shown me, the welcome and what you've said. The warmth and the hospitality of the Australian people these past few days have been overwhelming. My whole staff, some have been here before, feel it. You can smell it. You can taste it. It really is welcoming.

And let me start Mr Prime Minister by congratulating you on your recent victory.

I'm proud to have this opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the relationship which is incredibly important, not just to me and the President, but to all the American people. There's those of you in the press who have been to the United States, I doubt whether any of you will say anything contrary to what I'm about to acknowledge and that is if you find an American that isn't welcoming of an Australian, I'd like to know where it is. There is an overwhelming sense of - it's almost unreal - of camaraderie and connectedness to Australia even though it's a world away as they say. So you know it's not just that we have fought side-by-side for the past 100 years in every major encounter, and for the last 65 years have had a formal military alliance, but it's the daily touches of family, of relationships, of friendships, of partnerships, of shared values.

And I really mean it when I say shared values. We're both nations of immigrants. We're both nations who are fiercely independent. And we defend fiercely, to use the word twice, the right of everyone to be treated with dignity and with respect. I don't know any place where there is a greater comfort zone that we feel than being here among all of you and I hope you feel the same way when you're in the States.

Ultimately I think there's a simple reason our countries work so well together across the board our values are the same. We have a line in our Constitution saying in order to form a more perfect union we are constantly trying to improve. We don't always succeed. We're constantly trying to improve on our countries success but on how we deal with one another and how we deal with the world to make a more perfect union.

And I believe to our core that we share the view that freedom and equality are about what we're about. Now, that sounds almost corny. I mean to – it’s phrases you would expect public officials, elected officials, to say. But you guys feel it in your bones. We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights - the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. I meant it's in your DNA. You feel it - it's real and that's why you're so respected by Americans.

Over the past few days, Mr Prime Minister, I've met with many business leaders and entrepreneurs, discussing how our two nations can continue to grow and drive innovation and economic growth in the 21st-century.

I toured the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne, where you just made a $1 billion investment, providing the best possible care and treatment and analysis - that is of quality equal to anywhere in the world. I met with Australian researchers, doctors, scientists, oncologists, who are on the leading edge of cancer research, particularly in photogenomics, which is as I used a metaphor, it is like the genes are the full roster of a basketball team - the proteins are the team you're going to play against and the five that you put on the court. You're at the leading edge in what is going to be part of a breakthrough to change and alter cancer as we know it.

I'm pleased to say Mr Prime Minister that we signed three memorandums of understanding between our two nations, to do more together, to share data, to accelerate our progress to end cancer. Look, I'll make you a prediction, Mr Prime Minister that the MoU that we signed is going to become the model, literally the model for sharing data and information around the world, which is not happening now. The more rapidly it happens, the more quickly we will be able to get to the causes of and the cures for. I predict that you're going to see this repeated around the world.

It's a great honour as well that I had to meet with Australian veterans, your Foreign Minister was with me, or I was with her more accurately at the stadium. It included a World War II vet that was at the head of the organisation and were part of the Returned Services League of Australia. He was a gentleman who acted like he was in his 50s but he was a World War II vet. The fact is that I got an opportunity to return a refurbished 48 Stars and Stripes - an American flag which had been taken ashore on Guadalcanal, a very costly battle which we prevailed in - all of us – and which for 60 years has found a home in Melbourne with the RSL.

Today I was aboard the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney Harbour and I got a real sense of our alliance and quite frankly the genuine brotherhood that exists between our people. Not only did I speak to the crew, but to my left were assembled roughly 30 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting side-by-side with my son and others like my son, who spent time in both of those theatres. It's a genuine camaraderie. It's a genuine sense of knowing, as my son said in Iraq, that you know when there's an Aussie with you they always have your back. I mean that sincerely.

I want to speak very briefly to your additional commitment in Iraq to train - not only continue to train their counterterrorism force, but also to train their police.

Your folks are the best trainers in the world. Your Special Operation Forces of Command have taken on the responsibility of training the guts and the core of the Iraqi National Security Force, their counterterrorism force. You're part of the reason why they succeeded in Ramadi and you'll be part of the reason why the training you’re providing to the police - and they're talking about a significant number of police needed to stay behind to reconstruct and keep safety and security in areas that have been reclaimed from ISIS, from Daesh as they say. I can't tell you how much your commitment is appreciated.

I spent a lot of time on the phone and in person with Prime Minister Abadi, he invited you. He invited you to do this because he knows, he understands - your guys and your women are the best. They’re the best in the world at doing this.

So the fact is that today the Prime Minister and I spoke about a full range of issues affecting the US- Australian bilateral relationship and we discussed the regional and global issues that we both confront and confront together. To start with, we talked about how we can continue to strengthen our robust economic ties that exist between our two countries. The trade between our two countries – the trade agreement, signed more than a decade ago, has served as a foundational basis upon which to grow trade and fortify business investment between our countries. Last year the two way trade between our nations in goods and services topped $60 billion - $60 billion, and our economic partnership has never been so important.

We talked about the need for our two nations to continue to set the economic rules of the road with high standard trade agreements to protect the rights of workers, preserve the environment and uphold intellectual property rights.

That's the basis upon which the 21st-century rules of the world must be based. Australia and the United States as well, are both Pacific nations. I'm often asked whether I'm with President Xi in Beijing or whether I'm in Tokyo or whether I’m anywhere in the region, why we are a Pacific power?

The United States is a Pacific Power. We are going nowhere. We are going nowhere, and we believe we have been part of, along with Australia, the basis for stability - regional stability - that's allowed everyone to grow from China, to Japan, to Korea, to Australia, across-the-board, allowing everyone to grow.  Stability is the basis upon which economic prosperity is founded and we share a clear understanding of the importance of maintaining that stability throughout the Asian Pacific region.

Mr Prime Minister and I reaffirmed our commitment to continue to work together to uphold the liberal international order that has served the world so well for the past 75 years and to maintain the free flow of commerce and trade in the air and on sea, making sure the sea lanes are open and the skies are free for navigation. They are the lifeblood lines of commerce and the economic growth worldwide. That's why last week both our nations issued strong statements urging China and the Philippines to abide by their abitur tribunal’s decision with regards to the South China Sea.

We also discussed the steps that Australia and the United States are taking so our troops can train more together and increase our interoperability so that we are fully prepared to respond to any challenges in the Pacific with a united front. It's important we stand together.

The Prime Minister and I also reinforced our shared commitment to wiping out ISIL's evil and countering terrorism around the world. Australian and American troops are working side-by-side in Iraq as I said, training local partners to lead the fight on the ground. And we're flying missions over Syria, leading the global humanitarian effort to provide aid to those stranded folks who find themselves caught in a Neverland and to provide the necessary relief for millions of refugees and innocents caught in the crossfire suffering very badly in Syria.

Our alliance has been a source of incredible strength for both our countries for decades now and I believe will continue to be as we work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And also by the way, take advantages of the opportunities of the 21st-century.

I've been doing this for a long time Mr Prime Minister, I've never been more optimistic about our prospects, I really mean this, I've never been more optimistic about our prospects than I am today.

There is no reason why we cannot in the 21st-century be even more prosperous, more capable and more forward leaning than we have been in the 20th-century. I'm speaking about more than just the sum total of our cooperation together.

I'm going to speak to these issues and to our shared values tomorrow when I make a speech here in Sydney, so I won’t bore you with any more today, but let me say in closing that again, quoting my son, Australia and the United States, we've had each other's back for a long time. We continue to have one another's back. And I assure you, the United States is going nowhere.

The United States is here in the Pacific to stay. We are a Pacific nation. We are a Pacific power. And we will do our part to maintain peace and stability in the region. Everything I've seen over the last few days only makes me more confident Mr Prime Minister that we'll continue to write new chapters together that will not only benefit both our nations - it might sound presumptuous to say - but I think benefit the region and benefit the world.

So again Mr Prime Minister thank you for your hospitality and may God protect our troops.

Thank you so much.