The United States and Australia: Our Friendship and Accomplishments

Posted by Jeffrey Bleich
November 12, 2010
Secretary Clinton, Australian Foreign Minister Rudd, Defense Secretary Gates, and Australian Defense Minister Smith

About the Author: Jeffrey L. Bleich serves as U.S. Ambassador to Australia.

We just returned from watching Secretary Clinton and her traveling party go “wheels up,” and tonight we will celebrate three perfect days of U.S.-Australia collaboration. Although the Secretary's schedule would ordinarily be described as “brutal” or “inhuman” in normal circumstances, in Australia, it was actually fun in part because of the easy and positive cooperation of Australian and U.S. partners.

On Sunday (most people's day of rest), the Secretary's day started before dawn. After her regular staff meeting, she hosted a meeting with the entire Embassy staff to thank them and meet their families. We then sprinted to the University of Melbourne where she addressed a youth audience on a nationally-televised Town Hall -- answering questions on every subject from China, to burkas, to raising a daughter in the White House. From there, she gave an interview to the hilariously inane Hamish and Andy. Among other things, they asked her about the diplomatic art of preventing your neighbors from freeloading your barbecue. (For some flavor of the interview, click here.)

We then dashed to Federation Square where the Secretary and the Prime Minister strolled along the beautiful river and up to "Taxi"” one of Melbourne's famously excellent restaurants. Along the way, children came up and said hello to two of the most powerful women in the world, while others who were more shy simply yelled, "I Love You, Hillary."

After lunch, we drove across town to a magnificent carbon-neutral building -- not only does it generate no carbon; it actually takes carbon out of the atmosphere. (I did my part for a low-carbon future by taking the stairs to a roof-top event rather than the elevator.) The developers briefed us on all of the energy-saving features, which included an ingenious computerized system developed by Honeywell, along with many other American products.

Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Gillard then announced a new joint effort to reduce the cost of solar energy and to promote carbon capture and storage. From there, we drove to the Port of Melbourne to join with American business leaders who are helping the United States dramatically increase its exports to Australia. Against the backdrop of a bustling Melbourne harbor, we inspected imports from Caterpillar, John Deere, Harley Davidson, GE, and many other companies. We then drove back across town for an extended discussion with the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, (remember this is still the same Sunday), followed by an interview with a U.S. media outlet. We had just enough time to change and drive to the War Memorial to lay wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance in memory of fallen Australian veterans.

After that we attended another moving ceremony in which the Governor of Victoria bestowed on our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Order of Australia -- Australia's equivalent of a knighthood. We then had a formal dinner at Government House with Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Defense Minister Stephen Smith, and other leaders of our respective diplomatic and defense communities. Although we did not get home until late, a few hours later we were all back up, awake, and engaged in a vigorous all-day session that produced a great number of new and important commitments between on our nations. By day's end, we had agreed on initiatives on critical subjects on every issue from cyber to space to joint security operations.

To do all of this in 48 hours would be difficult if not impossible in most cases. But here, we saw in real time the unstoppable ability of Australians and Americans working together. Whether it was members of our Mission, their colleagues on Secretary Clinton's and Secretary Gates' travel teams, or their counterparts in the Australian Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or Defence, or the terrific men and women of the Australian Federal Police, the Victorian Police, the Victorian Government, or helpful employees of the hotels, restaurants, ports, buildings, universities, and studios, or just warm and encouraging friends on sidewalks and riverbanks....the events were all seamless. This is what happens when friends work together -- we accomplish a great deal and we have fun doing it.

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