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Phil Scanlan, together with his wife Julie Singer Scanlan, founded the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in 1992 with the support of then President George H.W. Bush.

Message from the Founders

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, little has changed in the Australian American relationship to alter the sobering tendency for Australians to presume the permanence of the American alliance and for Americans to take Australia for granted.

Australians need to heed the prescient warning of inaugural United States President George Washington to avoid permanent entanglements with foreign powers. This is particularly relevant in the aftermath of the regulated world of the Cold War and the current intergenerational shifts in leadership of both countries.

For many decades, successive Australian governments have failed to acknowledge or account for the wealth transfer from American to Australian taxpayers by way of the defence subsidy. A national conversation about the rationale and efficacy of Australia’s alliance with the United States is timely.

The resonance of intergenerational change led to the creation of the Leadership Dialogue in 1992 and is a consistent factor in how Board and Advisory Council members guide our collective decision making.

The Leadership Dialogue was founded, and continues to run, on principles of bilateral interest, bipartisanship, voluntarism and leadership in the service of others, frank exchange, intergenerational perspectives, mutual tolerance and personal courtesy.

Since 1992, leaders have gathered at Australian American Leadership Dialogue (AALD) programs in various cities across the two nations to help shape the direction of the bilateral relationship. These programs allow a rich and ongoing dialogue to develop across seven key themes: economics and trade, security and defence, foreign policy, domestic politics, innovation and technology, energy and climate and education, health and community cohesion.

The bilateral and bipartisan nature of the Leadership Dialogue facilitates the pragmatic and free-flowing exchange of ideas that has become a hallmark of Leadership Dialogue gatherings.

Australia’s destiny this 21st century is to be a model inclusive society – secure, strong, smart, compassionate and sustainably competitive underwritten by the rule of law, where the diversity of our people is a national asset.

Our future lies with our front yard neighbours in the Indo Pacific. Our foreign policy will maintain a global perspective, a regional focus and be attentive to our immediate neighbourhood – for whose security and prosperity the rest of the world expects Australia to exercise commensurate responsibility.

Australia’s management of the US alliance is the formal task of officialdom and begins in Washington, where elite opinion remains dominated by Atlantic perspectives. Australia, however, cannot pursue its aspirations in the absence of US strategic engagement in our Indo Pacific neighbourhood.

The Indo Pacific is a region rich in economic potential and, without a working security network, full of crises waiting to happen. The biggest issue we face is global stability.

A first order priority is mature management of the most significant bilateral relationship – between the United States and China, two dynamic peoples of vastly different demography whose destinies demand adherence to the mutuality principle.

Australia can be the economic beneficiary from the holistic combination of a resilient United States and rising China.

This means navigating bilateral ties with both the USA and China in a manner that advances the interests of peoples in our extended neighbourhood – in the South Pacific, Indonesia and ASEAN, Japan, India and South Asia, Russia and the Korean peninsula.

Built on historically solid foundations, the Australian American special military and intelligence collaboration is broadening into civilian applications. The stage is now set for new economy initiatives that will help create the platform for a sustainable high performing Australian community through 2050 and beyond.

Higher education, research, development and technology application are key drivers of sustained high community performance.

With this in mind, the West Coast Leadership Dialogue was launched during 2007 in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego, and Stanford University.

The premise of the West Coast Leadership Dialogue is that Australia and the United States are Pacific neighbours, who share the challenge of becoming model societies, where cultural diversity is embraced along with democratic values and a market-based economy.

The economic, environmental, political and social prosperity of the region and the relationship that Australia and USA have with the region and with each other are of paramount importance to our national and collective futures.

Australian American ties are strong and demand constant nurturing. With the promise of new generations of leadership, the opportunity exists to develop a broader and deeper bilateral relationship.

The Young Leadership Dialogue was successfully launched in 2007 to integrate intergenerational perspectives into the core of the Leadership Dialogue agenda.

Australia’s pursuit of similar conversations with our friends and neighbours is integral to our strategy of global engagement.