80th Anniversary of the Australia-US Alliance

80th Anniversary of the Australia-US Alliance

The following speech was delivered by Andrew Hastie MP to the House of Representatives on 15 June 2020. 

Mr HASTIE (Canning) (11:42):  I rise today to second the motion put by the honourable member for Lindsay and I congratulate her, as a long-time champion of the Australia-US alliance, on this initiative. She is someone who understands the importance of relationships at the local level as well as at the strategic level, and it's worth reflecting on our deep and abiding relationship with the United States, not just as a security partner but also as a trading partner and as someone who shares the common values that we hold dear as democracies.

This motion is especially timely in the year of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the Commonwealth of Australia and the United States of America.

This relationship, this friendship, this union of nations is built, firstly, on a shared set of values—a common commitment to democracy, to the rule of law and to upholding the dignity of individuals, no matter who they are. In our way of life, minority voices are protected and upheld no matter how disagreeable they might be to us. But this is no easy task for two of the world's oldest democracies, and it's one that we must refresh every single day. We live in an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people. Therefore, democracies cannot afford to take for granted our freedoms, our political institutions and the relationships that we enjoy.

Against the backdrop of a strategic setting increasingly shaped by revisionist and expansionist authoritarian powers, it's time for democracies like the United States and Australia to close ranks, to not come apart. It's a time to affirm our shared values and not focus on our differences. And it's a time to strengthen those cords of connection that bind us, whether they be political, cultural, diplomatic or economic, or those that secure our shared commonwealths.

A great Australian, the Governor of Western Australia, the Honourable Kim Beazley, a man better known for deeds in the House, last year answered a sceptic of the US alliance by saying, 'If you want to understand the Australia-US Alliance, go granular, look at it in detail'. So let's look closely at the relationship. We can look at the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin, which was established first in 2012 under Prime Minister Gillard with only 200 Marines and which now has a force of 2,500 Marines that rotate through Darwin. Surely, that is a sign that we have a very close relationship from a security perspective. Look at Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap near Alice Springs, where a huge number of Australians and US personnel work together to secure not only the interests of our two countries but also our allies. Look at the number of exchange programs across defence, intelligence and law enforcement between Australian and US personnel.

Look at our recent military history in Afghanistan. It was US helicopters and crew who flew us on missions. It was US helicopters and crew who gave us close air support. It was US helicopters and crew who airlifted our wounded and dead from the battlefields. Personally, I know that on every single mission I led I planned our flight path through the Afghan valleys with US pilots and air crew. Whilst this is a great thing, it perhaps reflects poorly on our Defence Force that during that whole war we never deployed our Tiger aircraft nor our Black Hawks, but that's another story altogether.

The point is, if you want to understand the strength of our alliance, go granular. You will find networks of like-minded people committed to the same causes, working in dangerous places, sometimes under immense pressure, to secure our mutual interests. Our uniformed men and women have been doing this since Australia-US troops first came under fire at the Battle of Hamel in 1916 on the Western Front. We fought together through two world wars. It was the United States who had our backs in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway and in the Pacific War. The Australian-American Memorial at the end of King's Avenue on Russell Hill, bears testament to our relationship during the Pacific War. It was paid for and erected by previous generations of Australians who recognised the sacrifice of US personnel to protect Australia from Japanese ambitions in the Pacific.

Our security relationship is just one part of our very large relationship with the United States. Our economic ties are huge. The Alcoa refineries and mines in my electorate, which have created thousands of jobs over the last 50 years are just one small aspect of that relationship. Today I support this motion.