Lowy Institute: Strong Support for Increased US Military Presence in Australia

Nov 16, 2011, 04:32 ET from Lowy Institute for International Policy

SYDNEY, Nov. 16, 2011 / PRNewswire/ -- Visiting US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard are widely expected to announce a significant increase in US military presence and activity in Australia. The move reflects US efforts to reaffirm and diversify its presence in Asia and the resilience and adaptability of the 60-year-old Australia-US security alliance.

Polling results from the Australian Lowy Institute for International Policy show public support for the US alliance at record highs, against a backdrop of rapid change and growing uncertainty in the region.

"According to the 2011 Lowy Poll, 59% of Australians say the alliance is very important for Australia's security (up from 36% in 2007) with a further 23% saying it is fairly important", said Fergus Hanson, author of the Poll.

The 2011 Poll revealed that 55% of Australians would support allowing the United States to base US military forces in Australia. (http://www.lowyinstitute.org/Publication.asp?pid=1617)

"The new arrangements will mark a significant evolution in the alliance, Australia's growing strategic importance in the region, and a reaffirmation of the central place of the US alliance in Australia's foreign policy", said Andrew Shearer, Lowy Institute Director of Studies.

"President Obama's trip to Asia highlights that predictions of America's decline are premature. The United States is a Pacific power and remains committed to full engagement in the political, economic and military affairs of Asia."

"An increased US military presence will be good for Australia, good for the United States and good for the wider region. Our neighbours may not say so publicly, but they will quietly welcome it."

Shearer, formerly a senior Washington-based diplomat, believes that calls for Australia to distance itself from the United States in deference to our growing economic links with China are misguided, and has been a consistent advocate of an increased US military presence.

In a recent essay on the future of the alliance, 'Uncharted Waters: The US Alliance and Australia's New Era of Strategic Uncertainty' Shearer noted that public support for the Australia-US alliance has been growing steadily as a result of public concern, shared around much of the Asia-Pacific region, about China's increasing assertiveness and longer-term intentions.  (http://www.lowyinstitute.org/Publication.asp?pid=1669)

Other results from recent Lowy Institute polls include:

  • 78% of Australians polled agree that a strong alliance is a natural extension of the many common values and ideals Australians and Americans share. Almost three quarters (73%) also recognise the alliance comes with risks, agreeing that it makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in its interests. Only 21% of Australians agree Australia is able to defend itself without the assistance of the United States.

  • 83% of Australians trust the United States to act responsibly in the world either a great deal or somewhat, the equal highest rating (with Japan).

  • The 2010 Lowy Institute Poll asked respondents about the position of the United States in the world over the next ten years compared to other countries. 48% of Australians said that America's position as a military power will stay about the same and 31% said it will be stronger (20% said it will be weaker). 30% said the United States as an economic power will stay about the same, 28% that it will be stronger and 40% that it will be weaker.

Further information

For interview requests with Mr. Shearer (Sydney, Australia) please email direct: ashearer@lowyinstitute.org

For interview requests with Mr. Fergus Hanson (Washington D.C, USA) please email direct: fhanson@lowyinstitute.org

For general media queries please contact: Stephanie Dunstan (Sydney, Australia): sdunstan@lowyinstitute.org  + 61 (0)2 82389040 (office) + 61 (0) 435 802629 (mobile)

SOURCE Lowy Institute for International Policy