JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Jim Caruso – the finest US Ambassador Australia never had. Former Ministerial staff, Frances Adamson, diplomats, ladies and gentlemen. I am deeply honoured and touched by this award medal in the name of Eleanor Roosevelt.
I first became conscious of the role of the First Lady and the White House when I was about six-years old. We had National Geographic at home. I vividly recall being utterly captivated by a foldout glossy edition, featuring Jackie Kennedy’s renovation of the White House. I lay on the floor and poured over every frame endlessly. Of course she had a global impact, as the President’s 1961 visit to France proved. The French-speaking Givenchy-wearing First Lady so dazzled the French public, that at a press conference President Kennedy said “I think it all not together inappropriate that I introduce myself. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”
Of course no First Lady before or since has had a greater impact on global and national affairs than Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving First Lady of the United States. She was a public speaker, a columnist, an advocate, an activist, a civil rights reformer, a fundraiser, a lobbyist. And she happened to be the wife of the President of the United States.
After he died in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt continued her work. She was appointed as a representative to the United Nations General Assembly for the United States, she became the first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She was a driving force behind the development and adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and she continued her powerful, her advocacy, her public appearances until her death in 1962.
As we heard this evening she had a connection with Australia. She came here in 1943, 75 years ago, to visit the American troops and the Australian troops, and she met with then Prime Minister John Curtin who happens to be the only Prime Minister from Western Australia, and after whom my seat of Curtin is named. As we have heard, she made a gruelling visit across the Pacific – 17 locations including New Zealand, thus demonstrating during the darkest days of World War Two how much the United States appreciated the role of their allies and friends in the Pacific. But she also demonstrated leadership and courage in her fine appreciation of the importance of friends of the United States.
Her legacy has endured and she paved the way for so many women in the United States to be deeply involved in public life, in foreign policy. And I had the privilege as Foreign Minister to meet and learn from some outstanding female Secretaries of State – Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. I worked with outstanding US representatives at the United Nations – Samantha Power and Nikki Haley.
When I became Foreign Minister, I was determined to ensure that our relationship with the United States was a priority of the highest order. And I set about making contacts and connections across the administrations so that I could help broaden, deepen and strengthen this already extraordinary alliance. I met on a number of occasions with President Obama and President Trump; with Vice President Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence; with Secretaries of State John Kerry, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo. Through our AUSMIN meetings – our 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial meetings. I came to know and work with the Defense Secretaries – Ash Carter, Chuck Hagel and Jim Mattis.
On my frequent visits to Washington I came to know the National Security community and met with the National Security Advisers Susan Rice and with General McMaster and John Bolton. I also got to know the inner circle of the intelligence community – the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, the head of the CIA John Brennan.
It was through these connections and these engagements that we were able to have frank exchanges on our priorities, our values, our interests, and I think we were able to influence US thinking from time to time. After all that’s what friends can do. Let me give you an example. When Australia adopted the term “Indo-Pacific” to represent our thinking on our place in the world, the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Asia Pacific as articulated in our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, we shared our thinking with United States and it was reflected in their National Security Statement, and indeed Pacific Command has now been renamed Indo Pacific Command.
The United States is our strongest, deepest, most important economic partner, and through our trade and our investment, the United States is a significant partner for us. And that’s why I reinvigorated G’Day USA, the premier public diplomacy forum that we held all across the United States – driving business and investing opportunities from Seattle to New York and connecting our creative industries in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And I do recall one particularly important tourism initiative when I launched a Visit Australia campaign featuring our beaches, our sun, our surf – and Chris Hemsworth – in the middle of the worst blizzard that New York had experienced in decades. That’s what I call exquisite timing.
The United States is our strategic partner in defence, intelligence and economic terms. This year marks the 100th anniversary of our military partnership, for it was on the 4th of July 1918 that General John Monash led a combined force of US and Australian troops at the battle of Hamel, which many say turned the tide of World War One. And we have stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in every major military conflict since that time.
We look to the United States as vital in safeguarding global peace and stability security and prosperity. We look to the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom and liberty and human advancement. And my passion for the United States and its people knows no bounds. You know who your friends are, in good times and in tough times. The United States has been there for us. We have been there and the United States. That is the true test of friendship. And I have been privileged to be the custodian of this relationship for the past five years.
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