Turnbull issues rallying cry for ‘irreplaceable anchor’ of US in Asia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy with John and Janette Howard at the dinner in Sydney. Photo: Andrew MearesAustralians embrace China,’take US for granted’: survey
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As militarised posturing continues between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific region, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed Australia’s longtime ally as the ultimate force for prosperity and security in the 21st century.

The Prime Minister also declared the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would secure the US’ supremacy in the region and that Asian prosperity, including China’s, had only been possible because of the stability afforded by the historical “sheet anchor” of American power.

“[John Howard] saw that need for the [United States Studies Centre] because he understood, at a time when many did not, that our relationship with the United States is becoming more important, not less, as the centre of global economic gravity shifts relentlessly towards Asia,” Mr Turnbull told a USSC and American Australian Association dinner in Sydney honouring the former prime minister.

“John understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order, an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.”

He said the shared commitment to values like freedom, democracy and the rule of law had driven successive Australian governments to value and elevate the ANZUS alliance.

The Prime Minister sold the 12-nation TPP as “much more than a traditional trade agreement”.

“Crucially, as I emphasised to congressional leaders earlier this year, a successful TPP will entrench the United States as the strong, credible and enduring guarantor of the rules-based order in our region,” he said.

The TPP faces an uncertain future in the US before being ratified, lacking support from Republicans and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mr Turnbull said that he and President Barack Obama shared a commitment to a “free, open and secure internet” with no “government domination” and were working together with other partners “to secure stability and freedom” in the Asia-Pacific region.

An oceanic showdown continues in the South China Sea and other areas as China persists with territorial claims and the construction of artificial islands and the US challenges them with freedom of navigation exercises.

“It is clearer now than it has been for decades that the United States is absolutely central to this rules-based order upon which our regional peace and prosperity depends,” the Prime Minister argued.

“The prosperity of our region is the consequence of 40 years of a pax Americana. Every single country in our region has benefited from that, from the security the United States has delivered, the stability it has delivered.”

Mr Turnbull’s speech was followed by his “distinguished mentor” Mr Howard, who predicted continuing US hegemony but said the goal of relations with China, despite different societies and political systems, should be to maximise “what we have in common”.

“My prediction is that the United States, by dint of the genius of her economy, her competitive spirit, her technological expertise, will remain the most powerful economic force in the world for the indefinite future,” he told the dinner, after having a glittery portrait painted of him live before the audience, accompanied by music.

“We are blessed to be in the fastest growing region in the world and we are blessed to know that a nation as powerful and important to Australia that is the United States of America, has continuing and enduring commitment to the stability and progress of our part of the world.”

At the dinner was a who’s who of American and pro-American figures in Australia. This included former Labor leader and ambassador the US Kim Beazley, current US ambassador the Australia John Berry, USSC research director and Mr Turnbull’s son-in-law James Brown, Japanese ambassador to Australia Sumio Kusaka​.

Also present were NSW Premier Mike Baird, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos, NSW Liberal powerbroker Michael Photios​ as well as senior figures from various major media organisations.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Howard’s politically-charged mentions of industrial relations attracted rousing applause from the conservative-rich audience.

The Prime Minister praised Boral CEO and guest of honour Mike Kane for “standing up to the lawlessness in the construction sector”, reiterating the Coalition’s commitment to the “critically important” resurrection of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Mr Howard said in his remarks: “As you know, over the years, I’ve had more than a passing interest in industrial relations reform and my passion for that has not in any way cooled.”

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