The recent triumph of the Howard government at the polls confirms Australia’s emergence as an increasingly important ally for the United States. It is willing to be part of challenging global missions, and its strong economy and growing self-confidence suggest a more prominent role in both global and regional affairs. Moreover, its government has worked hard to strengthen the link between Canberra and Washington. Political and strategic affinities between the two countries have been reflected in—and complemented by—practiced military interoperability, as the two allies have sustained a pattern of security cooperation in relation to East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the last five years.
This growing collaboration between the two countries suggests that a reinvention of the traditional bilateral security relationship is taking place. At the core of this process lies an agreement about the need for engaging in more proactive strategic behavior in the changing global security environment, and a mutual acceptance of looming military and technological interdependence. But this new alliance relationship has already tested the boundaries of bipartisan support for security policy within Australia, and will continue to do so despite the latest election results. Issues of strategic doctrine, defense planning, and procurement are becoming topics of fiercer policy debate. Such discussion is likely to be sharpened in the years ahead as Australia’s security relationship with the United States settles into a new framework.