Speech to the US Studies Centre - Annual Publication Launch - Canberra - 16/03/2022

16 March 2022


Acknowledgments omitted

Thank you to the US Studies Centre for hosting us here today and I am very pleased to be here at the launch of the annual State of the United States report.

I would like to acknowledge the important work that the Centre does to contribute ideas and critical thinking to the US alliance in Australia.

Today I would like to outline how an Albanese Labor Government will work to deliver on the full promise of Australia’s alliance with the US.

An alliance that builds on our shared prosperity and security.

An alliance that assures a region that is resilient, stable, prosperous, and respectful of sovereignty.

And an alliance that generates global public goods, that upholds international law, defends human rights and delivers real action on climate change.

We are living in a more dangerous world - the risks and threats we face are not theoretical.

The post-WW2 order, founded on the principles that have enabled the most stable and prosperous period in human history, is fraying from the weight of responding effectively to climate change, the pandemic and ongoing conflicts.

And from the actions of states that are directly undermining the United Nations Charter - principally Russia in its decision to wage a war against the innocent people of Ukraine.

It has been 14 months since the inauguration of the Biden Administration. In that time the US has reinvested in and reinvigorated its alliances and partnerships - including in our region. This is welcome.

It has recognised the importance of a consistent approach to its strategic competition with China and the need for a comprehensive strategy in the Indo-Pacific region – this too we welcome.

It has reprised its global leadership in the fight against the climate threat, and provided billions of covid vaccines to the world.

All while grappling with the severity of the pandemic at home, amid an increasingly polarised polity and serious threats to its democracy.


And now, war returns to Europe as President Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine continues.

Mr Putin is waging war on the men, women and children of Ukraine.

On their homes and on their hospitals.

A war that is inflicting loss of life, untold damage and resulting in three million refugees in Europe so far.

The countries of Europe and the United States have been steadfast in their opposition to President Putin’s actions.

We don’t know how this will end, but we do know there will be more suffering, more displacement and more innocent Ukrainian lives lost.

We know Mr Putin and Russia will be increasingly isolated  from the world, and his enablers will be held to account.

There are no easy decisions in a time of war.

But we commend the actions of the Biden Administration, the EU and NATO members - as well as Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and others - in ratcheting up the costs of this invasion.

Labor has given the Australian government full bipartisan support to the broadest range of actions available to demonstrate our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression.

All countries must defend the Charter of the United Nations.

In fact, Russia’s ruthlessness has only served to strengthen the resolve of our allies in Europe, the United States, and around the world.

Putin’s actions have fortified the EU and NATO, and have put greater pressure on Russia’s closest partner China to demonstrate consistency - in word and deed - of its longstanding foreign policy pillars of non-interference and sovereignty.

So far, China has failed in its special responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, while offering Russia relief from sanctions with the backdrop of its recently signed ‘no limits’ partnership with Moscow.

China does have a choice to make.

We would expect it to do the responsible thing and support the people of Ukraine and its sovereignty, and not supply weapons to Russia.

Most notably, Germany has overturned decades of strategic policy by allowing the provision of German-made weapons and materiel to third countries, and by providing direct military support to Ukraine.

Chancellor Scholz has rapidly expanded Germany’s expenditure on defence and energy diversification in response to Russia’s actions. 

It is a seismic shift that meets the moment - a clear demonstration of contemporary Germany’s values and its interests.

Of its commitment to transatlantic defence architecture, to the principle of state sovereignty and to the European project.

Bolstered by the resources to achieve it.

As Foreign Minister Baerbock has said: “The rules we set for ourselves must not keep us from living up to our responsibilities. When our world is a different one, our policy must be as well.”


I reference the example of Germany because it demonstrates the impact of a country taking responsibility for its security and its interests.

Australia’s longstanding alliance with the United States is a central pillar of Labor’s foreign policy.

An Albanese Labor Government will be an energetic and trusted alliance partner.

We have emphasized to our counterparts in Washington directly our bipartisan support for the AUKUS partnership and the decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

We have welcomed the Administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy and its clear efforts to build alignment around our shared regional interests.

We have welcomed President Biden’s strong personal investment in the Quad and in government we would seek to boost our contributions to regional architecture.

I was fortunate enough to communicate this alongside Anthony Albanese to Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Kurt Campbell in Melbourne last month.

There are many good reasons to be optimistic about the depth and breadth of our bilateral cooperation across all domains.

Including Labor’s commitment to restoring Australia’s global climate leadership and working closely with the Administration and others to make up for the lost decade.

A decade of inaction - not just for Australians, but also our Pacific partners.

We also acknowledge that the nature of US power and influence has changed.

The US remains the critical balancing power in our region and in the world - a world with a growing number of conflicts and flashpoints.

But this has evolved to require a more central role of allies and partners to defend the rules-based order.

Closer to home, it means that we have to step up within the alliance and work with partners and across groupings to uphold the rules of the road, respond to urgent needs and build a region that is resilient to future threats.

This has been at the heart of Labor’s approach to the US alliance since Curtin looked to America - our right and our responsibility to act in our own interests, to make our own alliances, to decide our place in our region, for ourselves.

Being self-reliant within the alliance - to quote Bob Hawke.

It is up to Australia to lead within it - to demonstrate our value-add by being a partner of choice in the region.

By working with partners to build our collective security, to diversify our export markets, secure supply chains, provide renewable energy and climate solutions, avert coercion, and respond to natural disasters.

This demands a greater financial and intellectual investment in the security and stability of our region.

We need to deploy all aspects of state power - diplomatic, strategic, social and economic.

Amongst other things, this means rebuilding our diplomatic capability - including the aid program - to maximise our influence, strengthen our economy and help build a more resilient region.

It means forging stronger, trusted regional partnerships to uphold the rules of the road and respond to urgent needs.

That’s why we’ve announced a Special Envoy to Southeast Asia as we recognise the vital importance of high-level engagement and deeper partnerships to our immediate north.

And it’s why climate diplomacy will be central to Labor’s regional engagement - including co-hosting a future Conference of the Parties with Pacific countries and a $200m climate and infrastructure partnership with Indonesia.

And as my colleague Brendan O’Connor has emphasized - it means providing urgent defence capability in the face of a looming gap in our submarines program, a litany of other major defence project delays and a narrowing window of strategic warning.

We recognise this will mean Defence budgets beyond the 2 per cent benchmark.

As Anthony Albanese has made clear, Labor will ensure that Defence has the resources it needs to defend Australia and deter potential aggressors.

We will also prioritise much deeper regional strategic cooperation - particularly with Japan, India and Singapore.

Our strategic ambitions must be matched by our actions and our resources.

Our regional engagement is also critical to how we manage the China relationship.

Our approach to the China relationship will determined by our interests and values: a commitment to international law, rules-based trade, and respect for human rights, and bolstered by our regional partnerships and alliances.


Labor has always understood the need to work with others around the globe to support our security and economic strength, and to shape the world for the better.

This is the Labor way.

An Albanese Labor government will be an active alliance partner - working with Washington to multiply our efforts and build the region we want.

One that is prosperous, peaceful and in which sovereignty is respected.

We will work together and with partners in the region to build trust and expand the choices and options available to us, to work to manage difference without escalation to conflict.

We will act to generate and preserve global public goods that give form to our values and which benefit all nations including our own.

And we will raise the cost of actions that go against the fundamental principles of the global rules-based order.

Friends, our region is being reshaped and this generation of political leaders has a responsibility in this reshaping.

To protect Australian interests, today and in the decades ahead.

And to assure opportunities for the next generation as good as those created for us by the last.

Thank you.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.