Address at commissioning of USS Canberra

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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22 July 2023

Acknowledgments omitted.

The Alliance is at the centre of Australia's national security.

The Alliance is about shared values.

As Australia makes common cause with a nation conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

But the Alliance is also personal.

The Alliance is in the story of American Ambassador Jon Berry, whose father served in the first division of the United States Marines here in Australia, a division whose song today is Waltzing Matilda.

The Alliance is in the story of Ambassador Kennedy, whose father was rescued 80 years ago by a team of Australian coast watchers in the western province of Solomon Islands.

And the Alliance is in the story of the thousands of Americans and Australians who can trace their family history back to the 800,000 Americans who served in this country during World War Two.

When Australians talk about the Alliance, we don't even talk about the name of the partner with whom our alliance is with.

Because there is only one Alliance which is so much at the heart of Australia’s world view.

And many wonder where Australia sits in America's vision of the world.

And the answer to that can be found in the story of the United States ship Canberra, behind us today.

When the original HMAS Canberra was lost on the night of the 9th of August in 1942, she was sailing with and fighting with the American Navy in the Battle of Savo Island in the Guadalcanal.

And the 83 Australians and one American who lost their lives on that night, so moved was President Franklin Roosevelt that he gave the singular honour of naming a new, newly commissioned American ship, the USS Canberra.

That ship served out the Second World War.

It went on to serve in the Vietnam War, again, alongside Australian Defence Force personnel.

Sometime after it was decommissioned, President George W. Bush thought it was only fitting that its bell be given to Prime Minister John Howard and it lives to this day at the Australian National Maritime Museum and it is with us here.

So these two ships, the modern HMAS Canberra and the USS Canberra are inextricably linked and inextricably intertwined.

They are genuinely siblings.

And in all that they do, they carry with them the souls of the 84 people who were lost on that night.

As we sit here today, before the USS Canberra, a ship which was designed in Fremantle, built by the great Australian company, Austal, we do so in the knowledge that there will always be an officer of the Royal Australian Navy who will serve on it.

We will always know that the sponsor will be the Australian Senator, Marise Payne, a former Defence Minister, who is with us today.

We will know that its crest bears the Southern Cross and a kangaroo, and that it was commissioned on this day, in this most unique and unprecedented and historic event where for the first time, a new American warship is being commissioned outside of the United States.

And in all of that, what we hear is that to America, Australia matters.

Next week, I'll be hosting the United States Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin.

Together we will visit Exercise Talisman Sabre and we will watch the men and women of our respective defence forces exercise together.

And as we do so, we feel a pride of their service.

And we will undoubtedly reflect that the Alliance of more than a century of mateship, as Australians and Americans have fought alongside each other in every conflict during that period of time has been and we'll continue to be both fundamental and astounding.


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