Sen. Wong referred to TCP’s favorite historian: Thucydides
Sen. Wong referred to The Cranlana Programme’s favourite historian: “Thucydides hit the nail on the head in his History of the Peloponnesian War when he said “identity of interests is the surest of bonds”. Read transcript
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May I begin my presentation by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and by paying our respects to their elders, past and present.
Since being appointed to the Foreign Affairs portfolio, I have worked to construct and articulate a framework for a Shorten Labor government’s foreign policy. This task has become more challenging, and more necessary, by reason of the disruption that characterises today’s global environment.
I have sought to approach this framework both by identifying the principles that underpin Australia’s engagement in the world, and by outlining the conceptual modules comprising the architecture of our approach. In doing so, I have drawn on Labor’s rich foreign policy heritage that, from Evatt to Evans and to the present, tracks the pursuit of an independent foreign policy.
I have also been of the view that devising a strategy to deal with the disruption we face demands less reflexivity and more reflection.
To date, I’ve sought to outline Labor’s view of how we identify our national interests, the place of Australian values in foreign policy, and our broad approach to our relationships with Indonesia, ASEAN, India and China. There is always more to be done, but the principles and outline of Labor’s foreign policy framework are progressing.
This evening, I would like to set out the approach that a Shorten Labor government will adopt towards Australia’s longstanding partnership with the US. In so doing, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of exactly what kind of relationship Australia and the US currently enjoy, its deep foundations and its dynamics. The present, of course, is the basis on which we build the future.
It’s a relationship that can be traced back to 29 April 1770, the day the Endeavour sailed into Botany Bay.
Cook’s Second Lieutenant was John Gore, a Virginian, and one of his Midshipmen was James Matra, a New Yorker after whom the Sydney suburb of Matraville was named. A third less fortunate American among these early visitors, John Thurmond, died on the return voyage.
The decision taken by the government of George III to establish the colony of New South Wales owed much to the American Revolution. The loss of the American colonies meant that the British government had to find somewhere else for the pickpockets, poachers and political prisoners.
Among the first American ‘immigrants’ to Australia were John Moseley and John Randall, who arrived as prisoners with Governor Phillip’s first fleet in 1788. Both were African Americans, as were Billy Blue and John Martin, who arrived a couple of years later. All four had been caught up in various ways in the American Revolution and the War of Independence, and made their way to Britain. They were found guilty of misdemeanours and transported.
From these slender beginnings, the American presence in Australia increased substantially during the gold rushes of the 1850s. The entrepreneurs quickly recognised that there was money to be made. Freeman Cobb from Massachusetts, along with three co-nationals, established Cobb and Co. They quickly sold it to other American investors, leaving behind a transport legend.
But without doubt, the most influential American to have spent time in colonial Australia was the 31st President of the USA, Herbert Hoover. A mining engineer and graduate of Stanford University, Hoover arrived in Albany WA in 1897.
His explorations quickly took him to Leonora where he met three Welsh miners who lacked the capital to exploit their claim. Hoover could recognise a good prospect when he saw one. He persuaded his principals in London to buy the Welshmen out, and established their Sons of Gwalia mine as Australia’s third largest gold producer.
These early industrial and investment links between the US and Australia have presaged an economic relationship that has been key to our nation’s development and prosperity. Australia’s investment opportunities have consistently exceeded our domestic capacity to finance these demands. Foreign investment has therefore been a critical enabler of our prosperity.
China has been our number one trading partner for a decade. Because the Australian and US economies are more competitive than they are complementary, the US ranks second as a trading partner. But in terms of two-way investment, the US is our top partner. At just under $1.5 trillion, two way investment swamps all other investment and trade sources, including the UK (which is second) and China (which is seventh).
These deep economic ties, however, are only part of the story. In many ways, the most significant and subtle aspect of our very longstanding partnership is the constitutional relationship that goes to the core of how Australia and the US organise our democracies and shape our political lives.
Australian constitutionalists drew substantially from the US Constitution in the lead-up to federation. In April this year, the Hon Robert French, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, commented that, “from an Australian perspective, the United States legal system and jurisprudence is a rich intellectual resource for Australian judges, lawyers, academics and law-makers”.
Of particular relevance, in Robert French’s view, was our constitutional expression of the separation of powers including by way of the establishment of the jurisdiction of the High Court.
In this, Australia and the United States share an approach to managing constitutional limits on the power of the Executive government and the Legislature that reflects a common view as to the democratic necessity for such power to be constrained. As a former Justice of the High Court, the Hon Michael Kirby, has remarked:
. . . In Australia, as in the United States, the apex court is constantly called upon to arbitrate on the lawfulness of legislation as well as of executive and judicial acts purportedly done under authority derived from the Constitution or Federal laws.
This common approach to managing power and ensuring the rule of law demonstrates the long-term alignment between our nations, and is a foundation of our continuing partnership.
The rule of law is where values gain legal effect. It is often said that Australia and the US share values. We do. Freedom and liberty go to the core of the kind of societies we are. While our values are certainly compatible, there are differences between our values. Australians generally put a premium on a “fair go”. Americans place a premium on individualism. Both are valued, but the weightings are different.
The rule of law is enshrined in the legal systems of Australia and the US. And the law – our legislation and the instruments that give effect to legislation – is where our values are both reflected and protected. Our values, of course, define what we stand for and, in that sense, give expression to our identity. So while Australia and the US are different, there is enormous resonance in what we both stand for.
Senator John McCain, whose family relationship with Australia dates back to the visit of the Great White Fleet in 1908, captured this beautifully when he spoke in Sydney earlier this year. He said, “. . . the animating purpose of our alliance is that we are free societies, founded by immigrants and pioneers, who put our faith in the rule of law, and who believe that our destinies are inseparable from the character of the broader world order”.
We may both be somewhat sentimental when we talk about values, but we are both hard-headed when it comes to the realist foundations of our national interests.
Partnership in war became one of the touchstones of the relationship, as it remains to this day. The visit of the Great White Fleet to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany in 1908 was the spectacle of its time. Over half a million Sydneysiders turned out on 20 August 1908 to welcome the sixteen ship armada, President Theodore Roosevelt’s declaration that the US had arrived as a global maritime power.
Prime Minister Deakin leveraged the visit brilliantly, to the extent that the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, has called him the principal architect of the Royal Australian Navy. As Admiral Barrett has pointed out in some detail, the relationship between our respective navies has gone from strength to strength.
So too has the relationship between our army and air forces. On 4 July 1918, Lt Col George Patton, under the command of Lt Gen John Monash, led his squadron of tanks against the imperial German forces. This was the first time that US forces operated under Australian command.
WW2 was, of course, the watershed in the Australia-US relationship. Entire libraries have been written about our relationship in WW2. I don’t propose to survey them here. But I will remind you of John Curtin’s words published in The (Melbourne) Herald on 27 December 1941.
The Australian Government . . . regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies’ fighting plan. Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.
And the rest is history. The US Seventh Fleet was formed in Brisbane in 1943, and Australia fought with the US in the major sea battles of the Pacific. And General Douglas Macarthur used Australia as his launching pad for the Pacific land battles that eventually saw the defeat of Japan.
In armed conflicts over more than a century, the military forces of Australia and the US have worked together to secure our shared strategic interests.
The vehicle that gives principal expression to our sense of common security purpose is the ANZUS Treaty. ANZUS arose in the broader context of the post-WW2 settlement. It provided a strategic framework for dealing with re-emergent militarism as a possible future threat to security in the Pacific. The treaty underwent a fundamental transformation at the hands of Australian Defence Minister Kim Beazley and US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger during the mid-80s. They reoriented ANZUS from a threat-based agreement to one that focused on the strategic aspirations and purposes of both parties.
This is nowhere more clear than it is in the arrangements introduced at the Australia-US Joint Facilities, where the integration of the Australian and US staffs, as a result of management and operational changes, make the facilities truly ‘joint’.
The original purpose of the Joint Facilities – the collection of signals intelligence – expanded to afford them a key role in the monitoring of arms control agreements, among other things. That remains the case. With the continued growth of technical capacity, the Joint Facilities now permit the US and Australia greater operational integration.
As Kim Beazley wrote a short while ago, “[Since the end of the Cold War] it’s the steady integration of Pine Gap within our own intelligence and armed services operations that has marked a real functional change. It is now as vital for us as it is for the Americans”.
It is important to appreciate that these deep intelligence and security links, as captured in the ANZUS alliance, would simply not have been possible without their constitutional and economic antecedents.
Taken together, these three principal dimensions of our relationship with the US – economic, jurisprudential and strategic – permeated as they are by the cultural, familial, personal and social relationships that have developed over the course of the past century and a half, provide the connections within which we are able to work together so effectively.
The salient feature about alliances is this: they are not about warfare. They are about common interests.
As we confront the challenges of the age of disruption, there are five policy approaches that will guide a Shorten Labor government in our relationship with the US:
- First, we must have a clear idea of our national interests, of the national interests of the US, and work to harmonise those interests to the benefit of both parties and the broader international community with which we work.
- Second, we must accept that we do live in a disrupted world – the world as it is – and approach its challenges with confidence and optimism to create the world we want for ourselves, our children and their children.
- Third, we must work with the US as it is – a nation of enormous agility, energy, generosity, invention and vitality.
- Fourth, we need to work with the US to build our mutual capacity to strengthen the resilience, stability and prosperity of our region, underpinned by an internationally observed rules-based order.
- And fifth, we need to apply the operating principles of the ANZUS Treaty – consultation (article 3) and action (article 4) – across the entire bilateral relationship, and not restrict them simply to our defence relationship.
These policy approaches will see Australia and the US deepen our bilateral relationship and deliver on the opportunities that the age of disruption presents.
They might appear to be unexceptionable, and they are. But without them, the policy focus is on short-term issue management rather than long-term objectives – which happens when there is not an operating framework for consultation, decision and action.
The starting point for any foreign policy is a clear understanding of our national interests. As I said at the AIIA annual conference in October, all foreign relationships must ultimately work both to express and to promote our national interests. National interests can converge or they can collide: but we won’t know either way if we don’t know what they are.
It was for precisely that reason that I set out Labor’s view of our national interests in a speech to the Lowy Institute in early July. The core interests that will frame and deliver Labor’s foreign policy are:
- The security of the nation and its people.
- The economic prosperity of the nation and its people, enabled by frameworks that will allow Australia to take advantage of international economic opportunities.
- A stable, co-operative strategic system in our region anchored in the rule of law.
- Constructive internationalism, including supporting the continued development of an international rules-based order.
Giving effect to these national interests depends on our ability to harness the national power that gives substance to the national interest. And national power, in concert with a strong sense of national identity, is what energises the collaborative efforts of Australia and the US.
The US, of course, has a global dimension to its national power, especially its economic and military power, that reflects its extraordinary national power. Australia’s interests are global, but our power evidently is not. The fundamental question for all nations is how they intend to employ their national power in pursuit of their national interests.
We need to engage on interests. A US emphasis on national economic sovereignty, or protection, for instance, as distinct from leadership in generating a fair global economic system, is a significant development. As a mature, reliable and contributing partner with the US, we need to voice these kinds of issues, as much in the interests of the US as in our own interests.
Labor’s second policy approach is acceptance that we live in a disrupted world. Across Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, disruptive forces are at play. Unpredictable political groupings, re-emergent nationalism, the increasing challenge to democracy as the most effective form of political participation, global terrorism, worsening economic inequality and the growing challenge to the international rules-based order – these are the elements of global disruption.
Disruption is disturbing, and it is challenging. Perhaps the greatest challenge is how we address the divergence between economic power and military power as expressions of strategic power. We have become comfortable with the traditional alignment between economic and military power – soft power and hard power – as two sides of the same strategic power coin. This, in large measure, defined the strategic dominance of the US for the past seventy years.
The US has contributed to the disruption that now characterises the global political environment. As I noted in an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald this time last year, with the election of President Trump we face the possibility of a very different world and a very different America. A year on from President Trump’s election, what kind of world is emerging and what kind of country America is becoming has not become much clearer, and how we might transcend personality politics in both the US and Australia has not become any easier.
I again make the point, as I made then, that our relationship with the US is deep, longstanding and institutional, and is not a function of the personalities of our respective leaders.
China’s newfound economic strength and assertiveness have also contributed to the age of disruption. As we have seen with China’s extraordinary rise, economic power can now have a strategic effect independent of military power. What remains uncertain is the consequence of China’s military strength growing to match its economic strength as its strategic ambitions are realised over the coming decades. This “double whammy” form of disruption – the separation of economic and military power and then its recombination – will largely define the region in which Australia and the US have strategic interests for the rest of this century.
For Australia, the best way to manage disruption on a global scale is to engage actively in constructive internationalism, in what Gareth Evans proposed twenty five years ago as “good international citizenship”. This means that we must contribute to creating global and regional public goods. These include: managing climate change; arms control; protecting and advancing human rights; working to manage and reduce the global refugee crisis; preventing and responding to global terrorism, drug distribution and criminality, and many other global issues.
Our third policy approach is to work with the US as it is now, not as it might once have been, or as some of its naysayers claim it’s going to become. The US is one of the most vibrant societies on earth, as energetic and full of potential as it has ever been. It is constantly transforming itself as it capitalises on its enormous human, social and physical capital resources.
The US has a lot on its plate at present. It is dealing with internal economic, political and social stresses as well as substantial fiscal challenges. The place the US has and seeks to project in the world, as well as its approach to its alliance relationships, have been the subject of political debate and varying degrees of political rhetoric.
The US is also dealing with the allegations of foreign interference in the inner workings of its own democracy. This is as subversive as it is infectious. Australia, along with our fellow democracies, needs to work with the US to bolster and strengthen democracies everywhere.
Working with the US as it is demands clarity, consistency and persistence across the entire gamut of our bilateral relationship. Engagement at the head of government level remains important, as does engagement between our national institutions, corporations, public and private sector decision-makers and, very importantly, our think tanks.
This goes to the heart of what alliances do. Thucydides hit the nail on the head in his History of the Peloponnesian War when he said “identity of interests is the surest of bonds”. When interests converge, alliances are strengthened. Hans Morgenthau, often regarded as the founder of the Realist School of International Relations, develops this point in Politics Among Nations.
. . . An alliance requires of necessity a community of interests for its foundation. . . . An alliance adds precision . . . to an existing community of interests and to the general policies and concrete measures serving them.
More particularly, as I said in The Sydney Morning Herald last year, the alliance must continue to be defined by the principles that have always underpinned it – the same principles and shared values that have shaped our postwar world order – democracy, freedom and human rights. Our common interests with the US include support for a strong alliance system in Asia; a liberal, open, global trading system; and a commitment to deal collectively with global threats and challenges.
The emphasis on interests is important: while values remain relevant to Morgenthau’s consideration of alliances, the primary focus is on interests, since these involve national power, which is what interests are really all about.
As the present government showed by taking a different position on the Paris Accords from that of the Trump administration, the pursuit of an independent foreign policy is an essential reflection of an independent and democratic society. Independence means that we pursue our own goals for our own purposes. As I said earlier, this has been a central feature of the Labor foreign policy tradition.
The fourth policy approach is to build our mutual capacity to strengthen the resilience, stability and prosperity of our region, underpinned by an internationally observed rules-based order. When I spoke to the AIIA last month, I said that our long-term relationship with China will not be delivered at the expense of our relationship with the US. I went on to say that our relationship with China will be delivered to a very significant extent precisely because of our relationship with the US. This reflects the fact that ANZUS not only underpins our national security but is also a key contributor to the peace, stability and security of our region.
As reflected in Labor’s FutureAsia strategy, our region matters to us. It also matters to China. And it matters to the US. I have said elsewhere that as we look west and north to Asia, we see a landmass and a series of archipelagos bookended by Asia’s two historical cultural influencers – China and India – and including the great economic powerhouses of China, Japan, South Korea and India. We also see a group of ten nations – the members of ASEAN – that have invested continuously for over fifty years in building and maintaining regional stability.
Asia is currently the engine-room of global economic growth. While China dominates Asia’s economic output, it is important to recognize that six regional countries – Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea – account for over 28 percent of the global economy. That is more than either the European or the North American share of the global economy.
Asia really matters.
Global dependence on Asia’s economic growth is set to grow. That is why Australia and the US must do what we can to support the trajectory of that growth, while simultaneously fostering greater adherence to and respect for the rule of law across Asia and, to the greatest extent possible, encouraging the emerging democracies to stay the course.
And our final policy approach is to apply the operating principles of the ANZUS Treaty across the entire bilateral relationship.
The operational clauses of the ANZUS Treaty are found in articles three and four. Article three simply requires Australia and the US to consult together whenever the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened. Article four is more interesting. It requires each party to act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. It specifies that measures taken to meet the common danger should be reported to the UN Security Council, and that those measures should be terminated when the Security Council has acted to restore and maintain international peace and security.
It is important to appreciate that the Treaty does not identify any situation in which the Treaty applies automatically: consultation and subsequent decision are always required.
Our defence relationship is both historic and significant. But it is not truly separable from the structures that define the entire bilateral relationship. Our purpose here is not to securitise our bilateral relationship. Far from it. It is to generate the depth and robustness that the relationship needs if it is to realise the opportunities that the age of disruption brings with it.
In the age of disruption, consultation and adopting measures to address the challenges and capture the opportunities is exactly what Australia and the US should be doing across the board. As I pointed out earlier, the cultural, economic, political, social and strategic challenges that the age of disruption brings with it are significant and, as in most things, two heads are better than one. This is where additional density in the bilateral relationship makes real sense.
Australia and the US enjoy links across business, commercial, corporate, cultural and investment sectors. In 2016, over 700 thousand Americans visited Australia, an increase of almost 60 percent in a decade. Over 1 million Australians travelled to the US in the same period, an increase of almost 140 percent over a decade. Australia’s investment footprint in the US is remarkable. Over 400 Australian companies have a presence in the US, employing over 180 thousand Americans, paying them an average of USD 88 thousand per annum, representing an investment of USD 431 billion.
These links are growing, because the market sees two-way benefit in that growth.
At the inter-governmental level, however, there is much more that can be done. We already have longstanding bilateral structures in place. Meetings between the Prime Minister and the President are a regular occurrence, and the AUSMIN consultations are an annual event. Treasurers and Trade Ministers are in reasonably constant discussion, as are Ministers with cyber security and law enforcement responsibilities, given the global terrorism threat. These mechanisms are necessary, but they are not sufficient.
In the age of disruption, we need to build greater depth in the bilateral relationship, moving beyond defence, security, economic, financial and trade consultations at the political and senior public service levels to include a broader range of public policy matters. These should include critical issues such as climate change, urban design, social infrastructure design, education, agriculture, employment, retirement and aged care policies, as well as gender policy, since the empowerment of women remains the best and quickest way to improve productivity and national wealth.
The reason I advocate both broadening and deepening our relationship with the US goes back to the observation I made at the beginning of this presentation: our two democracies rest on a constitutional and legal foundation that enshrines the rule of law, linking us both as nations and as citizens. The public policy issues that affect our two societies are extraordinarily similar – because the expectations of our electorates are so similar.
Our nations need an enhanced ‘track 2’ relationship with the US policy community. This would be a priority of a Shorten Labor government. Over the past couple of decades, policy development in Australia has increasingly relied on contributions and ideas from the private sector – particularly the think tanks and various consulting bodies. In the US, that has long been the case: as US administrations change, so does the raft of advisors who support the President’s Cabinet officers in the development of policy.
The University of Pennsylvania has identified nearly two thousand think tanks across the US, just under 400 of them in Washington DC – too many for even the most hyperactive policy wonk to access. But there are twenty or so Washington-based institutions that are world renowned. Australian universities and think tanks need to be engaged with them.
In March this year, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, invited me to address Australia’s senior diplomats as part of the government’s wish to develop a foreign policy White Paper. I reminded them that, in the age of disruption, we need to ensure that our relationship with the US is both sensitive to the changes that are underway and conducive to creating a more confident, vibrant and robust security dialogue. And here, of course, I was speaking of security in that integrated sense that encompasses the economic, social and physical well-being of the entire community.
Confidence and optimism are the key to success in the age of disruption. For all the reasons I have outlined tonight, and more, Australia and the US need to work together to achieve that success. To conclude with Senator John McCain:
. . . We really are the greatest experiment in history. Countries rise and fall, dynasties rise and fall, but what they did, and the people who came before us, and what we need to keep alive is this incredible experiment called democracy.