Last updated on January 30, 2024
The Prime Minister, John Howard, has addressed a joint meeting of the United States Congress in Washington DC.
Howard reiterated Australian government support for the United States, as shown through its invocation of the ANZUS Treaty.
Howard also offered criticism of the United States approach to farm subsidies.
Howard’s speech was attended by 35 of the 535 members of the two chambers.
- Listen to Howard’s Address to the US Congress:
This is the text of the address to a Joint Meeting of the US Congress by John Howard.
Mr Speaker, Mr President, distinguished members of the Senate and House, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you for the great honour you have given me, and more importantly my country Australia, in asking me to speak to you today.
The bonds between Americans and Australians are strong and genuine. They are based on many shared values.
A belief that the individual is greater than the State.
A belief that strong families are a nation’s greatest resource.
A belief that competitive capitalism is the key to national wealth.
Mr Speaker, Mr President, and ladies and gentlemen of the Congress, America has no better friend in the world than Australia.
Australians and Americans enjoy each other’s company.
We share a love of sport and are fierce competitors in some.
And from time to time we even share the Academy Awards.
When I last came to this great chamber of democracy on 12 September last year, smoke still hung in the air over Washington and New York.
Heroic fireman and policemen, gallantly disregarding the danger to themselves, scrambled desperately amid the rubble, looking for the slightest sign of life.
The scale of loss and senseless destruction was yet to be fully calculated.
In seeking justice and not revenge, in choosing calm consideration over blind fury, by turning to friends before turning on enemies, the United States has led a great re-affirmation of those values upon which it and nations such as my own, are founded.
America fought back magnificently – and won the admiration of the world.
You demonstrated to the world that, where fundamental freedoms flourish, evil men can do their worst, cause death and devastation but in the end they will never win.
In his inaugural address, George Washington spoke of the destiny of the American people to preserve ‘the sacred fire of liberty’. That promise has been kept for more than two centuries – but never more so than since the appalling events of September 11.
Through these times Australians have shared your shock and anger and been partners in your resolve.
We have taken our place beside you in the war against terrorism, knowing beyond all doubt that it was an attack upon ourselves and our way of life as surely as it was upon your own.
As we meet, Australian troops are fighting side by side with Americans in Afghanistan.
In these past months President Bush has displayed the tenacity, the strength and the depth of character of a great leader.
And he is now applying those qualities to the dangerous tensions between India and Pakistan and the intractable differences in the Middle East.
It is a special privilege to return to this historic place to address the representatives of a people with whom we share so much and express the fond regard and high esteem in which we hold your great nation.
Like you, Australia enters this new century strong and prosperous.
Over the past decade, the productivity and growth of our economy has exceeded that of most other developed nations.
Our pioneer past, so similar to your own, has produced a spirit that can overcome adversity and pursue great dreams.
We’ve built a society of opportunity, fairness and hope, leaving – as you did – the divisions and prejudices of the Old World far behind.
Like your own, our culture has been immeasurably enriched by migration from the four corners of the earth.
We believe that nations are strengthened not weakened, broadened not diminished, by open debate and diversity of view.
Most of all, we value loyalty given and loyalty gained – the concept of mateship runs deep within the Australian character.
We cherish and where necessary will fight to preserve the liberties we both hold so dear.
Australian and American forces fought together for the first time in the Battle of Hamel, in France, in World War I. The date of the attack – the 4th of July 1918 – was deliberately chosen by the Australian Commander, General John Monash, to honour your countrymen.
From that moment to this, we’ve been able to count on each other when it has mattered most.
Australians will never forget the crucial help Americans gave us during World War II.
Successive generations of Australians and Americans have fought side by side in every major conflict of the twentieth century – in the jungles of New Guinea, in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Gulf, in skies and oceans around the globe and now, in another century, among the rock-strewn mountains of Afghanistan.
The ANZUS Treaty of 1951 pledged each country to come to the aid of the other if it were under attack.
And so it was that in a US Airforce plane made available for my return to Australia on 12 September and high above the Pacific that I informed the US Ambassador Tom Schieffer travelling with me our intention was that, for the first time in its fifty year history, Australia would invoke the ANZUS Treaty.
America was under attack. Australia was immediately there to help.
Both of our societies are built on a deep respect for the worth of each individual.
“The worth of a state, in the long run” wrote John Stuart Mill in 1859 ” is the worth of the individuals composing it … a state which dwarfs its men in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes – will find with small men no great thing can really be accomplished”.
America and Australia are societies which extol the precious worth of each individual man and woman.
Like you I see family life at the heart of a nation’s existence.
Not only does the family nurture and educate our children but it provides emotional anchorage throughout life for us all.
The strength of the family goes beyond the spiritual and the emotional.
United, caring families are the best social welfare system mankind has ever devised.
Both of our societies draw great strength from the spirit of volunteerism.
The huge success of the Sydney Olympic Games owed much to the warmth, excitement and dedication of tens of thousands of volunteers who infected everyone with the joy and exhilaration of the occasion.
Edmund Burke called voluntary groups society’s “small platoons”. They are the living tissue between the government and the people.
Political life in both our nations is changing.
Politics is less tribal. Life long allegiances are looser and less frequent. Modern society has given young people infinitely more options.
Governments must be decisive but also modest. Grand gestures without practical results help no-one.
People want outcomes not political fireworks and constant battles.
They want space from governments to get on with their own lives.
I’ve spoken much of our common values, shared history and our deep respect for each other as peoples.
We also share a common interest in spreading and better understanding the benefits of globalisation.
The balance sheet of globalisation is overwhelmingly favourable to mankind.
We must, however, better explain the advantages of globalisation to all our citizens.
Trade reform and liberalisation have delivered benefits to people in many countries and can deliver much more.
I understand that the demands of local constituencies and international responsibilities must be finely balanced.
As a true friend let me say candidly that Australia was disappointed with the passage of the recent Farm Bill.
It will damage Australia’s farmers. They are efficient producers with very little government support.
I know that the farm and export subsidies of, for example, the European Union are much greater than those of the United States.
Indeed, OECD agricultural subsidies are two-thirds of Africa’s total GDP. The cost of these subsidies is three times all the ODA to developing countries.
This only serves to illustrate the urgent need for global reform of agriculture within the World Trade Organisation framework.
The challenge is to achieve a comprehensive Doha trade round. That will require Australia and America to work together within the WTO.
American leadership will be crucial. Let me express the hope that Congress gives the President full authority to negotiate new trade agreements.
At the same time, we in America and Australia have an historic opportunity to give even greater momentum to our bilateral economic relationship.
That is why Australia has proposed the negotiation of a free trade agreement between our two countries. A comprehensive free trade agreement, by boosting trade and investment between us, would add a stronger economic dimension to the security and other links we share.
Turning to the strategic challenges of our own region, Australia welcomes full and active engagement by the United States in the Asia Pacific. It is immensely important not only to the nations of the region, but also to the continuing interests of the United States itself.
There is no other region more dynamic or fast-changing.
Australia is proud of its leadership role in East Timor in gaining for a people so long oppressed the freedom and democracy available to our own citizens.
We stand ready to work in partnership with America to advance the cause of freedom, particularly in our shared Pacific region.
Mr Speaker, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen:
Australia enters this new century, confident in the talent and the energy and the skills of its people.
We shall move forward, secure in the knowledge that our journey through this century – often along paths requiring sacrifice, courage and grit – will be in the constant company of a true and great friend.