Australia’s many friends in the United States congratulate Tony Abbott and his Liberal-National coalition colleagues for their resounding triumph in Australia’s general elections this weekend.
The new prime minister faces daunting challenges, including fears that Australia’s extraordinary economic performance -- 22 straight years of growth -- may be in jeopardy. Broader shifts in Asian geopolitics, including the emergence of China as a major player in the region, rising tensions caused by conflicting territorial claims, and a regional arms race, will compete with domestic economic anxieties for the new government’s attention.
The United States had no favorite in this weekend’s electoral contest. Both Abbott and the outgoing prime minister, Kevin Rudd, share similar views on the major foreign policy issues of their region, and on the centrality of the U.S.-Australian alliance. Both have backed the Obama administration’s rebalance toward Asia, and both have applauded the periodic rotation of U.S. marines through Darwin on the northern coast, as part of that rebalance.
Obama and Abbott will have an opportunity to meet during the president’s Asian trip early next month. Abbott will no doubt encourage Obama to return to Australia in the next year or two, to follow up on the president’s highly successful 2011 visit. Abbott will also be keen to be received at the White House, an invitation that should soon be extended.
The security alliance binding Australia and the United States is now in its 7th decade. By any measure, it is one of the most successful bilateral partnerships in history. As Kim Beazley, Canberra’s highly regarded ambassador in the United States, has rightly observed, its alliance with Australia is Washington’s only Cold War treaty partnership that has intensified rather than waned since the end of the Cold War. At a time of global uncertainty, the new prime minister will no doubt continue to regard Washington as a steady friend in a turbulent world.
Robert M. Hathaway directs the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. His latest book is the co-edited New Security Challenges in Asia.