The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube
This is a wonderful opportunity for me to be here at the University of Western Australia, a campus that looks remarkably like Stanford University, where my daughter attended, and to be in this fabulous art gallery that I will not get a chance perhaps to see, but which certainly piques my interest, and to be part of helping to launch this center that will shape strategic thinking in this dynamic region.
This is my first visit to Perth, but I heard much about it, not least of all from your ambassador, and Stephen Smith, your Defense Minister. And one story in particular stands out because from the time I was a little girl, Premier, I was fascinated by space exploration, and you and I are of a vintage where we can actually remember Sputnik going over. And I even wrote to NASA, our space administration, when I was about 13 and asked what I needed to do to become an astronaut myself. I unfortunately received an answer that said they weren’t taking women. Thankfully, that has changed in the years since.
But I was riveted by the space program, and certainly when my friend and a great American, John Glenn, became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, it was so exciting to know that the people of Perth were literally with him and cheering him on, because, as you know so well, when John’s capsule passed overhead, every light in this city came on to signal support for his mission. And I will tell you that he never forgot the gesture of friendship from the city of light.
So for me to be here is a dream come true, and I suppose if one were to go up into space today and look down at Perth, you would see a city that is sitting on a very strategic part of our planet, Australia’s gateway to the vibrant trade and energy routes that connect the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, the oil, the natural gas, the iron ore produced here that flows through those trade routes to the entire world. It is no surprise that foreign investment is soaring, including more than $100 billion from the United States, because increasingly, these waters are at the heart of the global economy and a key focus of America’s expanding engagement in the region, what we sometimes call our pivot to Asia.
We never actually left Asia; we’ve always been here and been a presence here. We consider ourselves a Pacific power. But in the 21st century, it’s important that we make absolutely clear we are here to stay. And how we think about the Asia Pacific or the Indo Pacific region is going to be critical to our future as well as yours. We’ve made it a strategic priority to support India’s Look East policy and to encourage Delhi to play a larger role in Asian institutions and affairs. And it’s exciting to see the developments as the world’s largest democracy and a dynamic emerging economy begin to contribute more broadly to the region.
It’s also important to see the burgeoning relationship between Australia and India. And we support a Look West policy here in Australia, and certainly applaud the Australian Government’s strategic white paper on Asian policy. We would welcome joint Australia-Indian naval vessel exercises in the future, and we’re eager to work together in the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation which Australia will chair in 2013 and which the United States has now joined as a dialogue partner.
I’m here for what are called the AUSMIN meetings. These are annual meetings that our Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense hold with our counterparts, Stephen Smith and Bob Carr. We will be reviewing implementation of the military agreements that Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama reached last November, including the rotational deployment of U.S. marines in Darwin and improving interoperability between our two navies. These steps will help both countries safeguard commerce and respond to natural disasters in the sea lanes connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
So here at the University of Western Australia, you are at the leading edge of a crucial strategic shift linking two great oceans and strengthening an historic alliance. And I hope that the work that you do here will help to light the way just as Perth did for John Glenn 50 years ago, because when one stops to ponder it, our commercial, cultural, and personal relationships are really at the core of how we see and hope the world will develop in this century. Commercially, it’s already been set. We have deep and growing ties. Culturally, we also share the values that democracies share. We share the values of freedom and human rights, the dignity of every person. And personally, the connections between us only grow stronger.
So opening this center, and so well named the Perth USAsia Centre, will give an additional impetus to exploring how we can broaden and deepen our commercial, cultural, and personal relationships. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the United States is just as interested in Australia as you seem to be interested in us. We’re constantly following your sports. You seem to have a flood of entertainers who take the American market by storm. The kinds of connections that we have between us are ones that we highly value.
Now of course, we’re living in a region that is changing so quickly, and there are other countries whose interests and profiles are equally important for each of us. We look for ways to support the peaceful rise of China, to support China becoming a responsible stakeholder in the international community, and hope to see gradual but consistent opening up of a Chinese society and political system that will more closely give the Chinese people the opportunities that we in the United States and Australia are lucky to take for granted.
We have great relationships with our other friends and allies from Japan and South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. Of course, we both enjoy close and growing relations with Indonesia. So as we think about how this region will change, it’s important that Australia and the United States work together, look to see how we can contribute to the kind of region and world we hope to see for both of us to give our young people the opportunities that they so richly deserve.
So I thank you for your steadfast commitment to the U.S.-Australia partnership. It is a partnership that is of itself of importance to each of us, but is also a partnership that must remain at the core of the kind of engagement we have in the Asia Pacific, Indo Pacific regions for now and for the future.
Thank you all. (Applause.)
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