Remarks at the National Governor’s Association, Washington DC

24 Feb 2018
Prime Minister
International and Trade


As I said to Joe on the way up ‘thanks mate’. It's great to be here.

What an incredible celebration. One hundred years of mateship. This is a partnership, an alliance that is built on shared values. Values which are all too rare in the world today. But values which Australians and Americans understand more keenly than most. Freedom, democracy, the rule of law, the opportunity to have a go. The determination, the enterprise to have a go and then if it doesn't work out, dust yourself off and have another go.

That is the enterprise that drives the spirit of our two great nations and it's why, together with the Governors of the American states and the Premiers and Chief Ministers of Australian states and territories. I have to say governors, there are two premiers that are not here, and it is because in the great race of life you always back self-interest because you know it's trying, and they are running in elections.

So there's nothing more important than surviving as politicians know. But the commitment is there. It runs so deep.

I want to talk a little bit about the subjects I discussed with the President in a moment. But you know we are both great federations and there are often frustrations in federations. Sometimes there are issues about whether the federal government should be doing more or less where the state should be doing more or less.

We have annual, well actually we have several of them every year as the Premiers here, Daniel Andrews is there I can see, the Premier of Victoria, meetings between the Premiers and the Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister and they're called COAG meetings or Council of Australian Government meetings.

And you know, Governor Sandoval, we have so much fun at these meetings, they are such a blast! We thought we should go on the road together! So that's why we're here.

That's why we're here. We wanted you, we wanted you to share the love. We wanted you to have all of the fun of those COAG meetings, all of the reinforcing commitment to solidarity that you see in a federation.

But again I have to quote one of my own cabinet colleagues who has had experience in both state and federal government and he says, he said to me when someone was complaining about the Constitution or the Federation or vertical fiscal imbalance or various other issues that we grapple with, he said very wisely, "Complaining about Australia's Federation is like complaining about Switzerland's mountains," And I guess the same is true here.

But you know we modelled our constitution on yours. It is a combination of the British parliamentary tradition and the American federal tradition and, although compared to the United States, we are a relatively young democracy. We are in fact and this is why those values we share are so precious, we are in fact one of the world's oldest with our Federation having begun as the Commonwealth of Australia 1901.

So I want to thank you Governor Sandoval and Governor Bullock for being here today. I want to thank Joe and the embassy, I want to thank the Business Council of Australia for assembling this extraordinary gathering.

Thank you so much for inviting us to join your National Governors Association for your winter session reception. Steven Ciobo, our Trade Minister, has been welcomed, acknowledged by Joe and I just want to say that Steven and I have been labouring in a cause that was I would say less than popular. I wouldn't say popular but seen as a rather bleak endeavour a year ago and that was to keep the Transpacific Partnership alive.

But next month the TPP-11 will be signed in Chile. And that is a great outcome for Australia and for those countries. And you know it's a great outcome for the United States because at some point in the future if the US decides, it is going to be there it'll be functioning and it will be something that the US can return to if it so wishes.

And that is a very, very, if you like it's a very important option. And had it not been for the leadership that we were able to share with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan whose dedication to this was unrivalled that option would not exist. Very important.

We are a trading nation. We are committed to free trade. We are not protectionist. We believe that more trade, more exports means more investment and more jobs. That is our absolute commitment and we know it because we're proving it.

Do you know last year, in Australia, we saw the creation of 403,000 jobs. That would be like five million being created in the United States. That is a lot of job – 60 per cent of them were taken up by women. The female participation rate is at the highest in our history. We have had 16 months of continuous monthly job growth.

Again, that is unprecedented and that is in no small measure driven by being an open exporting economy, open to the world. Recognising and believing in our people and our businesses, that we can play best when we run onto the biggest and widest fields because that is where there are the greatest opportunities.

That is our commitment. Competition, openness, trade. And I know that here assembled leaders of business from the United States from Australia the Governors of the American states, the Premiers and Chief Ministers from Australia, all committed to expanding on this extraordinary economic partnership that we have.

A hundred years of mateship, a hundred years of absolutely dependable, reliable, I've-got-your-back-and-you've-got-mine solidarity, depend based on all of that commitment. Is a stronger and stronger economic partnership. Because the US and Australia are each - the United States is our most significant and substantial economic relationship.

We have, and the President of course is very pleased about this, you have a trade surplus with us, but we're not complaining. But I want to tell you though, the United States is the largest single source of Australian foreign investment. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States, working for Australian companies and, of course, 1/12th of workers in Australia in the private sector work for businesses that have American ownership.

So, it is an extraordinary partnership. It's built on families, it's built on relationships, on commitments over all of that time and the foundations we are reinforcing tonight and our meetings with the President today, and his Ministers and his defence chiefs and intelligence chiefs that's building the foundation for an even stronger relationship in the years to come.

I said earlier that the values we share are precious and we have to be very careful not to take them for granted. They're under threat everywhere in the world. People are challenging democracy in many different ways. We have the values that are right. They've been proved by time. Old constitutions, deeply ingrained values. That is what Australians and Americans have fought for over so many years.

Let me conclude with an image for you all that Kerry Stokes, who is here with his wife Christine, will understand very well as do all the Australians, Kerry is the chairman of our Australian War Memorial.

Now Canberra, as you know, is our national capital. And the reason it is there is because it's neither Sydney nor Melbourne. Does this sound familiar? Neither New York nor Philadelphia. There's not a lot new under the sun in the foundation of federations.

Our national capital was founded there and great American architect Walter Burley Griffin designed it and he designed a beautiful lake in the middle of the city. And on one side of the lake is our Australian War Memorial which was consecrated in the darkest days of the Second World War. Imagine that. Imagine a generation that had decided to build a memorial to the Australian dead who had fought and died in the war to end all wars, and then consecrating that memorial in the midst of another war, as dreadful as the one they were remembering. Hard times.

That memorial sits there on one side of the lake. And on the other side of the lake, on Capital Hill, sits our parliament. And when you fling open the doors of the parliament you fling open the door of the Cabinet room and the doors the Great Hall. You look from the cabinet table - where the decisions of government are taken - you look straight through the Parliament and you see the Australian War Memorial. And you are reminded there as a Prime Minister, as Ministers as legislators that every freedom we enjoy was paid for by the heroism, the courage, the sacrifice of the men and women that fought to keep us free.

And those were the same men and women we honoured, Lucy and I, honoured yesterday at the National Arlington Cemetery. Again, we met there with some veterans in their 90s, one veteran Mr. Prince from the Vietnam War, but the others were Lucy's Dad's generation who had fought in the Second World War, the greatest generation and they had fought to keep us free. They'd fought as Australians did, to keep each of our nations free, just as our young men and women are serving in the Middle East, in Afghanistan to keep us free today.

So this is a 100 years of mateship and the foundations that we are building today and tonight deepening our commitment, strategic, security, economic will ensure that we have in 200 years, we will be celebrating an even greater second hundred years of mateship and achievement and commitment to those values to which our nations and our peoples are so committed.

Thank you.