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Bush Highlights Close Ties Between Americans, Australians

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2003 – President Bush today reminded the world of the close ties between America and Australia during a speech to the Australian Parliament in which he praised the "Land Down Under" for its support in the war on terrorism.

"We're confronting outlaw regimes that aid terrorists, that pursue weapons of mass destruction, and that defy the demands of the world," Bush said. "America, Australia and other nations acted in Iraq to remove a grave and gathering danger instead of wishing and waiting while tragedy grew closer."

Australia has had its own terrorist tragedies. A bombing at a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002 killed more than 200 people roughly 90 of them vacationing Australians. Some have called the blast "Australia's 9-11" because so many Australians died there.

"Your nation and mine have known the shock and felt the sorrow and laid the dead to rest," Bush said. "And we refuse to live our lives at the mercy of the murderers."

The president's speech in Canberra made instant headlines around the world when two senators interrupted in two different outbursts and were forcibly removed from the room. But the majority of the parliamentarians were staunchly supportive of Bush's message. The president's speech was interrupted more than a dozen times with supportive calls of "Hear, hear."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been strongly supportive of Bush's efforts to fight international terrorism. At the beginning of his remarks to the Parliament, Bush praised Howard as "a leader of exceptional courage who exemplifies the finest qualities of one of the world's great democracies.

"I'm proud to call him friend," Bush said of his Australian counterpart.

Australia has provided troops and other support to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush today lauded Australian Special Air Service Sgt. Andrew Russell, who was the first casualty among American allies in Iraq. Later in the day, the president laid a wreath in Russell's memory, and to the memory of other Australian war dead, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

"My nation honors their service to the cause of freedom, to the cause we share," Bush said at the Parliament.

Answering critics who say democracy can never flourish in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush called to mind the lawless beginnings of both America and Australia.

"Sophisticated observers had serious reservations about the scruffy travelers who founded our two countries," he said to laughter from the senators. "Every milestone of liberty was considered impossible before it was achieved.

"In our time, we must decide our won belief," Bush continued. "Either freedom is the privilege of an elite few, or it is the right and capacity of all humanity."

Toward the end of his speech, Bush announced that the United States and Australia will cooperate on a Proliferation Security Initiative. The two countries will work together to "search planes and ships and trains and trucks carrying suspected cargo, to sieze weapons or missile shipments that raise proliferation concerns," Bush said.

"Our nations have a special responsibility throughout the Pacific to help keep the peace, to ensure free movement of people and capital and information, and advance the ideals of democracy and freedom," he said. "America will continue to maintain a forward presence in Asia (and) continue to work closely with Australia."

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