Friends of Australia, Friends of the United States.
Recently I came across an old newspaper clipping, the Canberra Times, 9th of January 1940. Sir Robert Menzies, then Prime Minister, had a
nnounced that Richard Casey would be Australia’s first Ambassador to the United States. According to the report, President Roosevelt had reciprocated and the first US representative was on his way to Australia. Washington was in fact our first overseas diplomatic mission apart from London. Thus began the formal diplomatic ties between Australia and the United States.
Australia of course at that time was four months into what became the Second World War, having entered on Britain’s side and Prime Minister Menzies knew that it was essential for Australia to have “Our Man in Washington”.
Richard Casey kept a diary and he recorded that when he presented his credentials in March of 1940, President Roosevelt advised Casey that he had already asked his Cabinet to consider the United States response to a range of scenarios including an attack on Australia. But it transpired President Roosevelt told Casey that his Cabinet believed the element of distance denoted a lessening and declining interest in that scenario on the part of the United States. Casey was undaunted, yet who could have ever predicted the events that would unfold.
The friendship between the United States and Australia was forged in troubled times as we fought together against tyranny. We had a common view of a better world and we remain willing partners, steadfast in pursuit of liberty.
As we pay tribute this evening to the remarkable achievements of Richard Warburton and Andrew Liveris and the Business Council of Australia we also celebrate the contribution our nations have made through our commitment to freedom and democracy, through our people with their entrepreneurial spirit, their innovative flair, their extraordinary ability to adapt, and with our private sectors as the heart of and the driving force behind our economies.
Australia-United States cooperation is far more than defence and security. It is across all endeavours – education, trade, research. The Coalition warmly welcomes the announcement today by the Business Council of America through Andrew Liveris, through Tony Shepherd, of joint work to identify Australia’s priority technologies and to find ways to scale up our innovation engine. It’s an extraordinary project and one worth pursuing.
As we leave this evening having heard the inspiring words of our Honourees and our Fellows. We can all be confident that the very very best days of this friendship lie ahead. Long may the Australian American alliance and this deep and beautiful friendship endure.