The Alliance at 70: Address and Summary by Gordon Flake

With Western Australia’s borders now reopened, this past week I was fortunate to travel to Canberra for the first time in over a year. One highlight of my visit was attending “The Alliance at 70” dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, organised by the United States Studies Centre with the support of the American Australian Association and the Perth USAsia Centre. The dinner capped off a series of activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of ANZUS, including a magnificent edited volume from USSC reflecting the evolution of the alliance. With remarks from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, and former Prime Minister John Howard, the evening was both a celebration of the past and an expression of hope for the future.

This forward orientation was highlighted by the announcement that Dr. Michael Green, who flew in from Washington DC for the dinner, had been appointed as the new CEO of the USSC. Dr. Green is well known in Australia and brings a unique combination of high-level experience in government, think tanks, and academia. We at the Perth USAsia Centre congratulate him on his new position and look forward to having him join our Board.

The Alliance dinner and Dr. Green’s appointment have caused me to reflect on two trends which together present an unparalleled opportunity for Australia. The first is our growing weight and influence in the Indo-Pacific. Early on, the United States, Japan, India, Singapore and others recognised that Australia was key to any meaningful “Indo-Pacific” strategy. More recently, the UK, Germany, the EU more broadly, and increasingly Korea have come to that same realisation. Despite our relatively small population, Australia’s enhanced alliance relationship with the United States, our participation in the Quad, and AUKUS reflect that we are – more than ever before – a priority partner for other countries.

The second trend has naturally flowed from Australia’s experience at the receiving end of overt economic coercion by China. While Australian business and political leaders have long recognised the need to diversify Australia’s exports away from a relatively small group of commodities going to a single country, actual diversification has been difficult given the tremendous economic opportunities available in China. The events of the past few years, however, have driven home the costs of market concentration and mandate a more serious approach to diversification. As such, Australia cannot help but look at partners such as India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and others in a new light. This bodes extremely well for Australia’s positio­n in the Indo-Pacific. In short, key countries in the region are more interested in us, and we in turn are more interested in them than ever before.

More information about The Alliance at 70 is available via the USSC website.

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