The Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) are Australia’s principal forum for formal consultations with the United States. The talks are led by the Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers and their counterparts, the US Secretaries of State and Defence. In addition to these ‘principals’, other regular attendees include Australia’s Chief of Defence Force, Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, the Secretaries of DFAT and Defence and Ambassador to the United States. They are typically joined by the Commander of US Pacific Command (PACOM), the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the US Assistant Secretaries for East Asia and the Pacific at both State and Defense, and the US Ambassador to Australia.
The 2017 AUSMIN Consultation in Sydney was the 27th in 32 years (it is supposed to be an annual event). AUSMIN has existed in its current form since 1985, following New Zealand’s refusal to allow US nuclear submarines into its ports that year and the United States’ subsequent suspension of its ANZUS security commitment to Wellington. Past AUSMIN forums have included many formal resolutions strengthening the US-Australia security alliance, including the Sydney Statement (1996), the Memorandum of Understanding on Ballistic Missile Defense (2004), the Space Situational Awareness Partnership (2010), and the US Force Posture Agreement (2014).
AUSMIN 2017, Sydney
Principals: Julie Bishop/Marise Payne, Rex Tillerson/James Mattis
AUSMIN 2017 was the first with the Trump administration. The two sides celebrated the alliance by remembering the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the 50th anniversary of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap and the 100th anniversary of the World War I Battle of Hamel. Australian and American representatives reiterated their continued contribution to Afghan security and the global coalition against ISIS. They underlined shared commitment to a safe and secure Indo-Pacific through regional organisations like the East Asia Summit, APEC and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting, and underlined the importance of upholding the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight and the value of the rules-based order. Both countries expressed concern over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and the threat it posed to the region, and committed to deeper engagement with regional partners as well as pledging to strengthen trilateral cooperation with Japan.
AUSMIN 2015, Boston
Principals: Julie Bishop/Marise Payne, John Kerry/Ash Carter
Concerns over Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea, the rise of ISIS, and the conflict in Syria dominated talks at AUSMIN 2015. Australian and American representatives called on East Asian governments to abide by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), reiterated their commitment to the collective defence of Iraq, and called on Russia to cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition. Both parties expressed their support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran, and agreed to work towards international agreements on climate change and refugee challenges. The security relationship was further deepened with the signing of a Joint Statement on Defense Cooperation and the Joint Border Protection Initiative. Both countries also reiterated their shared intent to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
AUSMIN 2014, Sydney
Principals: Julie Bishop/David Johnston, John Kerry/Chuck Hagel
The Joint Statement issued after AUSMIN 2014 reflected the disappointment and condemnation shared by Australian and American representatives at several key international incidents: Russia’s interference in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, North Korea’s erratic behaviour, the humanitarian and political crisis in Syria, and the rise of ISIS. The US and Australia subsequently signed a Force Posture Agreement to fully implement the Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. This involved enhanced aircraft and naval cooperation and the interoperability of Special Forces. They also agreed on an increased US Marine Corps presence and reaffirmed a strong commitment to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In line with the increased awareness of space and cyber threats, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to practical space cooperation, defence science and technology, and the application of international law in cyberspace.
AUSMIN 2013, Washington D.C.
Principals: Julie Bishop/David Johnston, John Kerry/Chuck Hagel
The US and Australia highlighted the importance of abiding by international law at AUSMIN 2013. Ministers agreed to enhance common understandings on norms of responsible behaviour in cyberspace and continued to emphasise the importance of respect for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Denuclearising North Korea and Iran was a priority, while there was also a call for the convening of the Geneva II conference to end the conflict in Syria. Ministers issued a Joint Statement of Principles on US Force Posture Initiatives in northern Australia and agreed to implement rotational US Marine Corps deployments and Air Force rotations. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding governing the arrangements for the US telescope and C-Band space surveillance radar to Western Australia. Both countries agreed to finalise an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. The United States and Australia reaffirmed their intent to conclude a high-standard and comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership.
AUSMIN 2012, Perth
Principals: Bob Carr/Stephen Smith, Hillary Clinton/Leon Panetta
The most concrete outcomes of AUSMIN 2012 were the enhancement of US-Australia military, communications, and economic cooperation. Both countries recognised the success of the first rotation of US Marine Corps personnel in northern Australia, before signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the relocation and establishment of a jointly-operated US C-Band space surveillance radar at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia in 2014. Ministers also agreed to work towards the relocation of a US Space Surveillance Telescope to Australia and the possible establishment of a Combined Communications Gateway. These outcomes aligned with the shared desire to develop a common understanding on the international norms of cyberspace. Delegates on both sides resolved to conclude a Trans-Pacific Partnership.
AUSMIN 2011, San Francisco
Principals: Kevin Rudd/Stephen Smith, Hillary Clinton/Leon Panetta
AUSMIN 2011 marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. Both countries maintained their stance on the need for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and reiterated the importance of the East Asia Summit, which now included the participation of the United States. Ministers resolved to work towards a successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They also continued their support for the full implementation of UN Resolutions on Iran and called for Syrian President Assad to step aside. The continued concern over cyberspace culminated in a Joint Statement on Cyberspace. Meanwhile, both countries supported efforts to develop a US-Australia Combined Communications Partnership and to strengthen the AusAID-USAID partnership.
AUSMIN 2010, Melbourne
Principals: Kevin Rudd/Stephen Smith, Hillary Clinton/Robert Gates
AUSMIN 2010 resulted in some of the most comprehensive developments in the US-Australia security relationship. Ministers signed a Space Situational Awareness Partnership and issued a Joint Statement on Space Security in response to concerns over space as an increasingly contested military arena. These complemented the preparation for ratifying a Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. The two countries also signed the Australia-US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty, established a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between AusAID and USAID, and created a partnership to address violence against women globally. Regionally, both countries affirmed the need for peaceful resolution to maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and supported freedom of navigation and a binding Code of Conduct. The promotion of a secure and resilient cyberspace was also a priority.
AUSMIN 2009, Washington D.C.
Principals: Stephen Smith/Joel Fitzgibbon, Hillary Clinton/Robert Gates
Following America’s strategic policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ministers at AUSMIN 2009 discussed curbing the ability of al-Qaida, reconstructing Afghanistan, and working with the democratic government in Pakistan. While concerns continued over Iran’s nuclear activities and North Korea’s long-range missile test, American and Australian principals lauded regional developments including China’s constructive role in addressing the global financial and economic crisis and India’s progress in strengthening its democracy. They also underlined the importance of continued trilateral cooperation with Japan. While there were fewer notable joint agreements than in past consultations, both countries did agree on principles for enhancing intelligence collaboration and, for the first time, cyber security cooperation.
AUSMIN 2008, Canberra
Principals: Stephen Smith/Joel Fitzgibbon, John Negroponte (Deputy)/Robert Gates
At AUSMIN 2008, principals expressed joint support for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and shared concern over the political impasse in Lebanon. Both countries continued to push for a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan and remained concerned over a potentially nuclear Iran. Regionally, principals resolved to advance shared interests with democratic India and warmly welcomed Thailand’s return to democratic government. Close US-Australia military cooperation continued with progress in the US-Australia Treaty on Defence Trade Cooperation, the signing of a Statement of Principles establishing a military satellite communications partnership, and welcoming the forthcoming Exercise Talisman Sabre in 2009. The countries also agreed to establish an investment program to develop a Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief capability.
AUSMIN 2006, Washington D.C.
Principals: Alexander Downer/Brendan Nelson, Condoleezza Rice/Gordon England (Dep)
Ministers at AUSMIN 2006 responded to new regional challenges by condemning North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006, expressing their concern over instability in Pacific Island states, welcoming Indonesia’s growing regional role, and expressing their desire to see China play a role as a responsible member of the international community. Both countries agreed that the North Korean and Iranian missile tests in 2006 reinforced the need to intensify US-Australia cooperation under the Memorandum of Understanding on Missile Defence, as well as enhancing cooperation in intelligence and surveillance. Additionally, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Production, Sustainment, and Follow-on Development of the Joint Strike Fighter.
AUSMIN 2005, Adelaide
Principals: Alexander Downer/Robert Hill, Robert Zoellick (Dep)/Donald Rumsfeld
Outcomes of AUSMIN 2005 reflected the weight that Australia and the US attributed to confronting security challenges in a bilateral manner. These included signing the Joint Combined Training Centre Memorandum of Understanding, the agreement on Enhancing Regional Peace Operations Capability, and the Strategic Bombing Training Program. These agreements were signed following continued security concerns in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as incidents including recent terrorist attacks in London, Bali, and Amman. Australia and the US also agreed on the need for a Trilateral Security Dialogue with Japan and welcomed the progress of the Six-Party talks which promoted nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea.
AUSMIN 2004, Washington D.C.
Principals: Alexander Downer/Robert Hill, Colin Powell/Donald Rumsfeld
AUSMIN 2004 was the first AUSMIN during the Iraq War and featured discussions on procedures to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government. Both countries noted the continued threat of terrorism and the threat of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, while in the Asia-Pacific region talks revolved around the strengthening of US military capabilities following its Global Force Posture Review. The countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Ballistic Missile Defence and agreed on a Joint Combined Training Centre in Australia. They supplemented these agreements with a Joint Statement of Principles on Interoperability, further underlining the shared desire for enhanced military cooperation.
AUSMIN 2002, Washington D.C.
Principals: Alexander Downer/Robert Hill, Colin Powell/Donald Rumsfeld
The Global War on Terrorism was high on the agenda at AUSMIN 2004 following the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 and the Bali bombings on October 12, 2002. The Joint Statement outlined the reaffirmation of US-Australia support for the Global War on Terrorism, particularly the effort to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan. Principals welcomed APEC’s counterterrorism initiatives and the contributions of India and Pakistan to the Global War on Terrorism. Both sides sought to enhance cooperation through the ongoing Interoperability Review and the Joint Strike Fighter program, and resolved to work towards laying the foundation for a Free Trade Agreement.
AUSMIN 2001, Canberra
Principals: Alexander Downer/Peter Reith, Colin Powell/Donald Rumsfeld
US and Australian representatives emphasised the enduring relevance of the alliance for regional stability on the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. Ministers continued to highlight the importance of Indonesia for the stability and prosperity of South East Asia, while Australia noted the significance of the US-Japan alliance which also marked its 50th anniversary. In the Joint Statement, principals agreed to undertake a top-down review of interoperability as well as a ten-year extension of the Australia-US Cooperative Defence Logistics Support Agreement. Australia and the United States noted their intention to cooperate to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations ahead of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha in November 2001.
AUSMIN 1999, Washington D.C.
Principals: Alexander Downer/John Moore, Madeline Albright/William Cohen
Principals at AUSMIN 1999 made a point of recognising the importance of Indonesia’s continued transition to democracy and its decision to take steps in giving East Timor its independence. Both countries expressed concern over tensions between India and Pakistan and the threat of terrorism in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. In a rare expression of unilateral concern, Australia noted its disappointment at the failure of the US Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Despite this, principals shared a desire for the continuation of the non-proliferation agenda, including the need for Iraq to fully comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions regarding the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction capabilities. The Joint Statement also noted the successful ‘Crocodile ‘ US-Australia joint exercise in Queensland in October 1999.
AUSMIN 1998, Sydney
Principals: Alexander Downer/Ian McLachlan, Madeline Albright/William Cohen
AUSMIN 1998 focused on measures to further Australian and US economic interests and stabilise the Asia-Pacific following the Asian Financial Crisis. Australian and US representatives supported the role of the IMF, World Bank, APEC, and the Asian Development Bank in promoting free trade and opening regional markets. The Joint Communiqué also detailed shared concern over India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear tests, the importance of international frameworks and the urgency of the START II Treaty entering into force. The two countries also established an AUSMIN Defence Acquisition Committee to coordinate operations and signed a 10-year extension of the treaty governing the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap.
AUSMIN 1996, Sydney
Principals: Alexander Downer/Ian McLachlan, Warren Christopher/William Perry
AUSMIN 1996 culminated in a Joint Security Declaration known as the Sydney Statement. The meeting aimed to ensure America’s continued presence in the Asia-Pacific region through forward-deployed forces, continued close cooperation in intelligence, and a commitment to joint military exercises and operations such as Pine Gap. Ministers agreed on the need to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by enforcing international frameworks including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. They also sought to continue development of strong bilateral relationships with Asia Pacific countries and regional forums including ASEAN and APEC.
The AUSMIN Consultations prior to 1996 took place in:
- 1995, Washington D.C. (Gareth Evans/Robert Ray; Warren Christopher/William Perry)
- 1994, Canberra (Gareth Evans/Robert Ray; Warren Christopher/William Perry)
- 1992, Washington D.C. (Gareth Evans/Robert Ray; Lawrence Eagleburger/Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy))
- 1990, Washington D.C. (Gareth Evans/Robert Ray; James Baker/Richard Cheney)
- 1989, Sydney (Gareth Evans/Kim Beazley, James Baker/Richard Cheney)
- 1988, Washington D.C. (Bill Hayden/Kim Beazley, George Shultz/Frank Carlucci)
- 1987, Sydney (Bill Hayden/Kim Beazley, George Shultz/Caspar Weinberger)
- 1986, San Francisco (Bill Hayden/Kim Beazley, George Shultz/ Caspar Weinberger)
- 1985, Canberra (Bill Hayden/Kim Beazley, George Shultz/Admiral Crowe)
Details about agreements made at these consultations are not readily available.
Prepared by Ryan Hawkins, Research Intern, Alliance 21 Program.