Oct 16, 2017

Our Alliance with the United States Speech – 16 Oct 2017

I want to endorse the comments made by the member for Hughes and the motion moved by the member for Canning, Mr Hastie, and to add my views in support of this motion. There it is a lot of debate about the US-Australia relationship at this point in time. Echoing what the member for Hughes said, I think it’s important to think about the unique nature of the relationship through our shared history and shared values.

The member for Hughes mentioned the Battle of Hamel, and I wanted to mention it as well. Next year Australia and the United States celebrate 100 years of mateship since the Battle of Hamel. The document on the history of this mateship summarises to a large degree the nature of the relationship we have with the United States, which is often misrepresented. The document states:

In 2018, Australia and the United States will mark a centenary of mateship—a friendship first formed in the trenches of World War I during the Battle of Hamel on July 4, 1918.

The offensive to retake Hamel was the earliest instance of American and Australian troops fighting side by side. American troops offensively fought under the command of a non-American for the first time during the Battle of Hamel. That commander was Australian General Sir John Monash—and in honour of the Americans he was commanding, General Monash chose July 4, 1918 as the date of the offensive on Hamel.

The battle plan devised by General Monash was radical for its time—it marked the first time tanks had been used as protection on a battlefield for the advancing infantry and the first time aircraft had been deployed to drop ammunition to ground troops.

General Monash predicted that the offensive would last for 90 minutes. Incredibly it took the Allied forces just 93 minutes to secure victory and—

importantly—

turned the tide against the Germans on the Western Front.

The Battle of Hamel is the symbolic foundation of the deep and enduring bond, mutual respect and close cooperation that continues to exist between the American and Australian militaries today.

I would echo that particular sentiment.

In terms of my assessment of the unique relationship between the United States and Australia, four people shaped my view. One was my father, because we lived in the Goldfields in Western Australia and we had a lot of interaction with American mineral exploration companies that would come to Kalgoorlie, and a lot of people, particularly from Texas, would remark on the great similarities that existed between Texas and Kalgoorlie. As a young man I heard that often. The second was Kim Beazley—former defence minister, former opposition leader and, some would say, the best Prime Minister this country never had. The third was former Prime Minister and foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd, who was quite strong when speaking to me about the alliance with the United States, saying that we would look at our relationships with countries like China and South-East Asia through the prism of our relationship with the Americans. I believe that they were quite eloquent words, as the member for Melbourne Ports says—

Photo of MPMr Danby: Elegant.

Photo of MPMr BYRNE: elegant as well—and I would continue to hold, in my mind, that particular point of view. The fourth was Senator Robert Ray.

But, when some talk about the unbalanced nature of the relationship with the United States, I quote a speech that Kim Beazley gave to this place on 24 June 2004 about our alliance relationship. He said:

That alliance relationship stands because many in government make judgments about the Australian national interest and the fact that it serves it. But it also stands because Australians believe their relationship with the United States is a matter of fair dealing. Australians believe that, in entering a relationship with the United States, we are entering a relationship with a people who are roughly compatible with us in outlook and views about life.

If you do not like the government of the day in the United States, they might not like ours. If you do not like their opposition, they might not like ours. But you know that at the end of the day the process will produce from time to time governments in the United States which every single Australian will have agreements with.

I echo those sentiments and add my voice in support of this motion that has been put forward by the member for Canning.

 

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