Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: The People of the U.S. Do Not Have Better Friends than the People of Australia

Posted on February 9, 2017

I do not know what happened during last week’s telephone conversation between the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States, but I do know this: the people of the United States do not have better friends than the people of Australia. 

We are more than friends.  As one Australian told me when our family lived in Sydney thirty years ago, “Well, we’re mates all right.  The English may be our ancestors but you Americans are our cousins.   First cousins. 

We started out the same kind of people.  Underprivileged, a long way from home, doing the same sort of thing, looking for a new life.  Found a hard life. Hoped it would be a better one for our children. Each wave of new ones lifted up the last ones.  A pioneering spirit in the countryside here,” the Australian said.  “In America, too.”

Even though they live down under on the other side of the world, for a century Australians have stood with us every time we were at war.   And we have stood with them. 

During World War II, when Australian troops   were away fighting in North Africa and Europe, and the Japanese were bombing Darwin four times a day, the United States came to the rescue.  

In 1992 Dick Cheney and I, as members of George H.W. Bush’s cabinet, traveled to Townsville to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea when the U.S. navy stopped Japan’s advance.

Today no two counties trust one another and cooperate in security arrangements more than America and Australia.  We trade, we visit one another and our students study in each other’s universities.

Thirty years ago our family lived an American Dream and moved to Australia. We arrived on Australia Day, January 26, 1987, 199 years after the First Fleet of English settlers sailed into Sydney Harbor.  After eight years of swiveling in the governor’s chair, on the very day I was sworn out of office, my wife, Honey and I and our four children flew to Sydney for Six Months Off in the Land Down Under.   It was Honey’s idea: an opportunity for a retreat from the merry go round of power and to discover what really was important.    

We rented a home in view of the most beautiful harbor in the world, bought an Australian car and I learned to drive on the wrong side of the road. 

Our four children walked to Australian schools and we all sank deeply into the culture of America’s favorite cousins.  I attended Chester A. Arthur Society meetings where Australian parliament members competed to show that they know more about United States history than American congressmen do.

We spent the night in the South Wales bush and saw nine-foot crocodiles in the Northwest Territory. We traveled by train to see the Melbourne Zoo and took a horseback trip across the Snowy Mountains. 

It didn’t take long for us to understand what Mark Twain meant when he wrote “When a stranger from America steps ashore in Sydney…the thing that strikes him is that it is an English City with American trimmings.”

We made friends then that exist to this day. Last year four of those friends, the Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and the Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley and their wives, spent the weekend with us at our home outside the Great Smoky Mountains. 

We cherish those friendships and our country’s relationship with Australia. It is always appropriate for the United States Senate to reaffirm the importance of that relationship and I am glad to do so again today.

To offer a more  complete understanding of what makes the Australians our favorite cousins, I ask consent to include in the record Chapter 30 from my book “Six Months Off”, written after our time in Australia.