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FOREIGN MINISTER PAYNE:  Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Tony, it’s such a pleasure to be welcoming you here today.  Our COVID protocols (inaudible) those that are speaking can speak without their mask.  We will replace them once we’ve finished speaking.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Melbourne, but first of all let me acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we (inaudible) here this morning and pay my respects to the elders past, present, and emerging of the Wurundjeri people, and acknowledge their stewardship of this great land.

As I said, it’s a great pleasure to welcome you to Australia and also to Melbourne.  Only two of your predecessors have visited Melbourne before, as I understand it – Secretary Rice and Secretary Clinton.  So you follow in the footsteps of great women, and it is an absolute pleasure to have you here today.

A lot has changed not just in Melbourne since those secretaries both visited, of course.  And indeed, in 2022, I think we are facing challenges of a different scale than those which we have been dealing with over the preceding decades.  But as you have said and as you reiterated in some of your comments since your arrival, when allies and partners work together we are so much more efficient, we are so much more collaborative.  When we are committed to our shared values, there are no challenges we cannot and will not overcome.

Australia affirms that.  I affirm that and I look forward to discussing those matters with you today.  Our work together in the Indo-Pacific is growing exponentially, and it is very rewarding to see the engagement of so many of our partners in the region with us both, as well as COVID-19 recovery, which, of course, is a very significant priority.  We work to counter disinformation.  We are going to talk today, I am sure, about the threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as well, outside our own region.

We’ll discuss our AUKUS partnership and the progress that we have made so far, and very much welcome the collaborative work the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are doing on such an important undertaking, not just in relation to the delivery of a submarine, nuclear-powered submarine to Australia, but on those issues of artificial intelligence, of quantum computing, of cyber and other capabilities.

More than one authoritarian regime is presenting itself in the current world climate as a challenge – the DPRK, China as well – and that will be part of our discussions today.  We strongly support U.S. leadership on those challenges.  I want to commend you and your team particularly in terms of the extraordinary efforts you are making in relation to Russia and the destabilizing effect it is having on security and stability on the Ukraine border and more broadly.

I think I said in Washington, D.C. last year that our alliance mission was to work together in line with our values, to keep our people safe, and to preserve and enhance peace and stability.  Having you here together today affirms our commitment to that goal, and I very much look forward to working with you as you are going about your journey here in Australia.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Marise, colleagues, it’s wonderful to be with all of you today.  I want to thank you, first of all, for doing this here in Melbourne.  I was first here in 1980, so I got here actually probably a little bit before Secretary Rice and Secretary Clinton (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  But their footsteps are large to follow, but I’m glad for the opportunity to do that.

We had a wonderful day yesterday spending time at the University of Melbourne.  There’s a deep family connection there.  My stepfather is an alumnus, so that was wonderful to reconnect, also just to talk to some remarkable young Australians who are really the future of the relationship, the partnership between us – incredibly engaged, incredibly smart, incredibly thoughtful about the present and the future.  And also time on campus with companies – Australian, American – working on the challenge of the moment, COVID-19.  And the public-private partnerships that we’re building together even across a great distance are having a great impact.  So it was a wonderful way to start the day – the botanic gardens as well – and connecting to what really grounds us.  So I thank you for the opportunity to be here.

But to everything you said, I couldn’t agree more.  We have talked many times in the year or so that we’ve been working together.  We know that we are stronger and more effective working together to meet these challenges, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s climate, whether it’s emerging technologies, whether it’s the challenge posed by autocratic regimes to the order that we’ve worked so hard to establish together – indeed have been side by side for many, many years in doing that.  We know with respect to the United States that we simply can’t do it without partnerships, and Australia for us is right at the top of the list of partnerships that we’ve been working to strengthen, to invigorate, and to carry forward in all the ways that you said.

So we do indeed have a lot to cover today, both the immediate agenda, challenges posed far away from here but that have an impact on this region as well, but also all of the work that we’re doing together to ensure that we have a free and open Indo-Pacific for many, many years to come.  And I think the United States, Australia as partners, as mates, are essential to that goal, to that shared goal.  I’m glad to be here working today on that.  Thank you for having us.

U.S. Department of State

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