More than 230 years ago my fifth great grandfather stole some yarn valued at 9 shillings in Cornwall. He was sentenced to seven years in the convict colony of New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788 as part of the First Fleet. He never returned.
This weekend I will make his return journey to Cornwall as Prime Minister of Australia, at the invitation of my friend Boris Johnson, to take part as one of only four extension partners for the G7 summit.
There has never been a more important time for the leaders of the world’s leading advanced economies and liberal democracies to come together. We are living in a time of great uncertainty not seen outside of wartime since the 1930s. The challenges are many. A global pandemic, the recession it has caused and the business-led global recovery the world now needs to restore lives and livelihoods. A global trading system and rules-based order that is under strain and threat. A world that is transitioning to a new energy economy as it addresses climate change. And, above all, growing instability in the Indo-Pacific, that in turn is threatening broader global stability.
This is evidenced through rapid military modernisation, tension over territorial claims, heightened economic coercion, undermining of international law, including the law of the sea, as well as enhanced disinformation, foreign interference and cyber threats.
As we meet in Cornwall, our patterns of co-operation within a liberal, rules-based order are under renewed strain. As leaders of some of the world’s largest liberal democracies and advanced economies we must tend to the gardening of our liberal world order that favours freedom with renewed clarity, unity and purpose.
Meeting this challenge will require active co-operation among like-minded countries not seen for 30 years. The Covid crisis and climate change merely underline the urgent need to deepen and accelerate our shared endeavours.
For inspiration we should look to the years immediately following the Second World War. A time when President Truman called for “the creation of conditions in which [the United States] and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free of coercion”. Even before then it was Churchill in his appeal to the US as Great Britain stared down the Blitz who said “we seek no territorial gains, only the right to be free and live life in our own way, free from persecution”.
From a world of anxious peoples craving peace, stability, prosperity and a sense of sovereign control over their destinies, a new world emerged, informed by liberal values and grounded in rules-based institutions. The challenges we face today demand the same commitment and common purpose for this new era.
Australia brings its own distinctive perspective to global challenges, informed by where we are and who we are. Our interests are inextricably linked to an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region. And to a strategic balance in the region that favours freedom and allows us to be who we are – a vibrant liberal democracy, an outward-looking open economy, a free people determined to shape our own destiny in accordance with national sovereignty.
As we gather in Cornwall, Australia is keen to achieve greater alignment of our actions as like-minded countries in five key areas.
Firstly, supporting open societies, open economies and our rules-based order. Whether it is upholding international maritime law or mending the processes of the World Trade Organisation, both are essential for a world that seeks to operate on genuine exchange rather than coercion.
Secondly we must work together to build our own sovereign capability and resilience. This is reinforced through like-minded alignment in the development of trusted supply chains, expanded defence and security partnerships and the evolution and use of critical technologies.
Thirdly, our international engagement must enable co-operation on global challenges such as climate change, and Covid.
Fourthly, as market based economies, we have shared interests in a post-Covid global economic recovery based on business-led growth and development, rather than government and state centric models. Finally, we must show together that liberal democracies work for all and serve the common good.
The G7 plus is not about drawing a closed circle around a particular club. Quite the contrary. It’s about ensuring we maintain an open, rules-based global system that supports peace, prosperity and the aspirations for all sovereign nations. Our goal is an inclusive world order that is safe for liberal democracy to flourish, free from coercion, reinforced through positive, collaborative and co-ordinated action.
As the world faces increasing strategic competition between the US and China, our task is to manage that competition. Competition does not have to lead to conflict. Nor does it justify coercion. We need all nations to participate in the global system in ways that foster development and co-operation. Australia stands ready to engage in this dialogue with all countries, including China, with whom we have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and Free Trade Agreement.
Our belief is that open, pluralistic societies provide the fundamental freedoms and rich opportunities our citizens need to reach their full potential. That democratic elections, the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, independent judiciaries and accountable governments deserve our allegiance based on their intrinsic merit and on their capacity to deliver better lives for our people. That open, business-led, market economies provide the best means for generating shared prosperity. And that, working together, our countries can support, defend and, where necessary, renovate a liberal, rules-based international order that favours freedom.
Published in The Australian.