Australia–United States relations

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Australian–American relations
Map indicating locations of Australia and United States


United States
Diplomatic Mission
Australian Embassy, Washington, D.C. United States Embassy, Canberra
Ambassador Kim Beazley Ambassador John Berry

Australia–United States relations are the international relations between the Commonwealth of Australia and the United States of America. At the governmental level, Australia–United States relations are formalised by the ANZUS treaty and the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement.

According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 44 percent of Australians had a "mainly positive" view of the United States and 46 percent had a "mainly negative" view, for a net rating of -2 points. No similar survey was conducted to ascertain American perceptions of Australia.[1] According to the 2012 U.S. Global Leadership Report, 55% of Australians approve of U.S. leadership, with 21% disapproving and 24% uncertain.[2]

Independent foreign policy

"Australians welcome Americans", postcard 1908

The political and economic changes wrought by the Great Depression and Second World War, and the adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1931, necessitated the establishment and expansion of Australian representation overseas, independent of the British Foreign Office. Australia established its first overseas missions (outside London) in January 1940. The first accredited diplomat sent by Australia to any foreign country was B. G. Casey, appointed to Washington in January 1940.[3][4]

The U.S. Embassy opened in Canberra in 1943, constructed in a Georgian architectural style.


Australian frigate Newcastle alongside U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz in the Persian Gulf in September 2005

In 1908, Prime Minister Alfred Deakin invited the Great White Fleet to visit Australia during its circumnavigation of the world. The fleet stopped in Sydney, Melbourne and Albany. Deakin, a strong advocate for an independent Australian Navy, used the visit to raise the public's enthusiasm about a new navy.

The visit was significant in that it marked the first occasion that a non-Royal Navy fleet had visited Australian waters. Many saw the visit of the Great White Fleet as a major turning point in the creation of the Royal Australian Navy. Shortly after the visit, Australia ordered its first modern warships, a purchase that angered the British Admiralty.[5]

During World War II, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific Area, which included many Australian troops.[6] MacArthur's headquarters were located in Brisbane until 1944 and Australian forces remained under MacArthur's overall command until the end of World War II. The famous Australian song Waltzing Matilda is the march of the 1st Marine Division.


After the war, the American presence in the southeast Pacific increased immensely, most notably in Japan and the Philippines. In view of the cooperation between the Allies during the war, the decreasing reliance of Australia and New Zealand on the United Kingdom, and America's desire to cement this post-war order in the Pacific, the ANZUS Treaty was signed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States in 1951.[7] This full three-way military alliance replaced the ANZAC Pact that had been in place between Australia and New Zealand since 1944.

Australia, along with New Zealand, has been involved in most major American military endeavors since World War II including the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and the Iraq War—all without invocation of ANZUS. The alliance has only been invoked once, for the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon.

War on Terror

Following the September 11 attacks, in which eleven Australian citizens were also killed, there was an enormous outpouring of sympathy from Australia for the United States. Prime Minister John Howard became one of President George W. Bush's strongest international supporters, and supported the United States in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In 2004 the Bush Administration "fast tracked" a free trade agreement with Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald called the deal a "reward" for Australia's contribution of troops to the Iraq invasion.[8][9]

However, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd indicated that the 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq would be removed by mid-2008. Despite this, there have been suggestions from the Australian government that might lead to an increase in numbers of Australian troops in Afghanistan to roughly 1,000.[10]

In 2011, during US President Obama's trip to Australia, it was announced that United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force units will be rotated through Australian Defence Force bases in northern Australia to conduct training. This deployment was criticised by the an editorial in the Chinese state-run newspaper People's Daily and Indonesia's foreign minister,[11] but welcomed[11][12] by Australia's Prime Minister. A poll by the independent Lowy Institute think tank showed that a majority (55%) of Australians approving of the marine deployment[13] and 59% supporting the overall military alliance between the two countries.[14]

In 2013, the US Air Force announced rotational deployments of fighter and tanker aircraft through Australia.[15]


Since 1985, there have been annual ministerial consultations between the two countries, known as AUSMIN. The venue of the meeting alternates between the two countries. It is attended by senior government ministers such as the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australian Minister for Defence, US Secretary of Defense and US Secretary of State.[16]

Australian tours by U.S. Presidents

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, talks with United States President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. during 2009.

The first Australian visit by a serving United States President[17] was that of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 to seek support for Australia's ongoing involvement in the Vietnam war. Australia had previously sent advisers and combat troops to Vietnam. In 1992, George H. W. Bush was the first of four US Presidents to address a joint meeting of the Australian Parliament.

Dates President Cities visited Reason
20–23 October 1966 Lyndon B. Johnson Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville State visit; met with Governor-General Lord Casey and Prime Minister Harold Holt. First US president to visit Australia.[18]
21–22 December 1967 Lyndon B. Johnson Melbourne Attended memorial service for Prime Minister Harold Holt and conferred with other attending heads of state.
31 December 1991 – 3 January 1992 George H. W. Bush Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne Met with Prime Minister Paul Keating and senior Australian officials; addressed a joint meeting of the Australian Parliament.
19–23 November 1996 Bill Clinton Sydney, Canberra, Port Douglas State visit. Addressed joint meeting of Parliament and visited the Great Barrier Reef.
22 October 2003 George W. Bush Canberra Met with Prime Minister John Howard and addressed joint meeting of Parliament.
2–5 September 2007 George W. Bush Sydney Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference.
16–17 November 2011 Barack Obama Canberra, Darwin Met with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and addressed joint meeting of Parliament.
15–16 November 2014 Barack Obama Brisbane G-20 Economic Summit.

United States tours by Australian Prime Ministers

Dates Prime Minister Cities/Countries visited Reason
April and May 1944[19] John Curtin San Francisco, Washington, Warm Springs, New York City Meeting with President Roosevelt and travel to and from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London
9 May 1946[20] Ben Chifley Washington Met with President Truman for 15 minutes
28 July 1950[21] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Truman for half the day
19 May 1952[21] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Truman
20 December 1952[21] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Truman for informal dinner
2 October 1960[22] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold MacMillan of the United Kingdom
24 February 1961[23] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President John F. Kennedy and discussed SEATO, ANZUS and Laos
20 June 1962[23] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Kennedy and discussed West New Guinea, Vietnam, ANZUS and the European Union
8 July 1963 [24] Robert Menzies Washington Met with President Kennedy
24 June 1964[25] Robert Menzies Met with President Lyndon B. Johnson
7 June 1965[26] Robert Menzies Met with President Johnson
June 1966[27] Harold Holt Met with President Johnson and endorsed the USA's Vietnam policy. His speech included the words "All the way with LBJ"
27 to 30 May 1968 [28] John Gorton Washington and LBJ ranch Met with President Johnson and discussed Vietnam
6 May 1969 [29] John Gorton Washington Met with President Richard Nixon and discussed Vietnam
2 November 1971 [30] William McMahon Washington Met with President Nixon and discussed bilateral issues and commitment to the ANZUS treaty
NA[31] Gough Whitlam No visit. Nixon had not extended an invitation due to irritation over a letter from Whitlam criticising bombing in North Vietnam. Whitlam was prepared to visit in June 1973 without an official invitation ("Official invitations are not necessary in these circumstances")[32]
27 July 1977[33] Malcolm Fraser Met with President Jimmy Carter
30 June 1981[34] Malcolm Fraser Met with President Ronald Reagan
17 April 1986[35][36] Bob Hawke US/Australian relations Met with President Reagan. US offered a $5M gift for Australia's bicentennial celebrations for the proposed Australian Maritime Museum[37]
22–24 June 1988[36] Bob Hawke Washington, D.C. Met with President Reagan and other government officials
14 September 1993[38] Paul Keating Seattle,Washington APEC meeting - met with President Bill Clinton
7–15 July 2000[39] John Howard Japan and USA
4–8 September 2000[40][41] John Howard Millennium Summit and Commonwealth High Level Review Group
8–14 June 2001[42] John Howard
8–14 September 2001[42] John Howard State Visit. Address a joint sitting of the US Congress on 12 September. Was the first world leader to support the USA in its response to the 9/11 attacks
28 January-8 February 2002[42] John Howard
8–16 February 2003[43] John Howard
1–10 May 2005[44] John Howard New York City, Washington, D.C. State visit; Addressed the 60th anniversary session of the United Nations in New York City
8–14 May 2006[45] John Howard
March/April 2008[46] Kevin Rudd Washington Part of 17-day world tour to China, the US, the UK and Europe. Met with President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke[47] Also met with several presidential candidates.[48]
7 March 2011 Julia Gillard Washington Met with President Barack Obama and addressed joint sitting of Congress
12–13 November 2011 Julia Gillard Honolulu, Hawaii APEC meeting - met with President Obama.
24–28 September 2012[49] Julia Gillard New York City Addressed the 67th session of the United Nations in New York City
12 June 2014 Tony Abbott Washington DC Met with President Barack Obama

Kyoto Protocol

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, ratified the Kyoto Protocol on December 3, 2007, leaving the United States and Canada as the last major industrial nations not to ratify the agreement.[10] Australia's previous government, led by Liberal John Howard, refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol citing, along with the United States, that it would "damage their economies".[50]

US President Barack Obama with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard toast during the Parliamentary Dinner at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.

Battle of Brisbane

In August 1942, Australian and American troops fought each other in a riot known as the Battle of Brisbane, in the Brisbane central business district. One person died and hundreds were injured.


Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to the United States (A$ millions) since 1988
Monthly value of US merchandise exports to Australia (A$ millions) since 1988

Trade between the United States and Australia is strong, as evidenced by the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement. The United States is Australia’s fourth largest export market and its second largest source of imports.[51] The United States is also the largest investor in Australia while Australia is the fifth largest investor in the US.

Australia and the United States also provide significant competition for each other in several third-party exports such as wheat, uranium and wool and, more recently, in the information technology sector. Although the US has a sizable sheep population, American imports of lamb meat from Australia and New Zealand remain stronger than the domestic output.

See also



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  2. U.S. Global Leadership Project Report - 2012 Gallup
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  4. Roger John Bell, Unequal allies: Australian-American relations and the Pacific war (Melbourne University Press, 1977)
  5. Macdougall, A (1991). Australians at War: A Pictorial History. Noble Park, Victoria: The Five Mile Press. p. 360. ISBN 1-86503-865-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  7. Full text of the ANZUS Treaty
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External links