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The future of Australia - United States Relations



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Leader of the Opposition

Check Against Delivery

DINNER ADDRESS BY

‘ DR JOHN HEWSON, MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TO THE

WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL OF ORANGE COUNTY

"The Future o f Australia-United States Relations"

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022

IRVINE MARRIOTT HOTEL IRVINE, CALIFORNIA

TUESDAY, 2 JULY 1991

I am delighted to be back in the United States and very

appreciative of the warm welcome you have given me this evening.

The World Affairs Council has an enviable reputation throughout the world for promoting community debate on international issues. I am honoured to be with you in Orange County, as a guest of the Council, and look forward to a stimulating exchange of views.

Some of you may have difficulty coming to terms with the title of the position that I hold in the Australian Parliament, namely as of "Leader of the Opposition", I must admit that it does not easily translate into the American political scene.

Perhaps the nature of the office can best be explained by way of an analogy that relates to a famous citizen of your own country, George Washington, who was in his own way a distinguished "Leader of the Opposition" before he assumed the Presidency.

The story goes back to the days in Washington's early life when he was very much in his formative years and very keen to get

involved in military activity, it occurred in the fall of 1753 when Washington read in a Virginian newspaper that the French troops had invaded the Ohio valley, part of the area that was then claimed by Virginia.

Washington was just twenty-one years old. He had been very greatly influenced by his older step-brother, Lawrence, who was some fourteen years his senior and who had had a very

distinguished naval and military career. George Washington had tried to join the navy but had always been prevented from doing so by his mother.

But when he read this Virginian the newspaper, and learned that //the Governor of the time, Governor Dinwiddle, was going to send a message to the French commander suggesting that he withdraw from the Ohio valley, George thought it was a great opportunity

to make a mark and to see the western front for the first time.

So he went to Williamsburg and put a proposal to the Governo? that he go as the messenger. He was appointed a military attache - a positioti, I might say, to which he brought absolutely nr,

knowledge of military affaire.

He set out from Williamsburg in October 1753. He collected supplies, horses, and a party of six frontiersmen. I have always been impressed by one description of Washington's trip which was presented in the following terms:

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"In the teeth of the extreme cold, much snow and unfriendly Indians he made the hazardous 800 to 1000 mile round trip journey to the French fort on Lake Erie.

It took two and a half months. Once he had to swim for his life, amid chunks of ice in the flooded river. He was shot at by the Indians. He had to walk hundreds of miles when his horses grew too weak to go further."

And, in his own report on what happened during that journey, George Washington wrote:

"From the first day of December to the 15th, there was but one day on which it did not rain or snow excessively and throughout the whole journey we met with nothing but one continued series of cold wet weather."

The reason I like that story is that it is very similar to my own experience as Leader of the Opposition in the Australian

Parliament!

Like Washington, I have been shot at by Indians from both sides of the political fence, and I fear that I still have hundreds of miles to go and that some of my horses will be too weak to go

further.

All in all, the position of Opposition Leader is a demanding and long-distance one - hence, you can probably understand the encouragement I draw from the fact that George Washington overcame all his trials and tribulations and ultimately led his country with distinction. I hope to do the same!

-feeing in the Opposition in the Australian Parliament imposes many of the burdens of being a "Government-in-exile", with few of the Government's resources or privileges.

An Opposition Leader must not only keep the Government of the day honest, he must also give people the hope of something better and he must do so without leaving himself open to charges of

promising what he cannot deliver.

At a time of such dramatic change in world affairs and such

significant change within Australia, this is an especially challenging task, but one which I have found rewarding and exciting.

I wish to address some comments this evening to the future of Australian-American relations in the context of the generationa change of leadership that is taking place in Australia.

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Whether it be in business, the professions, academia or political life, the generation which is assuming leadership and

responsibility in Australia is the first generation to grow up in an era of enduring and increasingly close relations with the United States.

This generation is the one to which I belong. Born in 1946, I am one of the "baby boomers" of the post-war era.

When I refer to the generational change of leadership taking place in Australia, I am not referring to an Australian

generation infatuated with America. But I am referring to a generation on which the influence of American politics, American economic policy and American culture has been more powerful than on any previous Australian generation.

This generational change in leadership is posing a number of challenges to Australian-American relations, and this evening i want to express some of my personal views about that process of change.

As in all things, it is important to have some historical

perspective on the issue of Australians relations.

Our relations have gone through three distinct historical phases.

The first goes back to the earliest days of European settlement in Australia. The American presence in Australia was notable in whaling, sealing, mining and other kinds of commercial activity. By the 1850s American consular services were considered necessary

in our major State capitals. In 1908, the American Great White Fleet visited Australian ports. / / During this phase of our relations, Australian sentiment towards

the United States was so strong that it was possible for an

Australian Prime Minister (Alfred Deakin) in 1908 to remark that "next to our own nation we place our kindred in America".

The second phase in our relations - between the First and Second World Wars - was less friendly. It was marked by recriminations over the US Senate's rejection of the Versailles Treaty, by fears

of American indifference to Japanese designs on Asia and the Pacific, and by hostility over American tariffs.

But all this was overtaken with the third phase of relations which began in December 1941 and is still continuing.

In December 1941 Australia was threatened with Japanese invasion. The then Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, made the following historic declaration to the Australian people. He said:

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"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 of kinship with the United Kingdom."

That famous declaration was much more than a wartime necessity. It stimulated a fundamental change in Australian society in the post-war period. People like myself grew up very much in a world in which, while the traditional ties with Britain remained strong, there was a much greater emphasis on, and influence by, the United States.

Australia's old ties with the British Empire could never be the same again. ‘

My generation began ,to look more instinctively to the United States, not Britain, for leadership, ideas and cultural change.

The United States, not war-weary Britain, was seen by my

generation as the focus of economic dynamism, global leadership and expanding educational opportunities.

This change constituted an historic re-orientation of Australian > thinking. More than ever, we are living with its consequences today.

I was very fortunate to be able to live in the United States for five years from 1969 to 1974. These years were, of course, a time when there was a high tide of political and social upheaval in this country. Some of that upheaval spilt over to Australia.

There was the trauma associated with the Vietnam War and the deep social and political divisions it created.

Andy there was the unresolved issue of racial equality, I went to Baltimore in 1969 which had just experienced major race riots. The civil rights movement had really made some substantial achievements through that period but, in the course of 1967-68,

large parts of Baltimore had been burnt to the ground. I lived in a student ghetto, as we used to refer to it (and that was

being generous) which was on the edge of what was then referred to as the "black area". So I had first hand experience of that post-civil rights era.

It was also the era of the "flower people", student riots and Kent State, My Lai and the re-opening of American diplomatic relations with China. It was also the era of Nixon and

Watergate. All these major events put the political system of the United States under quite fundamental pressure.

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It was also a time of fundamental economic change. it was a

period which saw the collapse of post-war economic stability with wage explosions, significant rises in both inflation and unemployment, and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates.

In short, my time in the united States was one which saw the

genesis of fundamentally new ideas for the political and economic management of the United States and indeed much of the Western world.

That kind of educational, cultural and political influence on the lives of many members of my generation brought about a very big change in Australian attitudes and Australian links with the United States. It also poses very direct challenges to us today

in preserving and strengthening the ties between our two

governments and people.

These ties are very strong and productive. But the challenges we now face are quite different to the challenges that faced Prime Minister John Curtin in December 1941.

John Curtin had to lead the way in adjusting some of Australia's ties as a nation with the United Kingdom.

The challenge today is to lead the way in further strengthening our bilateral relations at a time when the pressures on them are considerable both in Australia and in the United States.

unlike many relationships between two countries, the ties that, bind Australia and the United States reflect a natural

association of history, values and national interests.

/'As governments, we share a common and longstanding commitment to the values of individual liberty, equality before the law, and the ultimate authority of our people over their elected

representatives.

As people, Americans and Australians share an easy familiarity. We both draw on the rich legacy of a pioneering spirit. We are two of the world's most truly multicultural societies. In peace and war (typified most recently in the Persian Gulf), we share a proud record of co-operation and common purpose in

international affairs.

All these similarities bind us in a special, natural way that most other countries find elusive.

A 'natural1 alliance, however, is not an unchanging one, nor one that should be taken for granted.

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I strongly believe that the relationship between Australia and the United States continues to develop in its strength, maturity, relevance and importance. But the relationship is also facing historic challenges.

I should be clear about one point. There is not a widespread anti-American sentiment in Australia, Popular opinion is strongly supportive of close relations with the United States. But some anti-Americanism does exist and it comes in different manifestations.

There are what can be called "instinctive anti-Americanists": those who are in effect instinctively anti everything! There are those who resent,_-success of any kind, who are obsessed with cutting down "tall poppies", who hate seeing the vindication in America and throughout the world of the principles of free

enterprise, smaller government and individual opportunities.

Secondly, there are those who can be described as the "quiet anti-Americanists" in Australia: those who see America's economic difficulties, the street crime, the white collar crime, the crippling leveraged buy-outs, the racial tension, the drug

addiction and other social problems as deserving problems for a brash upstart like the United States.

Thirdly, there are those who can be called the "blatant anti- Americanists"; those who resent America's role in the world, who see it as part of an "imperialist conspiracy", and who are

reluctant to concede that America's global, economic and military strategy after 1945 has proven to be a dramatic success.

And fourthly, there is an increasing number of Australians in a group which has been for years a traditional pro-American constituency who are now having serious doubts about our

bilateral relationship. I am referring to emerging feelings in our rural areas where there is significant and growing resentment at American trade practices, particularly the impact which

America's subsidised agricultural exports are having on Australian producers.

On the other side, in the United States, I perceive that there is also something of a backlash, not specifically against Australia, but against America's recent perception of its role in the world.

Across the political spectrum in the United States, from the Democrat Left to the neo-conservative Right, there is a sentiment emerging that America should "come home". I do not wish to

exaggerate this mood of introspection, but it does seem to me to be a pronounced sentiment among a significant segment of America, particularly in the wake of the Gulf War and with the onset of

a domestic recession.

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To an outsider such as myself, ..this phenomenon seems to be partly a response to a growing public weariness in the United States, and to a perception that the United States as a nation has

carried a disproportionate burden in terms of global affairs and in terms of global defence.

This mood of introspection in the United States also seems to reflect a somewhat deeper concern that some of the international burdens borne by the United States have been at the expense of its own domestic economic and social infrastructure which is now showing signs of deterioration.

Many Americana have grown weary of what they see as the de facto US subsidisation of the welfare services and economic development of many of America's.jnore affluent allies and friends.

While not wanting to exaggerate these feelings in any sense, I believe that it would be a serious mistake to under-estimate these forces of change, in Australia and the United States, that could bear on the prospects for our bilateral relations.

Those of us who value both our bilateral relationship and an active American role in international affairs need to confront these challenges in a concerted way.

Complacency on the one hand, and anti-Americanism on the other, have the potential to erode the strength of that relationship.

We need a sense of realism about the challenges which our

bilateral relations face and we need a sense of optimism and confidence.

However, let me be very clear. I am not a pessimist about the US/Australian relationship. I am an out-and-out optimist. But I believe there are a number of challenges we must meet if our relations are to be further strengthened in the future.

First. we have to start by guarding against a very selective re­ writing of history by those who are intent on demeaning the American achievement over recent decade·.

Anti-Americanism, in Australia as elsewhere, feeds off myths about American motives and practices.

None of us would dispute that there have been some occasions where American economic power and diplomatic influence could have been used more wisely and to better effect.

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But we should not allow isolated examples to overshadow the overwhelming success of American foreign policy in the post-war period. American support and leadership were indispensable in the restoration of Western Europe; they were indispensable in

the creation of an open international trading system; they were indispensable in the rise of a stable, prosperous and pro-Western Japan; and there were indispensable in the breakdown in Soviet control over Eastern Europe.

These are historic achievements and they should not be demeaned by selective re-writing of history.

They are a vindication of post-war American strategy and not, as some are now trying to suggest, symptoms of American "decline".

I had the honour of meeting with former President Reagan this morning in Los Angeles. The eight years of his Presidency are, I believe, rapidly becoming one of the victims of the selective re-writing of history of which I speak,

Let me take one important example. The end of the Cold War

occurred during the Reagan Presidency. There are many who are now seeking to re-lnterpret why it ended as it did.

The fact is that the liberal democratic capitalism of the West clearly prevailed over Eastern Bloc communism. Around the world, hopes for economic progress are now firmly linked to the idea of political freedom. \

This outcome of the Cold War is not a cause for gloating or smug self-satisfaction in Western countries. The real challenge for policy makers is to manage its consequences productively, rather than to be involved in endless debates about its causes. //

But if the wrong lessons are learned from the outcome of the Cold War, the possibilities for peaceful progress in the new era we are entering will not be maximised.

And let there be no mistake: there are those, in Australia and in the United States and elsewhere, who are trying to re-write the history of the Cold War and to distort why it ended as it

did.

it ended as it did because Western democratic liberalism

demonstrated that it genuinely respected individual liberty, maximised individual opportunity and achieved practical economic results.

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It ended as it did because the strategy of "peace through

strength" proved remarkably successful and because the West was resolute in signalling to the Soviet Union and others that their ideological and territorial expansionism would be actively resisted.

In those two achievements - upholding the superiority of Western economic liberalism and maintaining a clear consistency in Western strategic policy - President Reagan played a vital role.

He deserves full credit for that role.

Those who do not ' learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. And the real lessons of why the Cold War ended as it did must not be forgotten if the true scale of the American achievement is not to be misrepresented.

This fact has a special importance in Australia. There are those in Australia who want to re-write the history of the West's victory in the Cold War and America's contribution to it. If they are allowed to succeed, the strong popular base of support

in Australia for our alliance with the United States can be undermined. It is important that the facts of history are

respected and are not made the victims of self-serving theories.

A second challenge we face in Australia-US relations is to highlight the advantages of positive American leadership in world affairs in this.post-Cold War period.

President Bush highlighted the American capacity for leadership and decisiveness during the crisis created by Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait. Australia strongly supported this dourageous display of American leadership, and we did so both diplomatically and militarily.

I am also proud to say that in Australia the Government and the Opposition joined together in strongly supporting the role of the United Nations and the leadership of the United States.

I want to emphasise to you that the need for such leadership remains as great as ever,

The Asia-Pacific region provides a good example.

The end of the Cold War has not brought about the same dramatic changes in the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region as it has in Europe.

Major changes, of course, have occurred.

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There has been the draw-down of Soviet forces, particularly in places such as Vietnam and oti the Sino-Soviet border.

There has been China's normalisation of relations with the Soviet Union.

There has been the low-key official dialogue that is being conducted between the two Koreas.

There has been the Soviet Union's diplomatic recognition of South Korea and the expansion of economic relations between those two countries.

Despite these positive developments in regional security, major issues of uncertainty and tension in the Asia-Pacific region remain unresolved. '

Japan's regional security role remains a matter on which there are differing opinions within the region.

The roles and capabilities of China and India are increasingly of interest to other regional countries.

The conflict in Cambodia remains unresolved despite some recent hopeful developments.

There are strong concerns about North Korea's nuclear

capabilities.

There is a wider regional concern about a possible Asia-Pacifip arms race now that the US-Soviet regional competition of the Cold War years has eased.

In this security environment, the predictability and confidence lArhich the US security presence provides in the Asia-Pacific region should not be underestimated.

That security presence also, of course, directly serves important American economic and strategic interests.

We understand the budgetary pressures under which US defence policy currently operates. And we appreciate the concern of American policymakers about the need for its friends and allies to assume more of the burdens of their own and regional defence.

But, at the same time, we need to remain mindful of the following realities: the central and decisive role which the United States plays in the security of the Asia-Pacific region, the fact that most countries in the region want that role to continue, and the direct American interests which are enhanced by its security role

in the Asia-Pacific region.

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A third challenge for Australia-US relations in the 1990s is that we should never lose confidence in the strength of the ties that bind our two countries together.

We have a common commitment to individual liberty, to equality before the law, and to the supremacy of the people over the

state.

We have a common experience in pioneering a harsh country and in building a multicultural society.

We have very much common security interests reflected in the ANZUS Treaty.

And we share important economic links. The United States will remain very important even though Japan has emerged as our major trading partner. The United States is still our second largest trading partner and still our single largest source of foreign

investment, despite the popular focus on Japanese investment.

These are not just accidental ties between two countries. I believe they go to the very heart of the values and interests which our two nations share. And they explain to me why our

bilateral relationship is so important and so different from most others - and, therefore, so valuable.

A fourth challenge for us in our bilateral relationship is to have a very clear perspective about some of the unintended consequences of current American trade policy. The United States contributed significantly to an open international trading system

in the post-war period. Both American interests and Australian interests continue to lie in ensuring that such a system

survives, not that it withers and dies.

Our countries should do all they can to ensure that the current Uruguay Round of trade negotiations is successful in achieving further gains for multilateral trade. The more we can liberalise international trade, the better off both countries will be.

In this context, we have to face up to the seriousness of trade dispute· that can erode our bilateral relationship.

This is one of the biggest challenges to the bilateral

relationship at the present time. To some extent, bilateral disputes over trade access have always been an element of our bilateral relationship. For example, you can go back to the 1930s to Australian resentment at the impact of the Smoot-Hawley

tariffs when feelings ran very high.

But the fact that such feelings have characterised bilateral relatione in the past should not be used to minimise their significance now.

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I have to say to'you that theta is deep and widespread resentment in the Australian community at the serious impact which the American policy of subsidised agricultural exports is having on the Australian rural sector.

Australia is being beaten out of international markets as a result of US policies of export subsidies. That fact is going to be a very real factor in Australia in the next few years as we live with the consequences of the worst rural crisis we have endured since the Great Depression.

We have more general concerns about the growing calls in this country for "reciprocity" in trade or for what is being called "export protectionism".

We are also concerned by the potential for developments, such as a Single European Market in 1992 and for the emerging North American free trade area, to develop into exclusive trading blocs.

We are not asking for special deals, just a fair go for our

efficient agricultural producers.

Such concerns about trade issues are not new in our relations. But, at this time, you should know that they are deep and with the potential to erode support for the United States among a constituency - namely, our farmers and rural population - which has been such staunch supporters in the past.

A fifth challenge for our bilateral relations in the 1990s is that we should never let the challenges in our bilateral

relationship obscure the opportunities which it offers.

I,believe we have enormous potential for developing our bilateral Relationship across the board - in commerce, in trade, in

tourism, in defence and security co-operation, and in other areas.

But those opportunities can easily be thwarted by suspicions in Australia or indifference in the United States.

So the real challenge to our generation of leadership is to recognise the value of the Australia-America alliance and to work in a very dedicated way to ensure, in the context of those

realities that I have mentioned, that our relationship continues to grow and that the strength of our alliance continues to

increase.

George Washington, to whom I referred earlier, had a good deal of wisdom to impart about the nature of the political process. One particular element of his advice is as relevant today as it was when he gave it. He once said;

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"If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves

disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work. Let us raise the standard to which the wise and the honest can repair."

The message in that statement for me is that politicians, in particular, and all those involved in the process of democratic government, in general, should have the courage to confront realities, and the honesty and proper sense of values to do what

needs to be done to overcome problems as they develop.

I want to conclude by emphasising to you that the relationship between the United States and Australia is notable for its strength and its depth and its potential, not for its problems. But we need the realism to face up to those problems that

currently do exist and we need the honesty to do what is needed to ensure that such problems do not grow.

The Opposition Parties which I lead in Australia are currently spelling out a vision for Australia's future which is based on reducing the size of Government, cutting Government expenditure, privatising inefficient Government enterprises, contracting out a good deal of Government activities, reforming the tax system, decentralising the labour market, and a range of other reforms to promote incentive and opportunity for individuals.

This is a major undertaking and one which I hope will create many new opportunities for Australia and its people. I wish to

conclude my remarks this evening with some words from which I draw inspiration for the future, as I hope you do:

"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong

You cannot help small men by tearing down big men /

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds

You cannot establish security on borrowed money

You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do themselves."