Signing of the ANZUS Treaty

September 01, 2018

On 1 September 1951, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America signed the ANZUS Treaty in San Francisco.  Nearly seven decades on, the Treaty still serves as the foundation of defence and security cooperation between our countries – an insurance policy to keep each other safe and secure our interests (particularly in the Pacific region) secure.

Whilst we fought alongside the US and NZ forces in the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Treaty was never formally invoked until the 21st century – by Australia (under John Howard’s Government), in response to the terrorist attacks against the US of September 11, 2001.

The Australia-US limb of the three-limbed Treaty is the Australia-US Alliance. The Alliance is Australia’s single most important security relationship and is strongly supported in the Conservative Party. The Alliance thankfully continues to enjoy broad bipartisan support (despite some rocky times during the mid-1980s under the Hawke Labor government and criticism from the Greens during the war on terror in the '00s).

Commemorate this day of signing of the ANZUS Treaty by:

  • watching your favourite Pacific, Korean or Vietnam war movie
  • watching your favourite episodes of the TV series, MASH, or the original 1970 movie it spun off from
  • reading this DFAT brief on the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, just prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil
  • reading this transcript of John Howard’s speech invoking the ANZUS treaty for the first time three days after the September 11 attacks
  • reflecting on what future Australia, NZ and the Pacific region would have had without the pivotal influence and security support of the US, including through the existence of the ANZUS Treaty, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, patriotic Aussies, Trump supporters and those that fight for and defend the values underpinning the free world.


Further details on the ANZUS Treaty

Originally, the Treaty was a three-limbed, non-binding, collective agreement on defence and security between Australia and the US (the Australia–US alliance), Australia and NZ, and NZ and the US.

  • But the latter limb of this tri-lateral defence/security pact was suspended in the mid-1980s (effectively demoting NZ from US ally to friend) after the NZ government initiated a nuclear-free zone in its territorial waters. That said, over the last two decades, cooperative measures between the NZ and US governments have partially unwound the effect of that suspension.

The treaty entered into force on 29 April 1952. The Treaty’s original purpose was to secure cooperation on military matters in the Pacific region – to guard against the possibility of a resurgent Japan, the spread of communism to our north (eg former Soviet Union, Maoist China, Korean peninsula) and any other security threats that may arise. For Australia, it was also to fill the void left by:

  • the UK that was no longer a power in the region (as had been demonstrated by the fall of Singapore to Japan in 1942), and
  • the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, which risked Australia’s main allies focusing on their trans-Atlantic interests to the detriment of the security of our interests and the Pacific.

The Treaty stated that:

“The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific.”

The three nations also pledged to resist attacks on each other by developing and maintaining defence/security capabilities, both individual and collectively. Australia and the US continue to conduct many joint activities under the Treaty/Alliance including myriad military exercises, armed officer swaps, standardisation of equipment and operations and hosting joint-defence spy-intel facilities focused on south and east Asia.

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