Our friendships are often tested in times of trial. We remember friends who stick close during adversity.
My grandfather, Flight Lieutenant Norman Hastie DFC, knew adversity aboard a RAAF Catalina on 31 March 1945 during a dangerous air-sea rescue mission.
He also knew friendship when a United States medic—a Virginian by the name of Sergeant O. Mayberry—saved his life when he was struck by enemy gunfire.
The mixed Australian and US air-crew of ‘Playmate Four One’ flew into danger to rescue two downed Australian airmen in Indonesian waters.
All trusted each other to do their job; all relied on each other to get home. Together, they got the mission done.
Back at Morotai Island, an American surgeon operated on my grandfather and gave him another crack at life. Without those American friends, I wouldn’t be writing today.
For me, on the 70th anniversary of ANZUS, our partnership with the United States is both personal and strategic. My story is not unique. It is part of our enduring bond that begins with individual connections and rises to the highest levels of government.
Many Australians have worked closely with our American friends across government in defence, intelligence, law enforcement, trade and foreign affairs. Many of us share the same sense of personal and strategic friendship.
As the former Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley, said a few years ago: if you want to appreciate the depth of the Alliance—go granular!
Observe the people-to-people connections. Observe the integration of our people at the tactical and operational levels. There you will see the Alliance—alive, healthy and active.
The evidence shows that Kim Beazley is on the money.
This year marks ten years of the United States Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. We’ve seen multiple rotations of the US Marines in Darwin, training and exercising together with the ADF.
We’ve also achieved greater air-to-air integration through the Enhanced Air Cooperation program, our RAAF crews regularly exercising with their US partners in the skies.
We are investing in our immediate neighbourhood, even as we withdraw from Afghanistan.
In ten days, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the devastating 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.
On the 14th of September, we will recall when Prime Minister John Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty in Washington in the turbulent days after the planes hit the Twin Towers and Pentagon.
That decision, the first and only invocation of ANZUS since its ratification, committed us to destroying Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan.
Our troops fought in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, alongside our American friends, to defeat those who would harm us at home.
Sadly, after two decades of intermittent struggle and war, Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban. The evacuation has been tough to watch.
We grieve the loss of the thirteen US Marines and two hundred Afghans, cruelly murdered by Islamic State at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
But who can forget the picture of fallen US Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee, cradling an Afghan infant, at the gates of the airport. She died doing what she loved. The image reminds us of the United States at its best, leading on the global stage and helping others in need.
Despite the setback in Afghanistan, we have work to do here in our region. And we need the United States to lead in that task, as they have done so since 1945.
Australia’s priority now – as ever – is to support a rules-based international order that encourages habits of cooperation with our neighbours.
American naval power has long underwritten this rules-based order, and so we welcome a continued US presence on the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Our focus must now be on the Indo-Pacific, for the great geo-political questions of the next decade and beyond will be resolved here.
More than ever, our shared vision of freedom—a visceral love of democracy, the rule of law and ordered liberty—must be clear when authoritarian voices are growing louder and more insistent.
In this moment of regional instability, the ANZUS Alliance acts as a trellis: it gives shape and form to that shared vision of freedom.
It turns personal connections into dense and fruitful networks across our national governments. It takes words and enlivens them into statecraft. ANZUS is central to Australia’s future security and prosperity, so we must tend to it regularly and never take it for granted.
On this 70th anniversary, we are reminded that good friends stick close in adversity. We’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in dangerous times from the battlefields of the First World War to the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan last week.
As we shift our gaze back to the Indo-Pacific region, we must be guided by the bonds of the past as we navigate the problems of the future.
This Op Ed was first published on 1 September 2021 in The Australian under the title 'ANZUS the trellis that supports fruitful relations.'