Monday, 9 November 2020
Statements on Indulgence
United States Presidential Election
The United States of America is a great democracy—vibrant, passionate, heartfelt, resolute. And the people of the United States have spoken again and elected its 46th President in its 244 years of being a republic. I join with other nations and other nations' leaders and say on behalf of the Australian government and the Australian people that I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their election. Almost 150 million votes were cast, possibly more when the final tallies are in—remarkable engagement and participation, and we celebrate that as Australians, as a liberal democratic people.
Australians always do take a deep interest in US elections, in part because of their vibrancy and passion, but more so because of our history and our futures being so closely intertwined. The United States is amongst our oldest of allies and our firmest of friends. The Australian-US alliance is a pillar of our nation's security and the stability of our region, an alliance we have nurtured over nearly seven decades under the ANZUS alliance. As President-elect Biden put it when he visited Australia as Vice President in 2016: 'Thank you for having America's back, and we will always have your back.' He said:
The partnership between Australia and America is at the core of our vision for the region's future. It's not what we can do for Australia. It's what we can do with Australia.
It's always been that way, a true partnership. This is an alliance built on fundamental shared values, the equal and unalienable rights of our people, the supremacy of the ballot box, the rule of law, freedom of the press, the separation of powers, and the free flow of commerce and ideas, market based economies and mutual respect. It's a relationship that transcends partisan politics. Since 1918, it is a relationship that has been built upon and strengthened by 24 Australian prime ministers and 18 American presidents, from right across the political divide. We are all custodians of that relationship, unencumbered by domestic partisanship.
I thank also President Trump, Vice President Pence, secretaries Pompeo and Mnuchin and Esper, and the entire Trump administration for their deep commitment to this relationship over these past four years, and I thank them for the working relationship that we've had and, indeed, will continue to have as the administration transitions. We have worked in partnership to strengthen our alliance and to advance shared interests in our region and all around the world. We have forged new areas of cooperation in space, critical minerals, frontier technologies and more, and this work will go on. And a new chapter will begin on 20 January 2021.
The year 2021 marks 70 years since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty under Prime Minister Menzies and President Truman. ANZUS is the cornerstone of our security, and I look forward to honouring that anniversary at an appropriate point with the US President. I have written to the President-elect inviting him to be in Australia for the purposes of the celebration of the ANZUS alliance. President-elect Biden has been a good friend of Australia over many, many years. There is a shared affinity. President-elect Biden once said this about Australians:
In my view, Australians are defined by their character; by the grit, their integrity, their unyielding resilience …
Having witnessed the President-elect's personal and public journey over many years, I believe we can say the same of him: a man of grit, character, integrity and unyielding resilience.
Australia looks forward to working with him on the many challenges the world faces. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. The health, economic and geostrategic consequences of that are still being played out. Australia believes in a free and open Indo-Pacific region. We are committed to upholding the rules, norms and standards of our international community. We share views on the importance of multilateral institutions and strengthening democracies, and on the crucial role that open and rules based trade will play as the world emerges from the pandemic recession. And, like President-elect Biden, we're committed to developing new technologies to reduce global emissions as we tackle climate change.
My message at this time is clear: American leadership, as always, is indispensable to meeting these challenges. As I said on the White House South Lawn last year, Australia looks to the United States but we don't leave it to the United States—and we never have; we play our part, we carry our own. Sir Robert Menzies once said that Australians and Americans are warmed by the same inner fires, and we are. That's why this relationship has always been bigger than any one of us. As Prime Minister to the President-elect: we share now in that special custodianship of a relationship that has endured so long and been so important to the citizens of both our countries. I have absolutely every confidence that it will continue to go from strength to strength as we work again with an old friend of Australia, President-elect Joe Biden.
I join with the Prime Minister in congratulating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election to the highest offices in the United States of America. It is indeed an historic victory, one based upon a platform of decency, honesty and progressive leadership. It is also based upon respect: respect for science and respect for education but, above all, respect for the American people, whether they voted for Joe Biden or not.
I'm sure we all took great heart from the President-elect's vow to be a president who seeks not to divide but to unify. We have seen this already with the hand that he has extended to the many Americans who had hoped for a different result. And we see it in Kamala Harris's election as the United States' next Vice President. Her ascension is truly history in the making. She will be the first woman to hold the office, the first woman of colour and the first daughter of immigrants. The power of this might not be immediately obvious to all, especially to those who have been unable to take it for granted—generation in and generation out—that the halls of power will be filled with people who look like them. This makes it a change; this is a step closer to a truly United States.
It is what all of us hope in our hearts for a nation that is a dear friend and a valued ally. Our alliance with the United States is, without doubt, our most important. It sits at the heart of Australia's security arrangements and it is based upon our common values, at the core of which is support for democratic principles. Forged by John Curtin when our very nation was facing our darkest hour, our alliance built on those most fundamental values: the right to vote, the right to be heard and the right to be free. When the alliance began in the depths of World War II those values were under threat across the planet from totalitarian regimes. Our nations fought for those values at great human cost. Those values must be respected. The democratic process must always be allowed to run its course, no matter how bumpy it can get—and I suspect there are few people in this chamber who didn't get much sleep, due to the time difference, watching those results roll in after last week's election.
We are certainly not shrinking violets here in Australia, but when we look to the US and its democracy we're sometimes struck by the scale and the energy of it. It is robust and it is fought hard, but even in its occasional untidiness we see a democracy that has survived the tough tumult of history—a democracy which has passed yet another test. We revel in it, but we do not take it for granted, which is why we must always speak up in favour of democracy, in favour of having every vote counted. One person, one vote, one value: that's the principle that both our countries hold dear.
And while we witnessed the strength of US democracy, we also see the dangerous circus of conspiracy theories casting shadow and doubt. They should be called out for the nonsense that they are. We need to stand up for democratic values here and abroad. Indeed, this should be the first instinct of anyone who is leader of a democracy. Labor looks forward to the US reprising its leadership role in global institutions. Labor welcomes the incoming president's commitment to engage with our region on critical issues, including climate change, by signing up to the Paris accord and by re-engaging with the World Health Organization. The US has played such a critical leadership role in the world, and we cannot afford for it to retreat from the world or, particularly, from our region.
We are pleased that our great friend and ally will be guided by a president who not only has accepted the reality of climate change but also is ready to pursue new industries and jobs of the future. Joe Biden's victory means that big players in our region—the US, Japan and South Korea—are committed to reducing carbon emissions, supporting growth in renewables and moving towards net zero by 2050. It gives me great confidence for the future. I know Joe Biden. I've had the pleasure of meeting him. I know firsthand that he is a great friend of Australia. I know that he will work with the government of Australia and that he will be a great partner with us—on trade, on a range of issues. Above all, he has shown a remarkable resilience. He was declared elected on the 48th anniversary of his election to the Senate—a remarkable career. He is someone who shows just how passionate and committed he is to his great country. He will bring that experience, that passion, that energy and that commitment to the presidency of the United States and to the world, and that will be a very good thing indeed.