A. I will do everything I humanly can to work closely with the government and the people of the United States. Australia will be a good ally of the U.S. and a good friend and partner — strategic and economic — to the United States.
Will you continue with the deployment of the U.S. Marines at Darwin?
We very much supported the former government’s agreement with the United States to have that Marine rotation through Darwin, and we will enthusiastically continue it.
Do you plan to come to the U.S. to visit President Obama?
He’s a very busy man, and I don’t want to make his life more complicated by demanding an early meeting. He was good enough to take a phone call from me after the election. I expect to visit the United States sometime next year.
Do you feel it will be difficult to balance strong political and security ties with the U.S. against Australia’s strong commercial relationship with China?
No, I don’t. I don’t see any difficulties between maintaining the closest possible strategic partnership with the U.S. and developing an ever-closer economic relationship and broader friendship with China.
Are you worried the U.S. “rebalancing” or pivot toward Asia has been forgotten? President Obama just cancelled his trip to Asia, and he barely mentioned Asia in his U.N. speech.
I fully understand why the president was unable to attend the [Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC)] and the Asia summit. He had very pressing domestic issues to deal with.
Do you think the government shutdown affected U.S. credibility in the region?
Plainly it would be better if these things didn’t happen, but we all understand that if you’ve got a disagreement between parties, sometimes that can play itself out in the legislature in fairly dramatic ways.
Your first trip as prime minister was to Indonesia. During your campaign you said that you would be more about Jakarta than Geneva. What did you mean?
It was a figure of speech which was supposed to characterize the fact that we would focus our attention on the areas which were most vital to our interests and where we could make the most difference. The closer to home, the more significant for us. It was my way of attempting a pithy encapsulation of a common-sense approach to Australian foreign policy.
Will you pursue a very different foreign policy than your predecessors?
I hope that I will be more consistent and predictable than my immediate predecessors. But in terms of the general aspirations — I don’t think you will see much difference. Hopefully you will see the whole relationship conducted more steadily, more consistently.
The whole relationship with the U.S.? With China?
All of our relationships. The difficulty with the former government was that one day they were focused on this, the next day they were focused on that. They found it difficult to consistently follow through on anything. I hope the new government will have fewer initiatives but will calmly and steadily follow through on the things that really matter.