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Future of US-Australia alliance to be written in WA
July 4, 2023

It has been a little under a year since I was lucky enough to arrive in Western Australia to represent the United States and serve as Consul General.

Since that time, two things have become clear to me – our shared values are what drive our exceptionally successful partnership and so much of the future of the US-Australia alliance will be written in this dynamic state. From investment and trade to the environment and security, the opportunities ahead are outstanding.

In the past year, Perth welcomed two nuclear-powered submarines – the USS Mississippi and USS Asheville. In addition to important training with Australian counterparts, the crews of these vessels spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the community. 

The US, Australia and the United Kingdom also provided details and timelines for the AUKUS trilateral security partnership. At the historic announcement in San Diego in March, President Biden told the world “the USS Asheville is making a port call in Perth as we speak”.

We learned that, under AUKUS, Submarine Rotational Force West will bring increased military cooperation and partnerships to WA, as well as thousands of jobs, an AU$8 billion expansion to HMAS Stirling naval base and a path to new industries.

This state’s space sector is also taking off. NASA Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy – one of only two women to pilot the Space Shuttle – came to Perth earlier this year. She highlighted the decades of US-WA space cooperation and how WA continues to be a key partner in NASA’s return to the Moon and our eventual exploration of Mars.   

I met NASA’s Robonaut “Valkyrie” at Woodside, and learned how NASA and Woodside are pioneering autonomous systems to work in remote environments, including space. 

In February, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American person to serve in the US Cabinet, became the highest-level US Government official to visit Perth in over a decade. She both highlighted and learned about ways we can use Indigenous knowledge and collaborative conservation to preserve our land and marine environments, and celebrated the decades of friendship between US and Australian firefighters to combat devastating bushfires in each other’s countries. 

We are taking unprecedented action on climate change and protecting the environment. The US Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, is the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history. The IRA offers immense opportunities for WA, with many US companies looking to source their critical minerals from this state. A significant percentage of the lithium in Tesla’s batteries comes from WA and Albemarle is doubling the size of its lithium processing plant near Bunbury. 

Since the passage of the IRA and other legislation, the US government and private sector have invested AU$2.3 billion in Australia’s critical minerals industry and companies – much of that here in WA.  This is on top of the already substantial AU$2.2 trillion in two-way investment between our countries.  

But there is still enormous potential to increase our two-way investment. This month, our Consulate joined Minderoo Foundation to launch the Blak Angels Investment Network. This groundbreaking program, involving US and Australian delegations, is designed to boost access to investment and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians and Native Americans.    

I am also proud of the other contributions the US has made to the WA community. We provided the first funding for She Runs’ “campaign school” that empowers women to be at the forefront of political and civic life. Our Consulate was also the first financial supporter of Millennium Kids, a youth-led organization finding innovative solutions to help the environment and address climate change. And we are strong supporters of the arts – including helping to bring Broadway music to the WA Ballet, supporting Perth Festival and working with filmmakers at CinefestOz.

These are all great achievements, and we are proud to be Australia’s trusted partner in security, economic growth, energy and climate. But the US-Australia alliance is even more than that. At the heart of everything we do together are our shared values.

On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers brought forth the Declaration of Independence. That document proposed not just to create a new nation, but to found a nation on new principles. The authors wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  

The Declaration created a nation centered on a universal claim to human dignity and on the belief that every person has a right to live in freedom. George Washington stated the Declaration was a promise not only of liberty to the American people, “but hope to the world . . . that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance”.

The values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution form the core of all that America is, represents and everything we aspire to – even when we have sometimes fallen short. And those same values of freedom, equality and deep friendship form the core of the U.S.-Australia alliance, now and forever. 

Whether it is our many collaborations and world-leading projects, or our people-to-people exchanges and interactions, the US-Australia partnership is evident and active in WA every single day. 

Published in The West Australian, July 4, 2023.