Strengthening the Australia-US Relationship

Strengthening the Australia-US Relationship

International Policy
Thursday, 19 September 2019

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump smiling and shaking hands

There is no better, stronger or deeper relationship than that between the US and Australia. It is supported by shared democratic values, common interests and cultural similarities.

And it is actively maintained by high level visits in both directions.

This month’s State Dinner at the White House in honour of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a highlight in a 9 day trip aimed at strengthening our Alliance, and working towards a more open, inclusive, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.

It is also evidence of a close relationship between the Prime Minister and President Donald Trump, it being the first State Dinner held in honour of an Australian Prime Minister since 2006.

The Prime Minister’s visit is the latest in a long line of visits dating back to Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ meeting with President Wilson1 in 1918 in New York City en route to London.

Other noteworthy Prime Ministerial visits include John Curtin’s presence on US soil on D-Day (6 June 1944) and John Howard’s visit to Washington DC on 9/11 (11 September 2001).

The first US Presidential visit to Australia was by Lyndon B. Johnson in October of 1966 who returned a year later in December 1967 to attend the memorial service for Prime Minster Harold Holt.

President George H. W. Bush on his visit to Australia in 1991 famously offered the children of Prime Minister Paul Keating ‘a lift’ from Sydney to Canberra on Air Force One2, an offer the children gladly accepted.

The last to visit Australia was President Barack H. Obama in November 2014 for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Sydney completing a total of 8 visits to Australia by US Presidents.

The special Australia US relationship was forged in the trenches of World War I at the Battle of Hamel3 when Australian and US troops fought alongside each other for the first time. That relationship was formalised on 8 January 1940 with the exchange of Legations which were subsequently elevated to Embassy status in 1946.

Earlier in 1942, as the US Navy’s Task Force 17 accompanied by the Australian cruiser HMAS Australia and HMAS Hobart repelled the Japanese strike force against Port Moresby in the Battle of the Coral Sea4, our security dependence on this developing alliance was never more apparent.

The creation of the ANZUS Alliance 9 years later in 1951 made formal what was to Australia, an alliance critical to the future safety and sovereignty of our nation.

The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, established in 2005, added another dimension to our already solid friendship.

As the Prime Minister meets with President Trump and other US leaders this month and as he delivers speeches to multiple forums, he fulfils a role of import above and beyond mere tradition.

1. Visits to the US by Australian Prime Ministers

2. (behind pay-wall)

3. Australian and the United States Relations

4. The Battle of the Coral Sea