Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Thank you very much Foreign Minister Downer, Mr. Morgan, Ambassador Peacock, Ambassador Woolcott, and good afternoon to you all. I am very glad to be here, and to be joined by America’s Ambassador to Australia, Genta Hawkins Holmes, as well as by our Consul General in Sydney, Rich Greene.
I am very, very glad to be here and have the opportunity to address this august group in this magnificent hall. Before Mr. Downer mentioned my singing, I haven’t had a chance to sing in a place with acoustics such as this (laughter). Maybe I wouldn’t have been described as someone who had to save their singing for the shower (laughter).
It is indeed a pleasure to also be in the Olympic City. I have never been to Australia before but I am having a wonderful visit already and looking forward to my return for AUSMINs in the Olympic year. It was very clever of us to plan to have it here that year, and the reason I’m here this year is to make sure that I get tickets (laughter).
As some of you may know, before I became a diplomat, I was a university professor, and I’ve missed being called Dr. Albright, I like that. Thank you, Secretary is great but Doctor I like also. And from time to time, I would ask my students to put aside the map of the world Americans customarily use, which has the western hemisphere at its center and leaves chunks of Asia and Australia divided and at opposite ends.
Instead, I would take a globe and spin it around 180 degrees, and I would ask my students to consider the world anew, from the perspective of Japan or China or the peoples of Oceania. And what was remarkable was how rarely they had been asked to do that; to shed their normal skins and think from a different point of view.
I mention that this afternoon because this society encourages a similar brand of unconventional thinking among the diverse peoples of the Asia Pacific. And as we prepare for the 21st century, there is no work more important.
From the Aleutians to Auckland and from Sumatra to Seoul, technology is bringing populations from vastly different worlds into daily contact with one another. But contact does not ensure clear communication, much less understanding. To achieve that, we must work hard to see that the differences that distinguish and define us do not obscure the common interests and values that bind us.
Fortunately, when it comes to the Asia-Pacific region, there is no better example of cooperation built on shared values and interests than the relationship between the United States and Australia.
On the map, we could hardly be further apart. But as defenders of freedom and advocates of the rule of law, we cannot be separated. For decades, we have stood shoulder to shoulder both in time of peace and through five wars.
Today, our alliance is an anchor of regional stability. We are vigorous trading partners. Our people visit each other, attend each other’s schools, do business with each other, learn from each other and collaborate on everything from eradicating disease to fighting terror.
Obviously, we don’t always see eye to eye. In some economic sectors we’re competitors as well as partners. Globally, our roles are not the same. Regionally, Australia’s perspective is sharpened by its proximity to the Asian mainland. But on the big things, on the central issues of democratic government, the pursuit of prosperity and the desire for peace, we are true allies, valued partners, and I hope eternal friends.
I look forward to reaffirming our alliance tomorrow when Secretary of Defense Cohen and I meet with Foreign Minister Downer and Defense Minister McLachlan. The AUSMIN reflects the indispensable nature of our cooperation, and gives me confidence that everything that can be done to maintain the security and peace of this region will be done.
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Downer and I both attended meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum and Post Ministerial Conference. There, the convergence of U.S. and Australian interests in Asia was evident.
For example, in the aftermath of the South Asia nuclear tests, we agree that the nuclear non-proliferation regime must be buttressed and its value reemphasized. Every effort must be made to reduce tensions and prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. And every nation in the world should agree, as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty provides, never again to conduct a nuclear explosive test.
We concur on the importance of maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula. Both our nations support the Agreed Framework under which North Korea has pledged to freeze and dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Australia understands how critical this effort is. It has done more to support the Korean Energy Development Organization than any nation apart from Japan, Korea and the United States. And I applaud your government’s decision to contribute additional funds to KEDO, and I thank you for that.
Our countries both understand the strategic significance of China and the key role it will play in determining whether the Asia-Pacific remains stable. And we agree that China should be encouraged to define its interests in ways compatible with the stability and prosperity of its neighbors, and to observe international norms on proliferation and human rights.
President Clinton’s recent trip to China reflected progress toward both these goals. He conveyed a message of freedom and friendship directly to the Chinese people. He drew the connection between individual liberty and competitiveness in the global economy. And he stressed the importance of halting the spread of dangerous weapons and technologies.
I was encouraged by the recent trend toward greater openness in China. At the same time, I have been disturbed by the recent detention of religious and political activists, and I said so to Chinese Foreign Minister Tang when we met in Manila.
Engagement with China brings benefits to both our nations. But engagement is not the same thing as endorsement, and we should continue to speak frankly about the problems that remain.
The United States and Australia are both strong supporters of democracy in Cambodia. As we have seen again this past weekend, the Cambodian people desperately want to make democracy work. We hope that the balloting will produce an outcome that genuinely reflects their wishes. But we don’t yet know if that has happened.
It is just clear, that twice now in less than a decade the Cambodian people have gone to elections in record numbers that I would only wish were emulated in other countries. We must also remember that the purpose of the election was not to make it easier for us to declare success in Cambodia and walk away. It was to give the Cambodian people a chance to start anew a democratic process that was arrested when the coalition government disintegrated last year. To encourage that process to continue, we must stay engaged, keep the pressure on, and make our assistance to any government conditional on its respect for international norms.
Our nations also agree that it is past time for Burma to rejoin the family of democratic nations, and here your Foreign Minister and I had another chance to work together in Manila.
Regrettably, the Burmese regime is pursuing a policy not of dialogue but of denial. Today, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was marking her sixth day in a standoff, was all of a sudden taken in her car by a military driver back to Rangoon and thereby forbidden from exercising a basic human right, which is the ability to travel freely in your own country. We have just heard this news and Foreign Minister Downer and I have spoken about it. We think that this is an unacceptable violation of her human rights and it will only contribute to the further isolation Burma, a country whose people are suffering because the government is not moving in a way to have the kind of dialogue and democratic discourse that is necessary. Aung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable person and has fought for the freedom of the Burmese people. She is entitled to be able to go on doing that in a way that strengthens democracy.
Australia and the United States worked in Manila to do what we could to break the impasse, and we will continue to work together throughout this episode. All my experience in life and diplomacy tells me that our engagement can make a difference, and that change must eventually come to Burma. Concerted international pressure can make it harder for the regime to resist reform. Diplomacy can offer it face saving ways to compromise. Our nations should pursue both tracks and deepen our cooperation on this issue.
Finally, and perhaps most important, both our nations have an interest in seeing that confidence is restored to the troubled economies of East Asia. With today’s global market, problems in one place can and do affect people every place. Nations that export to Asia, and both our nations export a great deal, are being hurt.
But the potential costs are far greater than lost exports. Misery can give rise to mistrust among nations; poverty can push desperate people across borders; economic despair can lead to disillusionment with economic and political freedom. And I applaud Australia for its contributions to IMF funding arrangements for Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.
The United States is also doing its share through support for the IMF and World Bank, and through the direct assistance we are providing to meet emergency humanitarian needs. We’re stressing the importance of reforms that will attract investors and lead to more open and accountable management of economies in the region. We’re also encouraging Japan to stimulate its economy so that it may once again become an engine of growth.
No nation has been hit harder by the financial crisis than Indonesia, traditionally a source of stability and growth within the region. The United States is determined, and I know Australia is, to help Indonesia meet the humanitarian needs of its people. We both hope Indonesia will emerge from this crisis not only as strong and prosperous as ever, but with the commitment to democracy it needs to stay strong and prosperous for good.
As friends and allies, the United States and Australia work together to resolve amicably the differences that arise in our own relationship. And we cooperate in regional efforts to build security, prosperity and peace.
But in our era, that’s not enough. Every nation, no matter its size, location, or state of development is vulnerable to global threats such as trafficking in drugs and human beings, the spread of AIDS, and terrorism. On each of these issues, cooperation between our nations and people is solid. We believe in law. And as the recent tragedy in Papua New Guinea demonstrated, we will reach out and help those in need.
Yesterday, I visited Papua New Guinea. It was tremendously moving to see how that nation is coping with the tragedy of the tidal wave, and tremendously gratifying to be able to bring with me tangible expressions of American support for its people. I did hear again, however this morning, that there has been another earthquake in the region and I think this obviously will only complicate the issues there.
One area of cooperation I want to highlight this afternoon is the environment, which is a multifaceted challenge.
The United States and Australia are both vast countries with abundant resources, diverse wildlife, and spectacular coasts. This gives us a shared stake and a shared opportunity to work together in every part of the environmental area, where we were partners in developing the International Coral Reef Initiative. And the Great Barrier Reef may be the world’s leading example of why coral preservation matters and what strong leadership on this issue can achieve.
We can be allies in the effort to protect endangered species and to ensure that trade in products derived from nature is effectively and fairly controlled.
We have an opportunity to lead in negotiating a bio-safety regime for genetically altered products that will respond to scientific concerns while ensuring that agricultural exports do not become ensnared in unjustified regulations.
We can join forces with others to take on the problem of deforestation, which is caused by poor land management, population pressures, and out of control forest fires.
The problem of fires was particularly acute last spring, when they exacted an enormous toll on the economies of nations and health of people in many parts of this region.
In response, the United States has earmarked $4 million to help improve forest management, fire fighting, and climate prediction in Southeast Asia. But we need to do more, and mobilize more international support to change the conditions that spark such devastation.
Both our nations have the resources and the expertise to promote sustainable agriculture and forest management, to encourage an end to the most dangerous burning practices, and to contribute to the resolution of disputes over land tenure.
But perhaps the most comprehensive long-term environmental challenge facing us all is global climate change.
Leading scientists agree that greenhouse gases are warming our planet. A warming planet is a changing planet, and not for the better. Unless we act, sea levels will continue to rise throughout the next century, swamping some areas and putting millions of people at greater risk to coastal storms.
We can expect significant and sudden changes in agricultural production and forest ecosystems, leading to changing patterns of wildlife migration and forcing more people to leave home and cross borders in search of productive land.
We will also see more heat-related deaths, more serious air pollution, increased allergic disorders and more widespread malaria, cholera and other infectious diseases.
Like most of you, I am not a scientist. I am also something of a skeptic. We all know of times past when prophets of doom were proven wrong; when predictions that we would soon run out of food, water or air did not come true.
So I am no Chicken Little. But I note that the scientific backing behind the current warming projections is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, representing the work of more than 2,000 scientists from more than 50 countries. Their report is carefully worded, factually based and it recognizes the uncertainties as well as the risks.
Yet in both our nations, we have those who insist that the scientific warnings are wrong; or that, even if they are right, we can’t afford to take the steps required to slow the release of greenhouse gases.
But the one thing we truly cannot afford to do is wait and see. For if the warnings are right, the cost of reversing climate change and cleaning up the damage will be infinitely greater than the cost of preventing it.
Our choice is clear. We can keep pumping more gases into the atmosphere every year, invite more severe climate change, and let future generations deal with the consequences. Or we can act prudently to protect our planet, our children’s home.
Not without controversy or difficulty, both our nations have chosen the latter course. We are working for a comprehensive climate change agreement, in which all nations contribute to a global solution to this global problem.
We took an essential step towards that goal last December in Kyoto. There, for the first time, industrialized nations agreed to mandatory targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. These targets vary from country to country, with the United States pledging to meet a standard of 7% below 1990 levels within the next 10 to 14 years.
As we prepare for the next Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention this November, we will be working closely through the so-called “Umbrella Group,” which includes among others the United States, Australia, Russia and Japan. Our goal is to solve this problem in ways that stimulate technological innovation and allow maximum flexibility in achieving the necessary emissions reductions.
I have to say having just recently traveled with President Clinton to China, where it is clear that while the United States is the greatest problem now, they will be the greatest problem. A message that he is delivering is one that I think is key: countries that are so-called developing countries are concerned about how putting in environmentally sound technology will affect their development. And the President argues, that no one has the right to tell another country to limit its development. But that those of us that have gone through industrialization can validate the fact that often the economic situation in a country can be actually improved once environmentally sound technology is put in.
I believe ultimately, and I am confident that we can make our environment healthier and keep our economies competitive or even post economic gains through greater efficiency and the use of clean technology.
Our cooperation is also essential to solve the other half of the climate change puzzle, which is to create a global action plan to which both developed and developing nations contribute. This is critical if we want to make not just short term headlines, but long term improvements. For it is expected that, within two decades, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases will not be the United States, but China. And that, by ten years after that, the developing world will have become the source of the majority of such emissions.
Industrialized nations created the global warming problem and must take the lead in responding. But clearly, no solution will work unless developing countries play a part in it.
Global warming may look like an insurmountable problem, and its potential economic effects can seem too large to confront. But in contemplating the challenge, we should recall the many times when naysayers predicted that protecting the environment would be too hard, too costly, and too cumbersome.
From America’s waterways cleanup in the 1970s, to Australia’s stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef, to the global effort to close the ozone hole, environmental preservation is working, and it is working in ways that keep our economies growing.
In the eighteen months that I have had the honor to serve as America’s Secretary of State, I have been to the Asia Pacific region six times, South Asia once and, last November, to Asia’s front door for the APEC meetings in Vancouver. This schedule reflects a simple reality. No region of the world is more important to American security and prosperity, or to the values we share with others, or to our effort to meet new global challenges.
Because of the financial crisis, these are not the best of times for the people of this region.
But friendship, like a sailing ship, cannot be truly tested when the skies are clear and the weather fair. It is during the hard weather and high winds that we learn whether what we have designed is sound, what we have built is sturdy.
America’s commitment to the peace and stability of this region and to the freedom and welfare of its people is not a fair weather commitment. Nor is it short lived. It is unshakeable now and it will endure.
That commitment is grounded in our own interests. It is consistent with enduring principles of democracy and law. It is made secure by alliance with our closest partners, such as Australia. And it is animated by our hopes for a future far better than the past.
Thank you very much for your attention here this afternoon and for your very kind welcome to beautiful Sydney.
Last update: Tuesday, 23 February 2010 GMT+1100