UK & Australia: "Our countries are strategic and global allies"

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Secretary William Hague talked following the Australia - UK Ministerial meeting (AUKMIN) on 23-24 January.

Over the last two days we have conducted the meetings we know as AUKMIN; which are detailed and substantive consultation between Britain and Australia’s Foreign and Defence Ministers.

I am very grateful to Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith for travelling here with such a senior delegation, and for the excellent tenor of our talks.

We believe that close consultation between Britain and Australia has never been more important and I think I can confidently say that our approach to world affairs has seldom been more in step with each other.

Our countries are strategic and global allies.

We share democratic values and the will and determination to play a leading role in world affairs.

Our membership of the Commonwealth means that we are not just allies, we are also family. But while this is a partnership rooted in history it is also relentlessly forward looking and practical, which is why we attach such importance to it in the British government.

Australia’s neighbourhood is of growing importance in world affairs. We particularly appreciate Australia’s understanding the Asia-Pacific region and of the emerging powers, just as I know Kevin, Stephen and their colleagues appreciate our leading role in the foreign policy discussions of the European Union.

Our talks reflected our interests and priorities over the next decade, including preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Yesterday the European Union agreed to a phased ban on the import of Iranian oil, and action against Iran’s central bank. This is a significant increase - a major increase - in the peaceful, legitimate pressure on the Iranian government to return to negotiations over its nuclear programme. Until it does so, the pressure will only increase and Britain and Australia share the same sense of resolve about that.

We have discussed cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. We share close views about the development of the region and we discuss it regularly among ourselves and with our mutual ally the United States of America.

We have a valuable information-sharing relationship which is critical to our security. This morning Kevin and I have signed a new agreement which will increase this area of our cooperation.

We exchanged views on cyber security, following last year’s London Conference on Cyberspace. We explored how better to protect our governments, our industry and our national infrastructure from cyber attacks, and how we can work with others to mitigate cyber threats while championing human rights and the social and economic benefits of the internet. Both our countries are committed to developing our partnership in the cyber arena.

We discussed preparations for the London conference on Somalia next month, and later we will also discuss the situation in Nigeria, where we condemn the appalling acts of terrorism and stand behind the Nigerian government and people.

We have agreed to work closely on the Arab Spring, including assistance to countries in transition to more open, democratic government.

We support the work of the Arab League. Both our countries believe the United Nations Security Council has a responsibility to speak out and will work to that end.

We looked ahead to the important NATO Summit in Chicago, as the next milestone in the transition of security in Afghanistan to Afghan control.
And we discussed our bilateral ties. I am pleased that British exports to Australia increased by 30% in the first ten months of last year and we will take every opportunity to build on this success.

The deep trust at the heart of our relationship will be reflected at the meeting of our National Security Council later today which both visiting Ministers will attend and fully participate in.

I thank them both for the energy, friendship and intellectual rigour they have brought to our discussions and for the many areas where we have agreed we will work more closely this year; and am delighted to hand over the floor to Kevin Rudd.