Tue. Jul 16th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a State Luncheon in Honor of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  And welcome to the State Department.  Prime Minister Albanese, Ms. Haydon, it is wonderful to have you with us here today.  My wife Evan and I are delighted.  Please take a seat.  Thank you.  Thank you, Kevin, for the protocol tip.  (Laughter.)  We are so delighted to welcome you both – to welcome all of our friends from Down Under to the top of the State Department.  (Laughter.) 

I think as we all saw and heard so clearly yesterday, the prime minister is a true partner and true friend to the United States and to President Biden.  (Applause.)  I’ve had the opportunity since the prime minister has been in office to admire up close his remarkable combination of strength, empathy, and decency.  One couldn’t ask for more in a partner and a friend.  And I know that Jodie equally shares those traits – your remarkable work now particularly in trying to deal with cancer, something so close to President Biden’s heart as you know.  And we’re grateful to you for your friendship as well. 

Now, there are few things that – for most public officials virtually everything is known and out in public, but I want to share one thing that may not be so well known to the American audience here today.  Maybe it’s known to the Australians.  The prime minister and I have a deep, shared affection for music.  When it comes to the prime minister, he’s also known, besides prime minister, as DJ Albo.  (Laughter.)  He’s known to spin a mean disc, and maybe they’ll be an opportunity at some point later to hear that. 

I especially also want to thank our partners, our friends, our cohosts today, the Vice President – Vice President Harris – and Doug Emhoff.  (Applause.)  It is – it’s especially fitting because the Vice President has been such a strong leader in our foreign policy, particularly in the Indo‑Pacific since the start of this administration as well, of course, in response to the current crisis in the Middle East. 

And our Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, who has led our efforts to combat antisemitism and other forms of bigotry at home and around the world, something that could not be more urgent in this moment.  Thank you, Doug.  (Applause.) 

It’s also wonderful to see members of Congress, members of the President’s Cabinet here with us today.  I know the prime minister had a very good session on Capitol Hill a short while ago.  We’re grateful for that.  And it’s good to be with so many friends, especially in the midst of tremendous pain and loss, at home as well as around the world. 

Our hearts are, of course, with loved ones and people who were killed in the horrific shooting last night in Lewiston, Maine along with the many who were injured.  We wish them the speediest of recoveries.  And I know the Vice President shares this sentiment and will speak to it as well. 

I have to tell you, this lunch today is particularly meaningful for me on a personal level.  My late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived the horrors of the Holocaust.  He was one of 900 schoolmates in Bialystok, Poland.  He’s the only one who survived.  And after enduring Treblinka, Dachau, Majdanek, and Auschwitz, he found refuge with aunts and uncles who had gone to Australia from Poland before the war.  For him, Australia was truly a lucky country.  He met teachers who inspired him, mentors who guided him.  He rekindled his passion for life, for intellectual pursuits, and for the future that he’d ultimately build here in the United States.  He was, in many ways, as he used to tell us, reborn in Australia.   And last year I had the opportunity to visit the University of Melbourne, where he studied, so there’s been a profound bond between my family and Australia going back as long as I can remember.

And I think his experience speaks in just one unique way to the kinship between our countries that goes back to our earliest days.  Our first interactions in the 1790s consisted primarily of American ships delivering enormous quantities of spirits to very thirsty Aussies.  (Laughter.)  Now that’s a tradition that we hope to maintain this afternoon.  (Laughter.)

By the middle of the 20th century, as our relationship deepened and we cemented our formal alliance, Prime Minister Robert Menzies would observe that “Australia and America share an affinity that reaches our souls.”  Now, we might view different constellations at night, but the United States and Australia see the world in much the same way.

We’re both nations of immigrants.  We’ve braved unforgiving oceans to get there.  We’re both fierce believers in democracy, equality, opportunity, for all of our citizens, and in the need to keep working – day in, day out – to actually make those ideals real.  That affinity is why our militaries have stood side-by-side for so many years, from the Coral Sea to Kandahar, why our companies invest in each other’s economies, why our researchers and Fulbright scholars flock to each other’s shores. 

And as we inaugurate a new era of our strategic cooperation, our own alliance continues to evolve to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of this time.  We’re advancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and well beyond, rooted in a shared commitment that we have to a world that’s free, that’s open, that’s secure, that’s prosperous.  We’re updating our defense posture in Australia.  We’re strengthening and weaving together partnerships across the region, including the Quad, including AUKUS, as well as demonstrating our strong support for institutions like ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum. 

And we’re upholding the principles at the heart of the United Nations Charter, in Ukraine where they’re challenged, where Australia continues to be the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine’s defense.

We’re also building an innovation alliance for the 21st century, from shaping the future of AI and quantum technologies, to laying new undersea cables, to deepening our partnership in outer space.

We know that central to every single one of these initiatives, every single one of these partnerships, are people – bound by shared history, heritage, culture.  I’ve had the wonderful privilege of experiencing this on several visits Down Under over the years.

We see the deep ties between us in this country as well.  Australia – and we thank you, again – has given us Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie – (laughter) – not to mention not one, not two, but three Hemsworth brothers.  (Laughter.)  Nick Cave performed in Washington just last month.  D.C. residents pop into Bluestone Lane to stay caffeinated.  Countless American children have shared bellyaching laughs while watching Bluey, and I can speak directly to this in the case of my own kids.  (Laughter.)

Every single day, in so many different ways, in so many different pursuits, we’re reminded that we’re joined together.  And precisely because of our partnership, even in challenging times – indeed, especially in challenging times, as the prime minister said yesterday – there is profound cause for hope.

So, if we could start by raising a glass to two great mates and to the future that we will continue to write together.  Cheers, everyone!  Cheers!

And now it is my great pleasure and great honor to introduce the Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

(The Vice President makes remarks.)

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE:  Well, thank you so much for that very generous introduction.  To the Vice President, to the Secretary of State:  It is a wonderful opportunity for me to be back here at the State Department.  And I also welcome and acknowledge all of the members of cabinet and members of Congress and Senate who are here, and my Australian friends who have traveled to be with us here. 

I do want to also begin by passing on my condolences to those affected by the shooting in Maine.  Indeed, it is the case that we look every time there is one of these events and are grateful that Australia did act in a bipartisan way after the Port Arthur massacre in Australia.  And my heart goes out to those who will be grieving today.

We do meet at a time when our world faces a set of profound challenges.  Far and wide, we’re confronted by threats to peace and tests of the international rules-based order.  And here in the United States, we can see the weight of global leadership that your great nation carries. 

I came to Washington this week to continue the work of facing our alliance to the future: strengthening our economic partnerships in cloud computing, innovation, and through a new Technology Safeguards Agreement that we’ll sign at this lunch; working with President Biden to turn the Climate and Clean Energy Compact we signed together in May into a commercial reality, with new progress on critical minerals and supply chains.

But above all, in these challenging times I stand here in Washington as the leader of America’s steadfast ally.  That’s what the friendship between our nations means.  We stand together in the cause of peace.  We work together to build a more free, stable, and prosperous world.

Eight decades ago, Australia looked to America when our own need was most dire.  We recognize the world is looking to you, now, and we know it does not look in vain.  American leadership will meet this moment.  And as allies, we will face the future together. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it remains a remarkable tribute to your nation, including many people who worked from this very building, that in the aftermath of the Second World War America did not seek to rebuild a world governed by strength of arms, fear of force, or the will of one great power.  Instead, as President Truman said, you sought “a just and lasting peace,” understanding that peace would only last so long as it was just.  That is why your forebears worked with ours to give life and shape to the United Nations:  to help build a post-war world of rules and rights, of essential freedoms and basic fairness; where every country, large and small, could shape its own destiny and liberty of every individual is recognized; where peace is secured not solely by the presence of the great powers, but by the sovereign acts of middle powers and small nations and the collective responsibility of the international community.

Of course, that vision and those values have not gone unchallenged.  We see this now in Ukraine, where Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion seeks to subjugate an independent nation and oppress a free people.  Australia may be half a world away from Ukraine, but we are proud to be one of the largest contributors to its military and humanitarian needs.  (Applause.)

We stand with Ukraine to support its courageous people, but also to defend a fundamental principle: the right of every sovereign nation to peace and security, and the responsibility of every sovereign nation to respect the rules that hold the world together, be it in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific, or indeed the Middle East. 

Australia unequivocally condemns the atrocities committed by Hamas and the destruction that their acts of terror have inflicted on innocent lives in Israel and in Gaza.  And we stand with our international partners in calling for access to lifesaving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. 

In my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to personally thank the President for the courage and the leadership that he has shown.  As a true friend of Israel, not only did he stand by them in this terrible time, he offered wisdom as well as solace, calling for all parties to allow safe, unimpeded, and sustained humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians.  And the President used the power of his office to assert an undeniable principle: that every innocent life must be protected, Israeli and Palestinian.  That is American leadership in action.  Generations of this leadership have been instrumental in shaping a world which is more prosperous, more open, more free, and more interconnected than any of our forebears could have imagined.  Australia has benefitted from this, and Australia has helped to build it. 

From my first day in office when I flew to Japan to take part in the Quad, the government I lead has made it a priority to reinforce the architecture of our region, investing in our capabilities and investing in our relationships; strengthening our vital links with Japan and Korea as a proven economic security and energy partner; deepening our engagement with Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, and across Southeast Asia; taking our strategic partnership with India to a new level, both bilaterally and through the Quad; strengthening the bond that we share with our Pacific Islands family, where for more than half a century Australia has been the region’s single-largest economic and development partner; investing in our multilateral engagement, the Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN, and the East Asia Summit, and as founding members of APEC, the G20, and of course the United Nations.

Because as a constructive middle power with global interests, we understand the value and importance of dialogue.  Which is why Australia strongly supports the Biden administration’s efforts to maintain those open lines of communication between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

As a great American president and the father of the current U.S. ambassador to Australia proved 60 years ago during the Cuban crisis, the true measure of a superpower’s strength is the ability to pull the world back from the brink of conflict.  Once again, that has become the test of our time.  China has been explicit:  It does not see itself as a status-quo power.  It seeks a region and a world that is much more accommodating of its values and interests.  This is where it is the responsibility of every nation that has benefitted from the stability and prosperity of the international rules-based order through the last three-quarters of a century to work together and protect it, securing the sovereignty that confers every nation’s right to determine its own destiny, protecting the freedom of navigation which is central to our shared prosperity, upholding the human rights which are central to every individual’s life and liberty, and working together to maintain peace – not just in the Taiwan Strait, but wherever it is at risk.

This means investing in our capabilities to prevent competition escalating into conflict, and investing in our relationships to maintain the dialogue that safeguards stability.  And this is where Australia, just like the United States, has been working to stabilize our relationship with China.  We’re very clear-eyed about this.  We’re two nations with very different histories, values, and political systems.  Australia will always look to cooperate with China where we can, but we will disagree where we must, but continue to engage in our national interest.  Our approach has been patient, calibrated, and deliberate, and that will continue when I visit Beijing and Shanghai next month.

Secretary Blinken, you and so many of your colleagues today devote your energy and intellect to building a more stable and secure world.  And it’s been an incredible privilege to meet with you and with Vice President Harris in so many – so many – parts of the world, and I’m glad it’s finally here in the United States.  (Laughter.)

I have, of course, met with Secretary Blinken in Australia and I look forward to welcoming you, Vice President Harris, to Australia at some future time.

This is absolutely critical, because striving for peace is hard work.  It demands new effort and new resources, new creativity, and new resolve.  But whenever we consider the costs, the obstacles, or the difficulties of this course, we only need to consider the counterfactual, the alternative.  Because the closing off of economies, the collapse of diplomacy, the cutting of ties, the burden of conflict, and the devastation of war are catastrophic for the world.  That elemental understanding was the basis of the alliance that the United States of America and Australia signed 72 years ago.

Ours was not a pact against a mutual enemy.  It was a pledge to a common cause.  These were the words to which we put the names of our great nations:  “Reaffirming … [our] desire to live in peace with all peoples and all Governments, and desiring to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific Area.”  And it is in this same spirit that Australia has struck the new trilateral AUKUS agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom – a decision we have taken that is anchored in our own national sovereignty, but is also in the sovereign national interests of the U.S. and the UK.

From early on in the next decade, Australia will take delivery of U.S. Virginia-class, conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.  This will be the first time in 65 years, and only the second time in history, that the U.S. has shared your nuclear propulsion technology.  It speaks for the intersection of our interests, the deep trust underpinning our alliance, and the reality of the world in which we live.  And up on the Hill this morning, I was struck by just how supportive on a bipartisan way across Congress and the Senate there is for AUKUS.  This is an unprecedented level of partnership conceived for a time of unprecedented challenge.  This technology offers Australia a new level of deterrence and a new capacity to contribute to the stability of our region and the security of our partners. 

For Australia, the rationale for AUKUS is straightforward:  We want to contribute to strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific.  We’re not looking for conflict; we are seeking to prevent it, making it crystal clear to any aggressor that the risk of conflict far outweighs any potential benefit.  And the past few weeks have reminded us all that American leadership often means walking a lonely road and shouldering a heavy burden.  As a friend, Australia walks beside you, and as an ally, we help you carry the weight, especially when the going gets tough.

Of course, there will always be more challenges here at home that seem more pressing, more relevant, and more real than the concerns of other nations far away.  It is natural – indeed, it is understandable – for some to greet any new call for American global engagement with, “Why us?  Why now?  Why there?  Why again?”  But the promise of America has never been fulfilled in isolation.  The greatness of America has never been confined to your borders.  The people of Australia are not looking for a free ride.  We’re a middle power and we’re a leader in our own region, and Australians always pay our way.  We pull our weight, we do our part.  We always have, we always will. 

That’s one of the points that I was making today to key members of the House and the Senate in person.  The AUKUS bills before Congress represent a multi-billion-dollar boost to America’s industrial base and a game-changing manufacturing opportunity for Australian workers.  It will mean Australians and Americans can work and train side-by-side in allied shipyards.  And beyond submarines, AUKUS will enable seamless cooperation between our two nations in defense science, technology, and industry to help meet the new strategic challenges of our time.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not my first time in this famous building.  In my mid-20s, I was invited to take part in a State Department program.  Obviously, the U.S. Intelligence Community saw something in me that, at the time, others didn’t back home.  (Laughter.)  But well chosen.  (Laughter.)

I asked to see the different ways that groups here interacted with American democracy.  I got the full spread: the Sierra Club, from Planned Parenthood to the National Rifle Association.  I got to see in a six-week visit the full length and breadth of your great nation.  Yet for all of the diversity of views and arguments across the different issues that I saw during that visit, there was also a unifying belief, a sense that ideas mattered and participation mattered – showing up, taking part, making a case.  It spoke for a common faith in the power of people and also a shared respect for the responsibility of government. 

Those are the founding principles of both of our democracies.  They are ideals that the United States and the State Department seeks to share with people from every part of the world – citizens who want to help to solve the humanitarian challenges their nation are facing; people who want the world to act on climate change, people who want to see the jobs and prosperity of new economic growth across their society in a shared way, so we have economies that work for people, not people working for economies; and people who believe, as we all do, that the best way of achieving these goals is a system where representatives derive their power from the consent of the governed. 

Of course, this is not easy, and it’s not predictable.  But only dictatorships pretend to be perfect.  Democracies are proud to be human.  We serve a work in progress, a continuing search for a more perfect union, a shared desire to build a better world.  And that’s why all of us know that preserving democracy isn’t just a matter of celebrating it.  We have to nurture it, nourish it, strengthen it, renew it, and, yes, defend it, making sure that it has practical meaning for the people it serves and making sure it is ready for the future it seeks to shape.

Everything that is true for our democracies is also true for our alliance.  In a time of conflict, uncertainty, and rapid change, there’s always the temptation for nations, democracies, and citizens to look back, to search for reassurance instead of seeking renewal.  But as important as our rich history is, our alliance is firmly focused on the future, advancing the vital interests that we share, and building on the universal values that we hold: democracy and peace, freedom and fairness.  They are our North Star, our Southern Cross.  They bring us together.  They light our way and they can still light the world.  This is why ours is an alliance with a bright future, because it is an alliance for a better future. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to conclude with a toast, to thank the Vice President and the Secretary, but to toast our friendship between our great two nations.  To the people of America, the people of Australia, and to an alliance for the future.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-state-luncheon-in-honor-of-australian-prime-minister-anthony-albanese/

originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS