George Bush photo

Remarks to the Australian Parliament in Canberra

January 02, 1992

Thank you, Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, and the leader of the opposition, Mr. Leader, Members, and Senators. It is a deep and wonderful honor for me to be here, and I am very, very grateful for the honor of appearing before this House of the Australian Parliament. I know that the Members have gone to extraordinary lengths to arrange this special session. And I think the people in our country will appreciate this very, very much.

I want to offer special greetings and thanks to the members of the Australian-U.S.A. parliamentary group who have done so much to deepen the friendship between our countries.

Let me just make an initial observation if I might. You have a wonderfully vigorous political climate. [Laughter] That has got to be the classic understatement of the year. [Laughter] And I see this rough and tumble that goes forth like this, and I thank God for the Presidential system at home. But nevertheless -- [laughter]. Let me make this observation, though. I feel very fortunate to have known several of your Members from both sides of the aisle over the years. And amidst all the intensity and emotion brought forth in these Chambers, I've always been impressed by the united message that your leaders have sent to my country. Even when out of office or in the opposition, they have always placed Australia's interests ahead of personal interests. That says something very positive, very important about your great country.

That's certainly one reason that any visitor from the United States cannot help but feel a warm kinship with Australia. Both of our young nations were seen by explorers and pioneers and immigrants as destinations of freedom and opportunity. Our cultures reflect an extraordinary diversity, from British and Irish, to Italian and Polish, to Vietnamese and Cambodian.

This Parliament building displays an original copy of the Magna Carta, I'm told, one of only four such manuscripts to have survived to this day. The U.S. National Archives is home to another of those original manuscripts. I can think of no more powerful symbol of our shared commitments to the rights of the individual, to the rule of law, and to the government of consent, by consent of the people.

With our common ancestries and shared ideals, Americans and Australians also find other similarities. Each of our countries spans a continent rich in agricultural and mineral resources. Spectacular natural beauty abounds in fantastic variety in both our nations as well. To be frank, our people think big. And their biggest ideas are the ones we share: The belief in the indivisibility of human freedom and the willingness to struggle and sacrifice for the peace and security of other nations.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the fateful Battle of the Coral Sea. We remember the courage and fighting skill of the Australian and American naval forces. Their valor spared Australia from invasion and stemmed the tide of totalitarianism.

In Korea and Vietnam, Australians and Americans again joined forces. Their sacrifices were not in vain. Korea is a democracy, setting a standard for free market development worldwide. Long-suffering Cambodia now has the hope of a durable peace and free elections. Even Vietnam is opening to the world, seeking reintegration with the dynamic market economies of the region.

In the Persian Gulf, we stood together against Saddam Hussein's aggression. Indeed, the first two coalition partners in a joint boarding exercise to enforce the United Nations resolutions were Australians from the H.M.A.S. Darwin and Americans from the U.S.S. Brewerton. During the war, the joint defense facilities here in Australia played an invaluable role in detecting launches of Iraqi Scud missiles. And today, two of the three navies represented in operations enforcing the embargo against Iraq are those of Australia and of the United States of America.

But even as we recall our struggles and successes, we must now look forward to the opportunity to shape our shared destiny.

First, we face together the challenge of economic opportunity and growth, creating jobs for our people and for their families. Second, we face new but no less exacting challenges to our security, the threats of regional conflicts and proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction. Third, we face the exciting task of fostering the remarkable momentum for democracy and freedom that swept the world these past few years. A strong America has been central to the triumph of free markets and free people. I am confident that the United States will continue to have the conviction and the capacity to be a force for good and that a new era of economic opportunity will unfold with enhanced opportunities for peace.

The coming era promises unparalleled potential for economic growth in the nations of the Pacific. In 1990, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for a total of $300 billion in two-way commerce with the United States, a total nearly one-third larger than America's volume of trade across the Atlantic. This region is the fastest growing market in the world. And still, there are voices on both sides of the Pacific calling for economic isolationism. And while for some nations, including Australia and the United States, these are tough, hard economic times, we both know protectionism is a fundamentally bankrupt notion. Make no mistake, America will continue to stand for open trade and open markets.

And trade means jobs; it means good jobs, at home and abroad. And I'm sure it comes as no surprise that my highest priority as President of the United States is to promote economic growth and jobs for our people. That goal is fully consistent with economic growth and jobs for Australians. You and I know that open markets generate growth, that international trade is not simply a zero-sum game.

And you also know that the nations who share the rewards of a vibrant and growing international trading system must also share the responsibilities. Australia has stood as a true leader in efforts to achieve success in the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations. And you brought great skill and energy in seeking deep cuts in trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. Progress on agriculture is the key to the success of the GATT talks. Your farmers are not alone in feeling the pain caused by the heavy subsidies of the European Community. Our wheat production dropped by almost 30 percent last year. But I'm also aware of the concern such United States trade programs as this Export Enhancement Program can cause Australian farmers.

Our EEP program has one and only one objective, and that is to force the EC to stop its avalanche of subsidized exports. And the fact is that the EC subsidizes over 10 times the amount of farm exports that we do. Moreover, our program seeks to minimize the effects on Australia and other nonsubsidizing nations. While I don't like having to use these remedies, I will safeguard the interests of American farmers. And without EEP, the European Community would absorb additional markets, forcing out those who can compete fairly, farmers in countries like Australia and the United States.

We both know, all of us know, that the real answer is what our two governments are doing, working hard for an historic new GATT arrangement that cuts back subsidies, especially for exports. That's why the U.S. is committed to working with GATT Director Dunkel's new text. We believe his draft moves us closer to finally concluding an agreement. While not perfect, it makes an important contribution, and the international trading system is too important to pass up this opportunity. I trust and hope that Australia and other Pacific nations will join us to instill additional momentum in the Uruguay round negotiations when they resume later this month. This is the best comprehensive approach that we can offer to our hard-working farmers and ranchers.

We also see the potential for using regional organizations to expand and liberalize trade around the globe. We are especially encouraged by Australia's leadership in the APEC, in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation process. The success of the November APEC ministerial in Seoul was proof that APEC is emerging as the economic forum in the Pacific and is increasingly fostering a sense of community around the Pacific Rim. North America -- Mexico, the United States, and Canada -- is part of this community. And so, let me just assure you, every one of you, both sides of this aisle, that the North America free trade agreement will not become an exclusive trading bloc. It will lower internal barriers without raising external barriers. Our growth will help stimulate yours, just as growth in Asia will spur our exports.

We also can do more bilaterally to expand trade. That's why I am proposing a United States-Australia trade and investment framework agreement, one way to enhance our already strong economic engagement. That's our agenda to expand exports and growth through reducing trade barriers, whether globally, regionally, or bilaterally.

Clearly, with the dramatic changes in the world we must adapt to new security realities as well. But let me simply pledge to you, our friends: No matter what changes may come about in the defense expenditures in the United States or in the nature of the threats to international peace, the U.S.-Australian alliance is fundamental to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

I understand that there is some concern in Asia about America's commitment given our imminent departure from Subic Bay in the Philippines. Let me put it plainly: I've served in Asia, personally, in time of war and in time of peace, and with changing times, our posture is going to change to suit different needs. But our role and our purpose as a Pacific power will remain constant. It is important that the people of Australia understand this. We intend to remain engaged no matter whatever the changing security arrangements of our time.

And yes, we've talked about it here today with the Prime Minister, with the leader of the opposition, with others. The cold war is over. But the threat of communism which for so many decades occupied our energies is now replaced by the instabilities of ethnic rivalries and regional conflicts. And yes, the Soviet Union, as we have known it, is history. It's a new era. But like Australia, the United States has fought three wars in Asia over the past 50 years. We know that our security is inextricably linked to stability across the Pacific, and we will not put that security and stability at risk. I can assure you that the United States intends to retain the appropriate military presence to protect its allies and to counter threats to peace.

Just recently in the Persian Gulf we witnessed that the dangerous combination of volatile regional conflicts and weapons of mass destruction requires our constant attention. And so, I salute Australia's leadership in stemming the threat of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. It's your children and the children of the entire world who will grow up in a safer world thanks to such efforts.

Australia and the United States are also working to end another long-standing and tragic regional conflict. Our combined initiatives in the United Nations have been major factors in the progress toward peace and free elections in Cambodia. Both of us have now reestablished official representation in Phnom Penh in order to move the peace process forward. Australia is making an additional contribution by sending a senior military officer to head the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cambodia. And I am proud of our collective efforts to end the nightmare in Cambodia and usher in a new era of hope and rebuilding.

And finally, American and Australian aspirations for the future are evident in our increasing cooperation on such matters as environmental protection, educational, and social issues. We can take pride in our Governments' joint actions toward conservation of the tropical forests, protecting endangered species, and promoting technologies for clean-burning coal.

Australia also plays a leading role in the international fight against illicit drugs. And I know I speak for millions of American parents in expressing thanks for your efforts to fight drug abuse, to fight drug trafficking.

I believe the next generations of Australians and Americans will grow even closer. I see no threat to that at all. And I foresee a steady expansion of travel and cultural exchanges in years to come. Australia's natural beauty, of which I've seen regrettably little this trip, is really sensational, a powerful magnet for American tourists. But more than this, it is the spirit of your country that earns Australia so much admiration in our country, in America, and indeed around the world. Your artists' contributions to film and dance and music have whetted our appetites for more and more things Australian. U.S. television carries Australian-rules football, and many Americans enjoy the rough and tumble of hard hitting with reckless abandon. We have something similar; we call it politics in the United States. [Laughter]

But I credit the clear air of Australia for its effect on one of the freshest minds now working in Washington. I'm speaking about our Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander. In 1987, after completing 8 years as Governor of Tennessee, Lamar took his wife and children to spend half a year in this beautiful country. And now that he's joined my Cabinet as Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander is working for revolutionary changes to improve our schools.

And this, too, is part of our program to make America competitive and strong and to help it grow. Secretary Alexander is promoting innovative ideas that he saw in practice right here in Australia, for instance the large measure of freedom that Australians have in choosing among private and religious or state-operated schools. And when we succeed with some of these reforms, we'll thank pathfinders such as Australians for their example.

Of course, we've always shared fraternal ties and a spirit of freedom ever since an American vessel named Philadelphia became the first trading ship to call at Sydney's Port Jackson in 1792. Almost a century later, Mark Twain visited Australia and spoke for all Americans when he said, "You have a spirit of independence here which cannot be overpraised."

And 50 years ago in the Coral Sea, Australians and Americans paid a high price for freedom, but they proved to the world that the future belongs to the brave and the bold. For the half century since, we have deepened our friendship, our economic interdependence, and our collaboration on mutual defense. And now, more clearly than ever, we can see a hopeful future for the farflung kinsmen of Australia and America and for all who share those fundamental ideals that we hold dear. We're prepared to work as partners in the next century to break new ground for freedom, cooperation, and economic progress.

For me, this has been a great honor. For Barbara and me, it has been a sheer pleasure to be with you all here for these short 2 1/2 days. But this hospitality of the Australian people is indescribable. I couldn't possibly tell you how emotional I feel about it. So, let me simply say thank you again for the extraordinary honor of allowing me to address this distinguished Parliament. May your debates be lively and full of friendship and affection, as they once in a while are. And may God bless you all. And may the Lord smile on the kinship and friendship of Australia and the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. at Parliament House.

George Bush, Remarks to the Australian Parliament in Canberra Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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