PRIME MINISTER: What an honour it is to be here on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan – this extraordinary symbol not only of American power, but of the United States’ commitment to the many nations of this region and their security.
It’s not something we can ever take for granted.
77 years ago the mighty US Navy carriers Lexington and Yorktown and their crews were not too far from here, in the Pacific defending Australia during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Pushing back, alongside our own Defence Force, against militarism and expansionism.
That naval battle is also known as the Battle for Australia – and our nation remains grateful to the men who gave their lives to this ocean.
They helped secure the freedom we enjoy today.
Their sacrifice, to appropriate the words of Thomas Jefferson, tended the tree of liberty here in the Pacific.
They are part of the soul of our enduring Alliance.
More than a great power, the United States is an old and dear friend and a great force for good throughout the world.
It was something I reflected on when I joined other leaders in Portsmouth last month to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
As I sat beside Chancellor Merkel, I was reminded how much our world has changed for the better.
I felt the same way when Prime Minister Abe joined me in Darwin to commemorate the bombing of that city by the Japanese.
The post-war world order has achieved something truly extraordinary and the United States deserves great credit for that.
In 1981, the great President for whom this ship is named posed a question to the graduating class of the University of Notre Dame.
He asked, “I wonder if anybody ever thought what the situation for the comparatively small nations of the world would be if there were not in existence the United States – if there were not this giant country prepared to make so many sacrifices”.
It’s a powerful question.
And President Reagan was quoting another man.
He was quoting Australia’s 19th Prime Minister, John Gorton – himself a World War Two veteran – who served in the Pacific – and who half a century ago spoke about the value of American leadership to free peoples everywhere.
Our two countries have always understood each other and stood by each other.
Australia believes in what Ronald Reagan called the “truths and traditions” that define the United States.
We stand together in these self-evident truths.
We stand together for personal liberty and freedom.
For democracy and the ballot box.
For the rule of law, and freedom of association.
For free economies and free peoples.
Yes, we are in awe of the strength and power of the United States which this ship so ably represents, but at the heart of our friendship are the values and beliefs that knit our two countries together.
Ships will come, ships will go, politicians will come and go, but our values will endure. They always do.
Australia and the United States see the world through the same eyes.
Or, as President Reagan put it, “We both recognise the responsibility of freedom and are prepared to shoulder it squarely.”
That’s what all of you do every day – the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and the men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
You shoulder the responsibility for all of our safety.
You uphold the finest ideals of our nations.
And you answer the greatest of callings – to serve your country selflessly.
Over the next few weeks, alongside our friends from New Zealand, the UK, Canada and Japan, 25,000 men and women will participate in gruelling field training exercises.
You will put yourselves to the test and ensure that ours is a seamless partnership – one that works on the seas, on the ground and in the air. And that the great mateship that underpins the Australian military ethos extends to our US mates.
On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people I thank all of you for your service and wish you all the very best for a successful Talisman Sabre 2019.