Morrison invokes spirit of Spender in ANZUS address

By Melissa Coade

Friday September 3, 2021

Percy Spender has been highlighted by Scott Morrison in his address about the ANZUS Security Treaty.
Percy Spender has been highlighted by Scott Morrison in his address about the ANZUS Security Treaty. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The role of Percy Spender, Australia’s former ambassador to the United States in 1951, has been highlighted by Scott Morrison in his address to parliament about the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty.

On Tuesday Spender — who was also the minister for external affairs during the early years of the Menzies government – was described by the prime minister Scott Morrison in parliament as one of the architects of the treaty which, he said underpinned more than 70 years of ‘vital military, national security and intelligence cooperation between Australia and the US’.

“It was Percy Spender’s unique foresight and hard-headed realism that helped secure the  treaty — just 11 articles and little more than 800 words – that has stood the test of time,” the pm said.

“ANZUS is the foundation stone of Australia’s national security and a key pillar for peace and stability in our Indo-Pacific region.”

Morrison’s address marked 70 years since the treaty was signed by Sir Robert Menzies on behalf of Australia. He said the treaty was an example of ‘mates helping mates’ for more than a century, and the common values of free nations who charter their own destinies, free economies, and free people. 

Our Alliance is based on trust and mutual respect,” Morrison said. 

“It is an alliance based on a positive vision for our region for a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific. Our Alliance is based on a friendship that has never demanded the silence, or indeed, censure of its critics,” he said. 

The treaty has now been stewarded by 14 American presidents and 14 Australian prime ministers since Menzies but the pm said that the peace and stability enjoyed by nations in the Indo-Pacific ‘cannot be taken for granted’. The warning comes months after Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezullo used an ANZAC Day speech to claim the ‘drums of war’ were beating in a ‘world of perpetual tension and dread’ as security concerns about the military activities of China grows.

This strategic environment will challenge us, as it will challenge the United States and our region,” the pm said.

“Our alliance will stand resilient in the face of these challenges as we nurture and refresh our commitment one to another.”

Morrison said that Australia’s desire to ‘strengthen the fabric of peace’ continued to be served by the ANZUS treaty. 

“Together, we share hope; we share burden; we share vision. We may not be equal in size but there is no doubting the equality of our commitment, our resolve and our dedication to the values that underpin our great partnership. Together, we have always supported a world that favours freedom,” Morrison said. 

Just this week the US ended its 20-year mission in Afghanistan that was supported by Australian troops, coordinating a last ditch attempt to save national allies and international citizens on emergency evacuations from Kabul international airport. The number of US service members killed while in Afghanistan number 2,461, and another 20,000 veterans were injured. Forty one Australian troops died while deployed in Afghanistan.

“Last week, the horrific events at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate reminded us yet again of the enormous price our ally has paid for its role in the world,” Morrison said, referring to a double suicide bomb attack impacting the international evacuation efforts from Afghanistan. 

We must recognise that the peace afforded to so many by the United States, including those who have been quick to criticise, has so often come at such great cost to our great ally, friend and partner,” the pm said. 

“As I have said many times, Australia looks to the United States, but we will never leave it to the United States.”

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