Julia Gillard

Address to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress

delivered 10 March 2011, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

  Thank you very much. 

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President pro tempore, distinguished members of the Senate and the House, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen: 

I'm the fourth Australian Prime Minister to address you. Like them, I take your invitation as a great honor. Like them, I accepted on behalf of Australia.

Since 1950 Australian Prime Ministers, Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke, and John Howard have come here, speaking for all the Australian people, through you to all the people of the United States.

They each came with a simple message. A message which has been true in war and peace. A message which has been true in hardship and prosperity, in the cold war and in the new world. A message I repeat to you today.

Distinguished members of the Senate and the House, you have a true friend down under.

For my parents' generation, the defining image of America was the landing at Normandy. Your boys of Pronta Ho1 [sic] risking everything to help free the world.

For my own generation, the defining image of America was the landing on the moon. My classmates and I were sent home from school to watch the great moment on television. I always remember thinking that day, Americans can do anything.

Americans helped free the world of my parents' generation. Americans inspired the world of my own youth. I stand here and I see before me, the very same brave and free people. I believe you can do anything still.

There is a reason the world always looks to America. Your great dream, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness inspires us all.

Those of you who have spent time with Australians know that we're not given to over statement. By nature, we're laconic speakers and by conviction we are realistic thinkers. In both of our countries, real mates talk straight. We mean what we say.

So let me say this to you. You have an ally in Australia, an ally for war and peace, an ally for hardship and prosperity, an ally for the sixty years past, and Australia is also an ally for all of the years to come.

Geography and history alone could never explain the strength of the commitment between us. Rather our values are shared and our people are friends. This is the heart of our alliance. This is why in our darkest days, we've been glad, glad to see each other's face and hear each other's voice.

Australia's darkest days in the last century followed the fall of Singapore in 1942 and you were there with us. Under attack in the Pacific, we fought together, side by side, step by bloody step. And whilst it was Australian soldiers at Milne Bay who gave at the allies our first victory on land in the Pacific war, it was American sailors at the Battle of the Coral Sea who destroyed the fear of an invasion of Australia.

Distinguished members of the Senate and the House, Australia does not forget. We will never forget.

The ultimate expression of our alliance, the ANZUS Treaty was not signed until 1951. But it was anticipated a decade earlier in the judgments, the clear, frank and accurate judgments of an Australian Prime Minister, and in the resolve, the extraordinary, immovable resolve of an American President.

In the decades since, we've stuck together in every major conflict, from Korea and Vietnam, to the conflicts in the Gulf. Your darkest days since Pearl Harbor were ten years ago in Washington and New York and we were with you.

My predecessor John Howard was quite literally with you and he came to this Capitol when you met on September 12 to show you that Australians would be with you again. And after fifty years under a new Prime Minister and a new President, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked.

Within Australia's democracy, John Howard and I had our differences, but he was and is an Australian patriot, a man who was moved by what he saw here in that terrible September. He was and is a friend of America.

When John Howard addressed you here in 2002, we were already with you in Afghanistan and we are with you there still.

I want you to know what I've told Australia's Parliament in Canberra, what I told General Petraeus in Kabul, what I told President Obama in the Oval Office this week. Australia will stand firm with our ally, the United States.

Friends -- Friends understand this, that we will stand firm with you. But perhaps more importantly, our enemies understand this too.

We must be very realistic about Afghanistan's future. Australia firmly supports the international strategy led by President Obama and adopted in Lisbon last year. Australia is doing our part, in Uruzgan province in particular and across the whole of Afghanistan.

The government of Afghanistan must play its part too. We know transition will take some years. We must not transition out only to transition back in. We must not.

From my discussions with your country's leaders in Washington, my meetings with generals in Afghanistan, and my time with our troops, this is my conclusion. I believe we have the right strategy in place, a resolute and courageous commander in General Petraeus and the resources needed to deliver the strategy. I am cautiously encouraged by what I have seen.

For a moment I want you to see Afghanistan through the eyes of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. Ben is Australia's most recent Victoria Cross winner, our equivalent of your Medal of Honor. Ben is a veteran of five tours of Afghanistan and first went there in 2006. When we met recently his words to me were compelling. He said it's not the same country I first went to five years ago. We are making a difference.

Friends, there are hard days ahead. I flew to your country the day after attending the funeral of a young Australian who served in Afghanistan, Sapper Jamie Larcombe was from my home state of South Australia, from a small community with the most perfectly Australian name, Kangaroo Island. Jamie's life's ambition was to serve his country. He was a long way from Kangaroo Island when he made the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember.

I know very many -- very many young Americans have served their country and lost their lives in Afghanistan too. As a friend, we share your grief. As an ally, we share your resolve. Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for terrorism.

Just as our security alliance is one for war and peace, our economic partnership is one for hardship and prosperity. In hard days, we work together. Our societies share a deep understanding of the importance of work. We believe life is given purpose and direction by work. Without work there is corrosive aimlessness. With the loss of work comes the loss of dignity. That's why in each of our countries, the great goal of all we do in the economy is the same. That great goal is to ensure that everyone who can work, does work.

In turn, this is why each of our countries took early and strong action in the face of the greatest threat to the world's economy since the Great Depression. And we did not just act locally or individually, we worked hard together, when, we worked together when hardship came. It was difficult but we did it together.

New global realities and the emerging economic weight of countries like China, India, and Brazil meant the vital forum for the global response was the leaders of the G-20 nations. My predecessor, Kevin Rudd worked hard to ensure this was so. The world needed a global response to the economic crisis and global leadership was vital. Together the G-20 coordinated five trillion dollars in fiscal stimulus for the global economy.

While there has been very real pain, the global response averted true economic disaster. Economic stimulus has been crucial to limit the worst effects of the downturn. Economic reform is crucial now to deliver the best hopes for a strong recovery. 

Like you, I'm a leader in a democracy. I know reform is never easy, but I know reform is right. The general economic outlook remains fragile and uncertain. Global economic balances persist and we must address them or risk future instability.

Your leadership in the G-20 is still needed to ensure we make the reforms which will keep the global economy on the path to strong, sustained, and balanced growth. And that is the path to growth in America as well.

We worked hard with you during the global economic crisis to resist protectionist pressures. This only built on our decades working together to promote free trade in the world.

I know many of you worked hard to achieve the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Can I say to each of you today, thank you.

Our free trade agreement shows the benefits of free trade and we aim for even -- even larger benefits from the trans-Pacific partnership, which is a great economic opportunity for our two countries and seven of our regional partners.

And we have other opportunities to promote trade and jobs as well. I'm looking forward to your country hosting the APEC Leaders' meeting later this year. We will work closely together there.

Australia is also working for an ambitious and balanced conclusion of the WTO Doha Round as soon as possible. And we look forward to your Congress passing a 2012 farm bill that advances free trade rather than distorting it, and through free trade, creates jobs. We know the equation is simple. Trade equals jobs, a very simple equation.

Our societies share a deep understanding of the importance of work and our societies share a deep commitment to the value of education. We understand education's transformative power. We know education is the future for every child who learns. We also know education is the future for our economies. Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity and these in term rely on the education of our people.

Australia and America are partners in a globalized world where open societies flourish and competitive economies thrive. That's why I went to a school in Wakefield, Virginia with President Obama this week. The President and I not only saw children learning, we saw the future of your people, and the future of your prosperity as well.

Australians are deeply grateful to your greatest generation for their mighty deeds. This week I've seen a new generation of Americans. I genuinely believe they can be greater still. Achieving prosperity while sharing its benefits requires farsighted educational reforms.

In the same way, achieving growth while caring for our climate requires farsighted economic reforms. Breaking the link between economic growth and emissions growth is a difficult challenge for our economies and we can only achieve it by working together. Our cooperation in key international forums and in research and development is making an important contribution. We must work together to achieve an historic transition to high technology, high skill, clean energy economies.

Shared values are the basis of our security alliance and shared values are the basis of our economic partnership as well. Through hard work and education we can deliver a strong economy and opportunity for all.

Americans are great optimists and Australians will always have a go. So conceived in the Pacific war and born in the Cold War, adapted to the Space Age, and invoked in the face of terror, our indispensable alliance is a friendship for the future.

It is this year, the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of our treaty. It is because of that I have the opportunity to speak to you today. For that, I'm grateful. As I said to President Obama, it is an alliance sixty years young with so much future to share, and this is a timely opportunity, not so much for reflection on the past as the discussion of our future.

The bipolar world in which our alliance was signed has long since disappeared. I'm not sad about its passing. Hundreds of millions of people have a better life today. Democracy and human dignity have spread wide in the world in the last twenty years. We've seen this from Eastern Europe to East Asia in recent years and we are seeing the hope of it in the Middle East right now. We understand that nothing is certain. There is still much for the people of the Middle East to do. And the governments of the world will be called on to help them do it.

Yet I believe what we are seeing is unchanging realities of human nature finding a new expression in a new way.

For Australia's part we will do what we can and work with you to support orderly transitions to democracy, to foster human rights and religious freedom within the countries of the Middle East, and to secure a lasting peace between them, a peace where no nation threatens another, which is why we join you in condemning Iran's nuclear program.

And we also strive for peace, a peace where Israel is secure and where Palestinians have a state of their own, which is why we join you in calling on all parties to negotiate in good faith.

Our alliance was signed sixty years ago in the Cold War and it lives in a new world today. And momentous as the changes in the Middle East are, I believe it is in the Asia Pacific where the global order is changing the most. We admire India's example as a true democracy. We never forget Indonesia's transition to create the world's third largest democracy in the world's largest Islamic country. And we applaud China's lifting some five hundred million people out of poverty.

The center of global strategic and economic weight is shifting to this region. The rise of the Asia Pacific will define our times. Like you, our relationship with China is important and complex. We encourage China to engage as a good global citizen. And we are clear-eyed about where differences do lie.

My guiding principle is that prosperity can be shared. We can create wealth together. The global economy is not a zero-sum gain. There is no reason for Chinese prosperity to detract from prosperity in Australia, the United States, or any where in the world. America has always understood this principle of the economy, that everyone can benefit when everyone competes.

And for sixty years your leadership in the Asia Pacific has showed this. Your commitment to free trade and investment fueled the growth. Your presence and network of allies ensured the stability. You were indispensable in the Cold War and you are indispensable in the new world too.

So, your growing engagement with key countries in the region like Japan, India, South Korea, and Indonesia is enormously welcome. We will work closely with you to strengthen the fabric of these relationships and underpin regional stability. Strengthening regional institutions so that the countries of the Asia Pacific increasingly manage the frictions of a growing and changing Asia Pacific.

That's why your nation's decision to join the East Asia Summit is such good news. The Summit brings the leaders of the region's major powers together and has a mandate to deal with the whole range of economic, political, and security issues our countries face. Our relationship is evolving to meet these new challenges from defense and intelligence, to diplomacy and trade.

Australia in the south, with South Korea and Japan to the north, form real Asia Pacific partnerships with the United States, anchors of regional stability. An alliance which was strong in the Cold War. An alliance which is strong in the new world.

In both of our countries, true friends stick together. Our nations do this and our people do this as well. Nothing better tells this truth than the story of two firefighters. Many Australians and Americans worked together in the late 1990s to be ready to protect the 2000 Sydney Olympics from possible terrorist attack.

One group of Australians spent two months in New York training and working, including a long time with New York's Fire Department Rescue One. They worked hard together and became more than colleagues. They became mates. So when it was time to go home, the Australian commander gave Rescue One's chief his Australian army's slouch hat. And the chief presented the Australians with a battle-scarred fire helmet dated December 19, '98 and signed by members of the Rescue One crew including Kevin Dowdell.

Three years later Kevin Dowdell was one of the hundreds of New York firefighters killed when the towers came down. Kevin led his men in. His remains were never found. But that helmet was in Australia and Aussie firefighter, Rob Frey found Kevin's sons. James Dowdell is one of New York's bravest, a firefighter like his father before him. Patrick Dowdell is wearing his country's uniform in Afghanistan.

Rob came to America to give James the helmet his father signed, a precious possession, a last link to a father lost. And I give you their story, a precious possession too. These two men are here today, Rob, James good on you.

Rob, James we are so proud of what you represent. Your story says it all, about the friendship between Australia and the United States, together in the hardest of times, friends for the future.

When our alliance was signed sixty years ago, the challenges of the Space Age were still to come. The challenges of terrorism was still to come. For sixty years, leaders from Australia and the United States have looked inside themselves and found the courage, the courage to face those challenges. And after sixty years we do the same today, to protect our peoples, to share our prosperity, to safeguard our future.

For ours is a friendship for the future. It has been from its founding and it remains so today. You have a friend in Australia and you have an ally and we know what that means. In both our countries, true friends stick together. In both our countries, real mates talk straight.

So as a friend, I urge you only this. Be worthy to your own best traditions. Be bold. In 1942 John Curtin, my predecessor, my country's great wartime leader looked to America. I still do.

This year you mark the centenary of President Regan's birth. He remains a great symbol of American optimism. The only greater symbol of American optimism is America itself. 

The eyes of the world are still upon you. Your city on a hill cannot be hidden. Your brave and free people have made you the masters of recovery and reinvention.

As I stand before you in this, this cradle of democracy I see a nation that changed the world, a nation that has known remarkable days. I firmly believe you are the same people who amazed me when I was a small girl by landing on the moon. On that great day, I believed Americans could do anything.

I believe that still. You can do anything.

Thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Curious, though not indefensible, pronunciation of Pointe du Hoc

Research Note: Transcription by Diane Wiegand

Audio Source: C-SPAN.org

Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Page Updated: 1/5/24

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