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Howard Launches DFAT Book Of Documents On Australian Foreign Policy

This is the text of an address by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the launch of a publication by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy.

Text of Prime Minister John Howard speech at launch of DFAT book.

HowardThank you very much Doctor Calvert, Foreign Minister, other Parliamentary colleagues, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. And I would like to particularly acknowledge the presence of Mr Ralph Harry as well, a very distinguished former Australian diplomat who played a major role in the then department in drafting this very important treaty.

This is an occasion that is rich with a lot of symbolism as well as being in it’s own right a very important event. I want to congratulate the department on once again producing an excellent volume that is an important part of the historical record of a very important event. This is not the first of those publications and I hope it won’t be the last. I think it’s very important to a longer term understanding of our history and particularly the evolution of Australia’s foreign policy over the last half century that publications of this type take place.

It’s also a very symbolic moment, it’s on the eve of the [50th anniversary of the] signing of the ANZUS Treaty in San Francisco on the first of September, 1951. 1951 of course celebrated 50 years of the Australian Federation. The year 2001 celebrates 100 years of the Australian Federation. And this treaty which has underwritten Australia’s great sense of security over the last half century has therefore been enforced for half the life of Australia as the Commonwealth of Australia.

It’s also important to reflect on the circumstances of the time. 1951 was a world far different from what we now live in. 1951 was an era dominated by a fear of the expansion of Soviet Communism, when Communist China as it was then called, had not long begun to assert itself seemingly in the eyes of so many as a belligerent force for authoritarian behaviour in Asia and particularly in South East Asia. Australia looked to the United States for a great sense of security, Australians and Americans had fought first together in World War I and they had just emerged from a terrible conflict in the Pacific, victorious against the Japanese and they were at the time of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty fighting together in South Korea in response to the attack on South Korea by then Communist North Korea.

It is important also to reflect that this treaty was signed during the early years of the Menzies Government. Robert Gordon Menzies is often misunderstood in the historical foreign policy record of this country. The ANZUS Treaty demonstrated yet again, despite his very legitimate and unapologetic affection for the links between Australia and the United Kingdom, links that were well grounded in history and culture and respect for the rule of law and Parliamentary democracy, he none the less had a clear eyed view of the strategic importance, indeed the strategic centrality of the relationship between Australia and the United States and he unhesitatingly encouraged his then Minister for External Affairs, the late Sir Percy Spender, who played such a major role in negotiating this treaty on behalf of Australia, to pursue the idea of the ANZUS Treaty. And through the years it has been a cornerstone of our relationship. And I will certainly on behalf I know of both sides of politics be able to convey to the President of the United States, when I see him in a few weeks time, the on going commitment of the Australian people to what is a very rich relationship between our two societies.

ANZUS is but the outward manifestation of a very deep and abiding relationship between our two societies. A relationship which has led us to fight together in every major conflict of the 20th century. A relationship that has produced a common commitment to individual liberty, personal freedom but importantly a relationship that I think is best kept together by the common sense of values and the common traditions that our two societies have. The ANZUS Treaty of course has underwritten the closest possible military and intelligence association between our two countries. And that is an association that has developed over the last 50 years, it is an association which of necessity has changed but it is none the less an association that remains very deep and abiding and that was brought home to me most vividly only a couple of weeks ago when the United States Secretary of State, General Colin Powell and Mr Don Rumsfeld, the American Defence Secretary along with the Deputy Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, came to Canberra for the regular AUSMIN talks. And those talks were conducted in an atmosphere of close friendship, an atmosphere of a shared determination to work together to confront the new challenges of our region.

And those new challenges of course emerged in East Timor only two years ago. And the other piece of symbolism in a sense about the launch of this publication today is that it’s on the eve of the first ballot for the election of a democratic government for East Timor. And that was the last occasion on which Australians and Americans, or could I say the most recent occasion in which Australians and Americans cooperated together militarily. And although Australia led that operation as indeed ironically and coincidently it was an Australian who commanded the first military operation in which Australians and Americans fought together at Harmel and that was Sir John Monash, probably the greatest military figure in Australian history, it is a reminder that we have been together in many military operations both large and small over a very very long period of time. And it is an interesting piece of symbolism that on the eve of the anniversary of ANZUS we are also contemplating the election of the first democratic government available to the people of East Timor. And we wish the people of that small country the very best as they venture into democracy and that is really what the Australian/American alliance is all about. It is all about giving small nations such as East Timor the opportunity to decide their own destiny, to choose their own future, to elect their own government and to seek out their own destiny in friendship with Australia and Indonesia but none the less as an independent country. And more than anything else that really enshrines the ideals of the ANZUS Treaty and the ideals that have brought the people of the United States and the people of Australia together.

So Ashton, I do congratulate your department, I think it’s an excellent initiative, I congratulate my colleague the Foreign Minister for the intense interest and guidance that he’s brought to this project and I have very great pleasure in launching the latest edition of documents on Australian Foreign Policy, the ANZUS Treaty 1951. I think it’s a volume that will be widely read, it will bring new insights and it will reinforce to all of us the ongoing relevance and strategic significance and enduring philosophical value of the relationship between our two great societies.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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