An official website of the United States government

“The United States and Australia: Infinite Possibilities – the New Normal”
Ambassador Berry’s Remarks at the National Press Club of Australia
August 31, 2016

(As prepared for delivery –August 31, 2016)

Almost four years ago, when President Obama asked me: “John, what would make you happy?”  I answered him with one word: Australia.

Thus began my once-in-a-lifetime sojourn as U.S. Ambassador to this Lucky Country.  But in all fairness, I consider myself the lucky one.

My three years in Australia came at a remarkable time for our relationship.  I inherited an amazing alliance, an unrivaled, one-of-a-kind partnership that has transformed our nations into Pacific, and global, powers.  It is no exaggeration to say that America has no better friend than Australia; and Australia no better friend than America.

With ties this deep and broad, the challenge for both our governments is to make it better by keeping this most important relationship fresh, current, and vital in the 21st century.

On my watch, I was determined to advance the U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific; promote economic growth through investment and innovation; and push boundaries – from new frontiers in space exploration and medical research to conservation and the clean energy revolution, while also advancing equality and civil rights in both of our nations.

Everyday Americans and everyday Australians are better off today because of what we have achieved together over the last three years.

The United States is and will always be a Pacific power.  What we once referred to as a rebalance in U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific should now rightfully be called “the new normal.”

What does this mean for Australia?  It means that U.S. engagement with Australia has never been more robust.  Over the last three years alone, the President of the United States of America and his Vice President have both travelled to Australia.  Half of the President’s cabinet has visited, many more than once.  More than 100 Congressional delegations have made the journey.  And, there have been more than 500 visits to Australia by senior U.S. defense officials.

These visits are important.  Our leaders discuss the broad range of initiatives that shape our common future – regardless of who sits in the White House or in the Lodge.  The Vice President’s visit to Australia last month underscored our cooperation across the board: from defense to advanced manufacturing, from cancer research to entrepreneurship and innovation.  As he said, ours is a “partnership of possibilities, a partnership about the future, a partnership about progress.”

The goal is an Asia-Pacific that is peaceful, prosperous, and principled.

As Pacific powers, we have a duty to protect and enhance the rules-based international order that for over half a century has served as a foundation for incredible political and economic progress for all nations of the region.  We want a future that looks like last month’s Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the world – 27 countries, including China, united for the common good.

And, we will succeed by enhancing the already superior readiness and interoperability of our militaries.  The “new normal” means that our armed forces are prepared to respond – to all crises and disasters, natural or otherwise.

This is what our Force Posture Initiatives are about.  This is why the United States is putting our most advanced military capabilities in the Pacific.  This is why we have grown the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin from 200 when I arrived here three years ago to 1,250 U.S. Marines today.  And, this is why last year’s Talisman Saber training exercise was the largest in history.

Our newest and best ships are operating in the Pacific, and significantly, the Third Fleet now has the latitude to operate west of Hawaii’s longitude.  By shifting this paradigm, the Third Fleet can join forces with the Seventh Fleet at will, meaning the whole of Pacific Fleet’s power can now be employed to engage anywhere, anytime across the entire region.

This interoperability is what Australia’s Defence White Paper cements, and is why Australia is investing in the next generation of ships, planes, and submarines.  And, this is also why Australia’s military has never been stronger.

Our military cooperation is only one side of the coin.  On the other is our joint capacity for intelligence and law enforcement cooperation, which is now second to none.  Our 50-year partnership at Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap supports defense and intelligence cooperation between Australia and the United States, while also monitoring compliance with international arms control and disarmament agreements, making the world safer for everyone.

FBI Director James Comey and Sarah Saldaña, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security, both noted when recently visiting Australia, that information sharing and coordination are now at all-time highs.  Over the past three years, due to this cooperation, we have foiled far more terrorist attacks than have occurred.  And, we will not rest until that number is 100 percent.

Our close coordination also enables us to take on transnational crime networks.  The FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the Diplomatic Security Service collaborate closely with their Australian law enforcement counterparts.  Together, they have racked up an impressive record of seizures and arrests in the campaign to put a stop to money laundering and to the illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people.  They have seized millions in drug and illicit proceeds and hundreds of kilos of illegal narcotics, worth millions of dollars in street value.   With these and other efforts, the “new normal” has made individual Australians and Americans safer.

And while our alliance has often been defined in terms of our common defense and intelligence partnerships, what I have seen in my three years as U.S. Ambassador, is that the alliance between the United States and Australia is also about so much more.

Now more than ever, our alliance is about doing business, and doing it together.  I could not be happier with the growth of the last three years.

The value created by our economic partnership is increasing every day, and is best exemplified by investment – which signifies the trust, confidence, and optimism we have in the strength of each other’s economies.  Three years ago, we invested $1 trillion in each other’s economies.  Today it has grown to 1.5 trillion! That’s an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2013.  Making the United States, Australia’s largest foreign investor as well as the number one destination for Australian investment.

Our free trade agreement, launched by the Howard government, has been a boon to our two-way trade in goods and services over the last 11 years.  Trade in goods has increased 65 percent, trade in services 75 percent.  Top U.S. exports to Australia include aircraft and farm machinery.  Ranchers in Queensland know that last year the United States bought over $2.3 billion worth of Australian beef, making us your number one beef market worldwide.  The United States is also your number one importer of Australia’s wines, purchasing nearly $450 million worth over the past year alone.  All thanks to the AUSFTA.

This agreement helped the Australian company Austal get its start building ships for the U.S. Navy in Alabama.  Today, they build almost half of the U.S. Navy’s new littoral combat ships and all 12 of the Military Sealift Command’s new expeditionary fast transport ships.  Now, Austal is postured to play a significant role in building the Australian Navy’s most advanced ships right here at home.

The landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership will build on this record of success and further open markets and promote prosperity with 10 additional nations.

Because prosperity is our goal.

In real terms, these numbers translate into employment, investment in local communities, and export growth, for the United States and for Australia.    Chevron has directly employed 19,000 Australians.  Boeing employs over 3,000.  In the United States, Austal employs over 4,000 Americans, a 400 percent increase in less than five years.

Everyone here knows about the Joint Strike Fighter.  Our companies, big and small, are working together, here and in the United States, to develop this cutting-edge, next generation aircraft.  To produce the JSF, American company Lockheed Martin has partnered with 30 Australian companies and invested over half a billion U.S. dollars in JSF-related elements in Australia.  The result?  Over 500 million U.S. dollars in exports and thousands of jobs across five Australian states, right here, right now.  Upon completion, the JSF is projected to generate up to $4 billion U.S. dollars in exports for Australia.  Lockheed Martin is opening its only R&D facility outside the United States in Melbourne.

And this is just one example of a trade and investment relationship that runs the gamut from agriculture to advanced manufacturing; energy to high finance.

Iconic U.S. companies like Boeing and GE have historic ties to Australia, going back over 100 years.  These companies and many, many more are also vested in Australia’s future.  Chevron, ConocoPhilips, and Exxon Mobil have invested over $100 billion U.S. dollars to help Australia on its path toward becoming the world’s number one exporter of liquefied natural gas by 2020.  This investment in LNG is equal, in terms of cost and importance, to what the United States put into the Apollo space program in the latter half of the twentieth century.

I mention space exploration because it is one of the many areas where U.S.-Australia cooperation has changed the world.  We would have never seen Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon without Australia’s space communications capability.   Space exploration is also a shining example of what humankind is capable of.  It is innovation at its finest.

U.S. companies benefit enormously from a surging tide of entrepreneurship and innovation that is sweeping Australia, the Asia Pacific, and the globe.  Success in this century and into the future depends on investments in cutting-edge science and technology and in educating the next generation.

From Perth to Brisbane, and everywhere in between, entrepreneurs, young and old, are making the pitch for the new and novel.  I have seen this at WestTechFest in Western Australia; Melbourne’s Accelerator Program; and “the Cube” and BlueBox at Queensland University of Technology.

These visits were part and parcel of our Embassy’s innovation roundtables, which brought together students, business leaders, academics, scientists, researchers, government officials, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs to share best practices and brainstorm expanded cooperation.  Over the course of six events, in cities across Australia, we championed the power of innovation to change lives for the better.  When we started, very few people in Australia were talking about innovation, but now, and thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Turnbull, everyone is talking about innovation.

Prime Minister Turnbull has put innovation at the heart of Australia’s policy agenda.  The American Chamber of Commerce last year launched an incredibly successful innovation mission to Silicon Valley and plans another later this year.  What I found most rewarding was that the roundtables gave me the opportunity to meet hundreds of Australia’s best and brightest, and some of America’s too.

I met the Oscar-winning team at Animal Logic – the Sydney-based, cutting-edge animation studio behind Happy Feet and The LEGO Movie.  They are awesome!

I met American and Australian scientists working together at Flinders University on groundbreaking research in biomechanics and robotics.

And, I met the coolest 11-year old, Hamish Finlayson from Townsville.  Hamish may be young, but he has an entrepreneurial spirit that knows no bounds, and is dedicated to using technology to make a difference.  To this end, he has developed multiple apps – one that promotes environmental conservation and another that teaches people how to better understand autism.  Hamish stole the show at President Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in June in Silicon Valley.  If the next generation is made up of more Hamishes, we will be in good hands.

I have spent the last 15 minutes painting a picture of the varied, complex, and incredibly successful partnership that defines our alliance in the 21st century.  You may think I have covered everything.  But, here’s the rest, and arguably the best, of our amazing story.

Outer space.  I mentioned it once already, and I can talk about our joint exploration of the cosmos all day if given the opportunity.   The key point is, it’s not ancient history.   NASA Administrator Charles Boden and Ed Kruzens from the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network.  The satellite dishes they inaugurated that day at Tidbinbilla make today’s deep space missions possible.  Since 2014, NASA has invested over $100 million U.S. dollars in upgrades to the Tidbinbilla complex, and the newest satellite dish will come online later this year.

Why?  Within just the last three years, Australia was the vital communication link that enabled us to land a rover on Mars.  The world has Australia to thank for the breathtaking pictures of Pluto sent back by New Horizons, as well as helping Juno safely enter orbit around Jupiter – a miracle of engineering and technology.   And, cooperation between Australian and American astronauts and scientists is essential to the greatest human endeavor of this century: the human Mission to Mars.  When we go to Mars – and we will – all communications will be managed right here at Tidbinbilla!

Australia’s role in outer space exploration is incredible and is one of the facets of our relationship I hope more people know about and are rightfully proud of.

Closer to home, our scientists will lead humankind across medical frontiers. Together, we will discover how to prevent, and cure: cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other debilitating and deadly disorders.  We have signed agreements between the top U.S. and Australian research institutes – the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Health and Medical Research Council, and multiple universities and centers of excellence. These agreements foster research partnerships, ensure better information sharing, accelerate the pace of progress – and the results aim to break the back of cancer within the next decade.

Earlier this month in Melbourne, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was in town to sign another type of agreement – a memorandum of cooperation that will harness the creativity and innovation of our public and private sectors to reimagine and redefine transportation for the 21st century.  Focused on traveler safety, this initiative will also improve transportation efficiency and cost effectiveness; a boon to the pocketbook of every citizen.  When cities are smarter, greener, and more livable, life will be better for ordinary Australians.

Our planet will also be healthier.  The United States and Australia are leading the way on conservation and climate change – as we proved with the groundbreaking Paris Agreement.  And, we are leading the clean energy revolution that will help us realize the Paris Agreement in full.  On Barrow Island in Western Australia, Chevron has built the world’s largest commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration facility.  This facility will prevent up to four million tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.  It represents forward-thinking technology that is required to keep costs low, improve efficiency, and minimize environmental impact.

Barrow Island’s operations have also had zero impact on critical native turtle populations, making it a model for the protection of wildlife habitats.  Furthermore, because of more active research and strong institutional linkages between my friends at Taronga Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, and other U.S. institutions, and the stellar efforts of countless Australians, such as Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews, Australia’s iconic animals – koalas, quokkas, quolls, Tasmanian devils – will continue to fascinate future generations.  And, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy is a pioneer and world leader in efforts on a massive scale to control invasive species and enhance the survival of native species.  The AWC model is one our own U.S. conservation community is now exploring, and one I promise to take home.

And, because of our cooperation and our action, our oceans will continue to sustain us.  Fulbright scholar and marine scientist Joe Pollock is one of many Americans who are working with Australians to preserve marine ecosystems.  He is among the 5,000 Fulbright scholars who have studied, taught, lectured, and enriched university campuses across the United States and Australia for the past 50 years.

Joe has encouraged Indigenous students to turn traditional knowledge about Australia’s unique natural environment in to scientific careers.  His work highlights another aspect of our alliance – the connections between our Indigenous and Native cultures.  The bonds that span the Pacific and unite indigenous peoples were on display when Aboriginal Australians welcomed the Hokule’a – a Hawaii-based Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe – to Sydney Harbor last year.  The Hokule’a canoe continues to sail around the world and is now on the east coast of the United States.

Indigenous Australians are the oldest continuous culture on the planet.  Their cultural and linguistic diversity is astounding, and is mirrored in the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Hawaii.  The robust heritage of these peoples helps to define and enrich what it means to be Australian or American.  As Ambassador, I have worked to forge stronger links between the Smithsonian and its National Museum of the American Indian and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and other Australian institutions.  Our First Peoples have so much to share and learn from each other, and with all of us.

Finally, I will never forget the AIDS conference in Melbourne in 2014.  It may well be remembered as the turning point toward the first AIDS-free generation.  And, my experiences of the gay pride parades in Melbourne and Sydney are some of my best memories of Australia.  I will never forget marching side-by-side with the French Ambassador and volunteers from both our embassies in Sydney at this year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – upholding equality for all.  And, this October, the United States and Australia will put equality in the spotlight by teaming up with local advocates to host the first ever LGBTI Pacific Youth Forum.

Ambassadors – sadly – come and go.  As do presidents and prime ministers.  But each of these initiatives, agreements, and connections are enduring and sustainable investments in our common future.  The future of every man, woman, and child in the United States and in Australia.

It is mind boggling how much we do together, and how little is generally known about what we – the United States and Australia – are doing to make life better for all.

I have learned so much over the last three years.  These are just a few of the many lessons that I am taking with me back to America.

For one, Australians are some of the most rational people on the planet.  Many aspects of life here that Australians take for granted, if adopted in America, would make my country stronger.  There are three approaches to the electoral process in particular that I would like to bring back with me to the United States: compulsory voting, a time limit on election campaigns, and parliamentary boundaries decided by an independent election commission.  Like the famous “Australian ballot,” as the secret ballot was then known, that the United States adopted in the late nineteenth century, these reforms would strengthen our democratic process in the 21st century.

I will also look forward to telling my fellow Americans about Australia’s leadership.  Australia leads by example on the global stage, and always steps up to do its fair share, and more.  Australia is an excellent neighbor.  This much was clear in April when Australia mobilized to assist Fiji in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston.  Australia invests over one billion Australian dollars in its Pacific Regional aid program and bilateral assistance to individual countries, including over half a billion dollars in Papua New Guinea alone.  And, Australia’s exchange programs – such as the New Colombo Plan – have fostered the people-to-people ties that make this region such a powerhouse.  Australia’s leadership has helped to make this century the Pacific century.

Furthermore, Australia’s good global citizenship and leadership extends far beyond the Asia Pacific.

Australia is a critical member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.  In fact, Australia is and has long been at the very top of the list of contributors to this coalition.  And together, we have made great strides in combatting Daesh, reducing the number of Daesh fighters by at least a third and driving it out of nearly half the territory it once occupied in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria.  We are giving this evil no safe haven, stripping it of resources, and not resting until it is ultimately defeated.

Australia’s quick response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa was critical to helping contain Ebola’s spread and potentially saving millions of lives.

Australia has for decades consistently been amongst the top three nations in the world in the resettlement of refugees through the UNHCR.

Truly, the United States could never have dreamed up a better friend and partner.

I am going home to tell Americans how great Australia is.  But, I want all of you to remind Australians how great America is.  Trust me, America is and always will be a Pacific and global power.  And we will remain a rising power for generations to come.  Our economy is second to none, as are our universities, our military, and our capacity for research and innovation.  For us, the 21st century is only “Act 2.”

The friendships I’ve made in Australia over the last three years will stay with me for a lifetime.  There are hundreds.  I’ve asked some of them from Canberra to join me here today.  I wish I could have invited more.

In summary, three years – stronger defense and law enforcement; deeper trade and investment; bold new innovation in space and in medicine; creativity in conservation, energy and transportation; and partnerships in indigenous rights and LBGT civil rights.  Success and growth in each of these is what the “new normal” means today.

In the end, it is our people and the personal connections between us that make me so optimistic and even enthusiastic about our common future.  The ties that bind the United States and Australia together are embedded in our national values, our DNA.

Our shared and beloved values – freedom, fairness, democracy, rule of law – together with the Australian generosity of spirit, impressed my father when he arrived in Australia in 1943, after surviving the hell of Guadalcanal.

Against all odds, these brave Marines made the first land invasion on the Pacific front a critical success.  Victorious, but weary and battle-scared, the Marines of the 1st Division headed to Melbourne to rest and regenerate.

As I said in my first speech here, after six months on Guadalcanal, my father wondered if there was any good left in the world.  The welcome he received from Australians was so warm and so true that in three short weeks’ time, it reminded him and the whole Division that not only was there good left in the world – but it was also damned worth fighting for!

My father had only had three weeks in Australia.  I’ve had three years.  And they went by way too fast.  But, I can tell you, 73 years on, Australians are just as good and true, just as generous, and just as warm hearted as those good people my father met in 1943.

My father always got a tear in his eye when talking about Australia.  My family always wondered about that tear – and was too polite to ask.  Now I know it was a tear of joy.  I suspect I will always have one in mine when I remember my time in this blessed, Lucky Country.  And, I’ll add my prayer to his: Thank God for Australia.

God bless Australia.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.