Mr. Drummond, thanks so much for your kindness. And, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to you for in a very real way, as far as I’m concerned, allowing me to come home. I have been coming to Australia I think every year since 1967 at least once, and it means a lot to me to be able to be here and be amongst you, as we say where I grew up in Georgia, and I’m grateful.
Let me also express my admiration and respects to the member for Brand, Mr Kim Beazley, my friend of almost 20 years now, Andrew Peacock and Bob Cotton, Sir Robert Cotton, fantastic ambassadors to Washington, and of course Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull. I’m delighted to be in your company as well.
Now, Mr Drummond, you were very kind in your introduction. It was quite laudatory, almost laudatory enough to pass for a eulogy. I want to assure you, sir, and ladies and gentlemen, that rumours of my demise and for that matter Secretary Powell’s demise are greatly exaggerated. In fact, we’ve got an eight letter word to describe those rumours, and I’ll leave it to your imagination. People are counting on their fingers. The word is nonsense, of course, and I knew you’d - allow me also to express some words of gratitude for the opportunity to be here with you all today, and I thank Dick Woolcott for his kind invitation.
Now, Dick of course is well known in Washington circles in which I now travel. He’s been described as, let me get this right, adventurous, irreverent, scornful of authority, with a reckless and a self-destructive streak, and that’s just in his autobiography. By all accounts, however, and I can guarantee this, he’s a wise and a gracious interlocutor on international affairs in general and Australia’s place in the world in particular. And I’ve long enjoyed the benefit of Dick’s views, whether it’s through the Australian-American leadership dialogue or during your distinguished service with the Australian government. Now, I say I’ve benefited from the views. I’ve quite often disagreed with those views, but we’ve enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.
As I’ve said, I’m delighted to be back in Australia. Confident, clever, sunburnt, but whatever label you call this country is a compelling place. Increasingly, as far as I’m concerned, a critical player on the world stage. Even if some Australians perhaps are uncomfortable seeing themselves in that particular light.
Yesterday I had a chat with Alexander Downer and I noted that Minister Downer had recently returned from the Solomon Islands, where he laid out the Australian vision for the future of that nation, Australia’s vision developed in concert with a likeminded coalition of neighbours, which included New Zealand and Fiji and Tonga and Papua New Guinea. It’s clearly based on respect for the people of the Solomons and the destiny that they want to see for themselves. But it is also a vision that is absolutely unapologetic about Australian leadership, and that makes sense when we consider the environment in which Australia is acting in this instance.
It is the nexus formed by the moral compulsion of human misery. The all too apparent post-October 12 need to prevent chaos and lawlessness, and the very feasibility of a resolution. Indeed the backdrop in the Solomons is similar when you look at the steps that Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States and the United States and other nations are now taking in another troubled place, Liberia.
The self-confidence of the Solomons action is an important signal of the Australia that exists today, but also of the reality that is emerging across Asia. Australia, like Japan, like China, like Korea and many of the ASEAN states, has interests to protect and advance. It requires a focus on regional challenges and regional opportunities. But today that regional role is often indivisible from a larger international profile. Australia, like other Asian nations, is a global power with a global role, and more to the point, with global responsibilities.
In that sense, US policy in the Asia Pacific region is not just a question of who supports our interests in the war on terrorism, it is a question of who is willing to take action in support of their own interests across a range of concerns. And so US policy in this region is a constructive vision, one that sees a stabilising Asian engagement in great global flux of our time.
This is a vision that extends to discreet partnership, it extends to longtime friends, and it most certainly extends to treaty allies. And, of course, Australia is a solid ally, but also a partner and a good mate of the United States. Asian in geography, Western by tradition, but global in scope. Australia shares a deep common character with my country. Of course it’s based on the ties of history and culture, political values and demography. I believe, however, it is the twin ties of prospective and action that most bind us together today. This is as true today as it was throughout the past century, when Americans and Australians so often stood together in freedom’s defence.
I believe that we’re going to break new ground in seizing the positive links between our nations with a free trade agreement, which President Bush has ordered us to do our absolute utmost to complete by the end of the year. Now, this agreement has the potential to deliver significant benefits to both our countries, including the areas of property rights and agriculture, as well as benefits to the wider Asia Pacific region, through the new trade and investment it will generate. Indeed, we would hope to use this agreement as well as the agreement we have with Singapore as a model of free trade arrangements in the region, and of course we’re going to continue to work closely to promote multilateral trade liberalisation through the World Trade Organisation.