Thank you Ambassador, I’m delighted to be here today in Washington, for there are few countries with a closer relationship than Australia and the United States. We are partners, we are allies, we are friends. We fought side by side in World War One, on the Western Front and we have fought together in every major conflict since that time. It was in February 1940 that then Prime Minister Robert Menzies sent his Ambassador Richard Casey, to Washington, and this was the first time that Australia had a diplomatic mission outside Australia House in London. Richard Casey operated the mission from the residence known as ‘White Oaks’, which still houses our Australian Ambassadorial residence today. But it was in 1946 that we purchased our first embassy buildings here in Washington. This building was constructed in the LBJ, the Johnson Administration period, and it has occupied this prominent and significant and historic site ever since, as befitting the relationship between Australia and the United States.
About five years ago, as Ambassador Hockey said, the building was damaged by an earthquake, and it is well and truly past its use-by-date. We had to erect this scaffolding, and unfortunately, the scaffolding will have to remain until work can begin on our new embassy on this site. The design we have for the new embassy is befitting the very best that Australia has to offer in terms of design, aesthetics, and will be an entirely appropriate embassy on this entirely prominent and significant site. I did spend some time with US representatives today, and from Vice President Mike Pence down, each one of them expressed a desire to visit Australia, or revisit Australia, and so this is an encouragement to all those in Washington and visitors to Washington to visit Australia.
I want to thank our friends at Qantas – thank you Steve for being here, for supporting our efforts to attract more tourists to Australia by sponsoring our banner and the illumination so that day or night, people can see Australia and think about Australia. Qantas has been a founding partner with G’Day USA, that is our public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy event that we hold each year in the United States. Qantas is not only one of the oldest airlines in the world, it’s one of the safest. Again this year, Qantas was ranked number one in terms of safety by the Independent Airline Ratings site. So with the assistance of Qantas, we are bringing a little more of Australia to Embassy Row, and I now have the opportunity to …. turn on the lights, Australia Embassy Row, Washington, and so to the 35000 cars that pass by, come visit Australia!
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