MEDIA RELEASE – Bring United States President Joe Biden to the Top End
DARWIN – 22 January 2021
Australia and the United States have been firm allies for over a century, but there’s perhaps no place in the country with closer ties to the US than Darwin.
Thanks to an agreement made by President Barack Obama and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, US Marines call Darwin home for six months every year. 2,500 of them arrive every April and train closely with our troops across the Top End, strengthening our interoperability and diplomatic ties.
Darwin is the most international of Australia’s capital cities: we’re closer to Dili, Singapore, Jakarta and Manila than we are to Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne.
Our northward focus, looking to our Asian neighbours, makes Darwin the strategic lynchpin of the nation. We’re in a key geopolitical location, and we hope that President Biden will renew the mission of President Obama in renewing his focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
COVID-19 has revealed the limitations and vulnerabilities in our supply chains, and we’ve been exposed to coercion from China, who hasn’t hesitated to flex its muscles in response to perceived slights by Australia, such as requesting an international inquiry into the origins of the virus. Australia has suffered economically as a result, and this political tension isn’t likely to improve in the short-term. A renewed relationship with the United States, based in the Top End, will help reaffirm Australia’s place in the region. We know President Biden
will return to a tough but fair approach with China, which we all hope will lead to peaceful and positive relations between our nations.
Now is the time to shore up the north, investing in our Defence facilities and other major infrastructure. And there’s plenty here to interest our allies the US when they look to improve their own presence in the Asia-Pacific.
The US is considering re-raising its First Fleet – Singapore may pose strategic problems as a base, so why not house the fleet in Darwin?
The Federal Government has missed a major opportunity by deciding to invest in Apache helicopters rather than the Bell AH-1Z Vipers, which are faster, cheaper to run, and fully marinized. In fact, they were developed for use by the US Marines – our major ally.
But even with the Apaches, we can commit to basing them in Darwin, ensuring local maintenance and training jobs stay in the NT, and close to the Marines.
The NT Labor Government is moving ahead with visionary plans for a space base at Nhulunbuy – and NASA has already expressed interest in accessing it.
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin and honoured those killed in 1942 during the Bombing of Darwin, including the 88 who died aboard the USS Peary Navy destroyer when it sank.
President Obama also addressed troops at the Darwin RAAF Base and saw firsthand how crucial Darwin – and the US’s presence here – is to maintaining peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
President Biden was then his Vice President, so we hope for continuity and consistency from his administration. It’s been ten years since a US President visited the Top End, so I have invited President Biden to join us next year to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. This will be a terrific opportunity for him to witness firsthand and build upon what President Obama saw: the strength of the Australia-US alliance.
I think the President would have a great time sipping on a cold frothy, catching up with a few crocs, and swatting the flies away from under his Akubra, and I’m sure Territorians would make him feel very welcome.