Senate debates

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty: 70th Anniversary

3:01 pm

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that today marks the 70th anniversary of the alliance between Australia and the United States of America under the ANZUS Treaty;

(b) reaffirms the commitment of Australia to that alliance, recognising its fundamental importance to our nation's security, sovereignty and prosperity, and to meeting the opportunities and challenges of our time;

(c) acknowledges that the alliance has underpinned peace, stability and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, and that American leadership remains indispensable to the global rules-based order;

(d) acknowledges that next week marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, in response to which the ANZUS Treaty was invoked;

(e) places on record its profound gratitude to the servicemen and women of both our nations who have served together over more than a century; and

(f) acknowledges that the enduring friendship between our nations is underpinned by shared liberal democratic values and principles, and these have been embraced by our peoples across generations.

Today, Mr President and colleagues, marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In 1951 the world was still recovering from the horrors of World War II, and Australia's foreign policy was driven by a need to safeguard peace and security in our region. What Australia sought and what we found in the United States was a partner with whom we could work to build a better future.

As he signed the ANZUS treaty in 1951, Australia's then Ambassador to the United States, Sir Percy Spender, said the treaty marked 'the first step in building the ramparts of freedom in the vast and increasingly important area of the Pacific Ocean.' He described how the alliance was conceived, not in hostility to any country but in a devout dedication to the cause of peace. The truth of this description has never been more relevant than it is today. Over 70 years, ANZUS has helped us to achieve this goal. It continues to do so today, and we are determined that, as our region faces new challenges, it will do so in the future.

The treaty is more than just a collective defence agreement. It provides a framework for how our two countries have worked and continue to work together to foster and sustain a region that benefits all countries. It is an alliance based on shared values and principles, reflecting our commitment to international peace, democracy, freedom and the rule of law. It remains a cornerstone of Australian foreign policy, just as US leadership remains indispensable to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Australia and the United States have been reliable and steadfast allies, standing shoulder to shoulder during our darkest days. For over 100 years, our troops have fought side by side, from World War I to World War II, from Korea to Vietnam and from Iraq to Afghanistan. Twenty years ago this month, Australians watched some of the most distressing things imaginable playing out on their television screens. As the 9/11 attacks unfolded in the United States, Australians felt a deep sense of shock and horror at the events that had taken place. In the days that followed, then Prime Minister Howard invoked the ANZUS treaty, a step no Australian prime minister or US president had taken before. Prime Minister Howard's decision reflected the gravity of the situation, the scale of the attack and Australia's unwavering commitment to the alliance.

Following this invocation of ANZUS, Australia, along with the United States and many other nations, committed forces to Afghanistan, where our men and women have had each other's backs for the last 20 years. There will be time to debate the military mission in Afghanistan, but for today let me pay tribute to the 41 Australians and the more than 2,400 American military personnel who lost their lives in Afghanistan, including the 13 US service members killed last week while helping others to seek safety. In my roles as foreign minister and as Minister for Women, I am particularly focused on ensuring the gains made, particularly for women and girls, in Afghanistan are not eroded.

Our alliance finds strength not just in its endurance but in how it has evolved to meet the challenges of our times, including the global pandemic with which we are dealing now, with wide-reaching health, economic and social implications; the pressure on the international rules, norms and institutions that underpin the sovereignty of nations and the peace and trade between them; a changing climate that is impacting our environment, economies and way of life; malicious cyberactivity that is growing in frequency and sophistication; and the emergence of new and evolving threats, such as foreign interference and disinformation, that are being used to manipulate open societies. The partnership today between Australia and the United States is one of trust, grown through decades of cooperation and burden sharing, and recognition that each partner brings our own perspective.

We are working more closely than ever with regional partners, including Japan, India, the Pacific and ASEAN, to address the key health, economic and security challenges of our time. We are modernising our militaries, including through cooperation in guided missile technology, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and hypersonics, for example. We are collaborating on world-class science, technology and innovation, from the latest medical advances to new forms of renewable energy and the Moon to Mars initiative. We're strengthening the resilience of supply chains, including for critical minerals and rare earths. We're working together to deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the Pacific. We're driving a positive and proactive agenda to foster a free, open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region. Our partnership today goes beyond collective defence and security agreements. It touches the lives of every Australian in a multitude of ways. The United States is Australia's biggest source of foreign investment. More than 320,000 Australians are employed by majority US-owned companies in Australia.

When I visited the United States in May this year, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, pledged to me that the United States would not leave Australia alone on the field. His commitment embodies the spirit of ANZUS. Neither of our two countries stands alone. Across the three US administrations with which I have worked, I can sincerely say that the shared commitment to the alliance has been constant and enduring. The ANZUS treaty has provided the unbreakable foundation for our alliance to mature and prosper for 70 years. In 1951, Sir Percy Spender recognised only too well the dangers inherent in division, but in our alliance with the United States he saw a commitment to 'constantly labour to reduce the unhappy tension which today plagues mankind'.

I can say emphatically that for 70 years we have indeed strived together to build peace and stability for our region. We have stood together in the face of wars, threats of terrorism and great power rivalry. Despite the uncertain times in which we live, our relationship with the United States, with the ANZUS treaty at its heart, will continue to meet the challenges ahead. We look forward to continuing our work with President Biden and his administration to work for a better, healthier, safer and more prosperous future for all.

3:10 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I'm pleased to speak on behalf of the opposition and join Minister Payne in supporting this motion to celebrate and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty. In the days ahead much attention will be focused on what conclusions are to be drawn from the 20-year war in Afghanistan that came to an end this week, but, whatever may be said on that debate, what is beyond dispute is the constancy of the bond between the United States and Australia through the struggles in Afghanistan and beyond. Throughout the final days in Kabul America was steadfast as an ally and a dependable friend. If it weren't for the presence and courage of our American allies, efforts to evacuate thousands of Australians and visa holders in the past weeks would never have been possible. That presence came at great cost, losing 13 of their own as they sought to help others. Their ultimate sacrifice reflects the heavy duty of leadership and it's a weight that America has carried since World War II, where the origins of ANZUS are to be found in the war in the Pacific and, of course, Prime Minister Curtin's turn to America.

In late December 1941, three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Curtin declared: '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.' Curtin was attacked by those who would become today's Liberal Party. American President Franklin Roosevelt was astonished because Curtin was ahead of the US in thinking about strategy and priorities for the war in the Pacific. The US 7th Fleet was formed in Brisbane in 1943. Australia fought with the US in major sea battles of the Pacific. 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 United States have worked together to secure our shared strategic interests, and the vehicle that gives principal expression to our sense of common security purpose is the ANZUS treaty, whose 70th anniversary we mark today. ANZUS arose in the broader context of the postwar settlement, the Cold War and the Korean War to our north and provided the strategic framework for dealing with re-emergent militarism as a possible threat to security in the Pacific. The treaty underwent a fundamental transformation at the hands of Bob Hawke's defence minister—my friend Kim Beazley—and his US counterpart, Caspar Weinberger, in the mid-1980s. They reoriented ANZUS from a threat based agreement to one that focused on the strategic aspirations and purposes of both parties. Of course, thankfully, our partnership with the US is not as controversial today and it has enduring bipartisan support, and much strategic cooperation has happened since.

Looking forward, Australia's alliance with the United States sits at the centre of the 2020 Defence strategic update. With the US again engaged in a global force posture review, it is time for Australia to look again at our own posture to ensure that it fully meets the times—the last one having been conducted by the most recent Labor government, in which I was minister. So I reiterate to the Senate Mr Albanese's announcement today that a federal Albanese Labor government will initiate a new force posture review on coming to office. The Indo-Pacific will remain the key focus. The review will ensure that the government is considering both long-term strategic posture and, given the fast-moving events in the region, short-term imperatives. The review will also respond to the continued emergence of cybersecurity as a central challenge to Australia's strategic positioning in the coming decade.

The relationship with the US goes far deeper than a security alliance alone. The United States has been a core economic partner of Australia's, and its importance only continues to grow. It remains our key capital investor, underpinning Australian innovation and driving both our countries to take advantage of emerging technologies. At the foundation of our shared economic prosperity is the global rules based order—the systems, norms and institutions that guide the world's interactions and govern disputes. These are the rules of the road, and they are being tested in new ways—a global pandemic that continues to wreak havoc, terrorism and extremism that continue to find safe haven, the return of great power competition, the undermining of rules based trade and the use of economic coercion for strategic ends.

The US and Australia have been close allies in building and strengthening these rules of the road, including in our region. But we need to do more, and we can do more only with friends and partners. So we welcome the return of American leadership and the rules based order under President Biden and his dedicated effort to repair alliances. I've said before that Australia's partnerships and leadership in the Indo-Pacific are our principal value-add to the alliance. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to work closely with the administration as it develops its Indo-Pacific strategy, including building its economic footprint, particularly in South-East Asia. We must work with key partners such as India, Japan, Indonesia and other ASEAN nations, South Korea, the EU, and others to both strengthen economic engagement and uphold the rules of the road. This is because, as much as America's role has changed, its unique capacity to offer balance in the region and leadership in the international order means it remains the indispensable power.

Many of our neighbours want the balance that will come from greater US engagement, and they are clear that must mean economic engagement as well as security partnerships. We should be doing all we can to encourage the US to support Indo-Pacific regional pandemic recovery, reinforce ASEAN's centrality and strengthen regional architecture. We welcome the recent visits of Vice President Harris and Secretary of Defense Austin to South-East Asia, and see these as important first steps in the US step-up in the region. We hope to see this grow rapidly in recognition of the vital strategic importance of this region, and we must be prepared to step up our own engagement to support it. At a time when regional uncertainty is high, a deeper US commitment to ensuring all states have the capacity to protect their sovereignty is vitally important. President Biden's early embrace of the Quad was a welcome development, and there will be much opportunity for further US-Australia cooperation in that context.

While so much of the region's immediate focus is on the response to COVID, its more profound concern is climate change. How we address climate change demonstrates our engagement and alignment with our neighbours. It is in Australia's interest, as a continent highly vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change, that we urgently apply ourselves to the task of reducing emissions, not only because the costs of climate change are so great for us but also because the world's climate emergency is Australia's job opportunity. Anything less would undermine Australian leadership in the region, leave vacuums for others to fill and abandon those most vulnerable to the worst impacts of a changing climate.

In the United States, senior leaders have talked for years about the security implications of climate change. We know it is having geostrategic and regional impacts as well as direct impacts on defence systems, infrastructure and operations. Secretary of Defense Austin has already identified climate change as a top priority for the US military. At his Fullerton address in July this year he described climate change as an existential threat and a challenge we must meet together, echoing what Pacific island leaders have been saying for decades. The US military has acknowledged that climate change is not a future defence problem but an immediate challenge, and it is time that the Australia-US alliance reflected this reality. We should deepen our cooperation on climate change security issues. We should develop capabilities and shared responsibility to respond to natural disasters, address humanitarian needs and mitigate the impacts of rising temperatures, particularly in our region. We should cooperate on technological development to take advantage of the economic opportunity that comes from the shift to clean energy to deliver cheaper energy prices and facilitate an expansion of high-value manufacturing capability. This helps build economic resilience in the event of future shocks.

An Albanese Labor government would make comprehensive cooperation on climate change a hallmark of alliance cooperation because we recognise that Australia's own action on climate change will shape our capacity to live in a region where our interests prosper in partnership with our neighbours and our American ally. We recognise that this is central to the next phase of an alliance with the United States that Labor has always innovated and that reflects the abiding friendship, trust and affection between our peoples.

3:20 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] The government has brought this motion to the chamber today, a day after the last American force left Afghanistan and about a week from the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. They ask us today to unquestioningly endorse the American alliance and to recommit ourselves to a military relationship that we have had with the United States for 70 years. To do this would be politically easy. It is the united view of the major parties that a military relationship such as we currently have with the United States is a good thing for Australia. It's certainly a good thing for them. It's given them many opportunities to stand next to US military equipment, go on fancy visits overseas and meet with defence secretaries and secretaries of state, and feel like significant global actors. To do so, though, in the closing days of 20 years of conflict and war across the world unleashed by the 9/11 attacks, would be to do a great disservice to the Australian community and to those peoples and nations that were so savagely harmed in the aftermath of that event.

It is time, 20 years on, for us to speak the truth about exactly what happened in the aftermath of 9/11: that the United States entered into a blood-rage-induced, vengeful series of exercises whereby they set two nations ablaze and precipitated the loss of some 350,000 civilian lives. In a desperate attempt to reclaim what they felt was a bruised national honour and to reassert themselves in the new century, they took nations across the world to wage war in the Middle East based upon lies, and, when they were caught out on those lies, they invented new reasons for the maintenance of conflict and occupation.

At that critical moment 20 years ago, Australia's political leadership had a choice. They could either engage with the United States and seek to de-escalate the crisis unfolding in the aftermath of 9/11, seek to work with the international community to bring the individual perpetrators to justice, and maintain the so called global rules based order—which has been so much vaunted and celebrated during the course of this debate—or they could validate that period of vengeful blood rage, validate the conflicts that were carried out in the aftermath, participate in them, justify them and attempt to lend them moral support. That is the choice that they made. John Howard took us into Iraq and Afghanistan, and prime minister after prime minister kept us there because it was in their political interest to do so.

Today we are discussing the mechanism by which that decision was played out: the ANZUS treaty, which is 70 years old this year. As we do so, we also need to speak the truth about what that treaty is and where it comes from. There has been much said about ANZUS as a defence treaty that guarantees Australia a level of mutual protection. This is the myth of ANZUS—the treaty of the mind; the treaty that exists only when Australian diplomats and Australian politicians look at that piece of paper. The reality of the wording of the treaty is that it says no such thing; it offers no such guarantee. The wording of the treaty simply states that, if there should be some kind of shared moment of conflict or concern, the parties to the treaty will act with concern to each other. It gives no guarantee of any kind of mutual protection.

Below that, though, sits an even more insidious reality, which is the context in which it was conceived. This treaty was signed in 1951 and, upon its signing, the relevant Australian ambassador called it the beginning of a bulwark in the defence of freedom. In that context the meaning was clear. The meaning was: this will offer Australia protection against the enemies in its region. And the enemies were the people of the Asia-Pacific region. It was the beginning of a narrative of fear against the Asian people of the Asia-Pacific region, a legitimisation of the idea that there was something to fear from those across our sea borders. It saw us enter into that horrific conflict, the Vietnam war.

It used to be the case that the Labor Party understood the dangers of following along in the wake of the United States. It used to be the case that those like Gough Whitlam and Jim Cairns were on the streets with the community as they protested against these violent imperial wars. It is to be noted that Gough Whitlam removed Australian troops from Vietnam as one of his first acts as Prime Minister, yet, all of these years on, we see a Labor Party which has given up in relation to criticism of the United States. It is, in fact, now in lock-step with the Liberal Party, ready to go all the way with the USA once again. The uncritical, unflinching nature with which the Labor Party now positions itself in relation to the American alliance does a huge disservice to the community, and it fails to reflect all of those in our community who want peace, who saw through the lies of George Bush and the complicity of John Howard and understood that there were no WMDs in Iraq, that there was no need to knock over the government of an entire nation to try to bring to justice a single individual, who by then was most likely within the borders of Pakistan. The community has always understood that, when it comes to war, the No. 1 thing on the mind of a politician is how to get electoral benefit out of it.

The hard truth for the major parties is that, in the aftermath of 9/11, as America, in its blood haze, decided to line people up on the board to take out its anger, Australian politicians sought political opportunity to bind themselves closer to an ally which, in response, could deliver them many more opportunities to fancy weaponry, with which they would be able to have pictures taken, and an opportunity to secure their electoral base here in Australia. It is very telling that, in a moment of genuine global crisis, when Australia could have benefited greatly from the supply of something as simple as a vaccine, the special relationship was not strong enough to enable that to occur.

It has also been commented upon that we are now seeking to engage ourselves in the hosting of missiles in the Northern Territory. This is another example of how the major parties are so willing to allow Australia to be used as the United States' most significant and well-armed aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific—regardless of the views of the Northern Territory, which so wholeheartedly opposes it.

3:30 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Nationals seek to associate our party with the comments particularly of the foreign minister but also those of the opposition in supporting wholeheartedly the ANZUS relationship and treaty. Today we mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance between Australia and the United States of America. This anniversary comes after the withdrawal from Afghanistan and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

First signed in San Francisco in 1951, the treaty confirmed both the United States' and Australia's commitment to a shared vision for an Indo-Pacific that is secure, stable and prosperous. The treaty reaffirmed Australia's unwavering commitment to our alliance, recognising its fundamental importance to our nation's security and sovereignty. At the time, Australia's then Ambassador to the United States of America, one of the architects of the treaty, Percy Spender, said:

This day we declare to the world that our three peoples share a common destiny. This treaty takes the first step towards what we hope will prove to be an ever widening system of peaceful security in this vital area.

That it has done, and it will continue to do so.

As a nation, we've been incredibly well served in both peacetime and war by an alliance that has been a testament to our common values and deep mutual trust. This alliance and our bond with the United States is stronger, broader and more vital today than it was 70 years ago. Few countries in the world enjoy such a close relationship, built upon our mutual support for democracy and shared respect for the rule of law. Our shared commitment to deterring aggression has seen us fight together in every major conflict since World War I. From Le Hamel all the way through to the evacuation we saw in Kabul last week, we've stood side by side with our mates, the United States of America and New Zealand.

On 14 September 2001, we saw Prime Minister John Howard formally evoke the treaty for the first time in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He said at the time:

In every way, the attack on New York and Washington and the circumstances surrounding it did constitute an attack upon the metropolitan territory of the United States of America within the provisions of articles IV and V of the ANZUS Treaty. If that treaty means anything, if our debt as a nation to the people of the United States in the darkest days of World War II means anything, if the comradeship, the friendship and the common bonds of democracy and a belief in liberty, fraternity and justice mean anything, it means that the ANZUS Treaty applies and that the ANZUS Treaty is properly invoked.

Australia therefore joined the coalition forces in Afghanistan, contributing to the war on terror, and ensured a safer Australia and a safer world.

As it has been for the last 70 years, our alliance is set to remain indispensable from our future. The Indo-Pacific has become a focal point of our alliance, benefiting our partners throughout this region and underpinning the strong relationships we already have with these nations. Our commitment to keeping the alliance strong is shown through Australia's 2020 Defence strategic update as set out in the 2020 Force structure plan. Australia's $270 billion investment in new ADF capabilities will enable Australia to be a more effective and capable alliance partner. The investment also strengthens our industrial base collaboration to further bolster alliance interoperability and our supply chain resilience. Australia's force posture cooperation with the US, including the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, is a tangible demonstration of the deep engagement in the region by both Australia and the United States.

As we look to the future, let us be reminded of the values and freedoms the ANZUS Treaty has secured for us as a nation. Let us commit to continuing to be vigilant and strong and to building the economic strength for the peace and prosperity of all and for a world that is free. Let us reflect on the sacrifices of all who have served under the flags of all three of our great nations who we will never forget and will continue to honour each and every day. And let us be reminded that, whatever lies ahead, the unbreakable friendship of Australia, New Zealand and the United States will continue to prosper.

Question agreed to.

3:34 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask that the Greens' opposition to the motion be recorded, other than for paragraph (e).

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

So recorded.