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Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Australia Robert D. McCallum, Jr., discussed U.S.-Australia Bilateral Relations.

Robert D. McCallum, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Australia
Robert D. McCallum, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Australia

Event Date: 11/21/2007

Aimal in Afghanistan writes:

If Mr. Kevin Rudd wins the upcoming elections, what would be the main changes in Australia's foreign policy in the war against terrorism and it's commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Ambassador McCallum:

Thanks for your question, Aimal, but it would be up to Mr. Rudd, rather than to me as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, to explain Australia's foreign policy and what changes he would make to it if he wins the upcoming election. My role is to articulate and explain U.S. policy. However, I can assure you that, regardless of who wins the election in Australia, the United States will continue to work with Australia and other likeminded countries in combating terrorism. U.S. policy is to engage with those nations which value freedom, diversity, and respect for the rule of law, and Australia is certainly one of those nations.

With respect to Afghanistan and Iraq, America seeks to utilize and coordinate military, diplomatic, intelligence, and other resources from responsible members of the international community of nations to defeat those who use terrorism and murder in an attempt to destabilize the new democracies of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Afghan and Iraqi people have each shown that they want the opportunity to create governmental institutions accountable and responsive to the people and to provide for their own domestic prosperity and security. U.S. policy is to assist and support them in doing just that.

Henry in Pennsylvania writes:

What would you recommend a teenager that is interested in being a diplomat eventually study in college?

Ambassador McCallum:

Good question Henry. The State Department works hard to ensure that the Foreign Service is a diverse group in all ways, including educational background. Such diversity truly reflects America. The traditional study subjects are international relations, economics, history, and political science, but we have diplomats from every educational major you can think of serving the United States in embassies around the world. In this day and age, science and technology are equally important in various Foreign Service positions as are language skills. I suggest you just study those subjects that you find most interesting with professors that have a reputation for motivating and challenging their students. It is important that you learn to write clearly and concisely and that you learn to analyze and think critically on issues from multiple perspectives. So stretch yourself by taking courses from demanding professors that make you do that. If you do, you will be in a great position to take and pass the Foreign Service examination when you are eligible.

David in Texas writes:

Dear Mr. Ambassador: Do you see our two countries growing closer together, especially in these times of uncertainty?

Ambassador McCallum:

David, I appreciate your question. Given the nature of the global threats we are facing today - terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, pandemic diseases, human rights abuses, poverty, transnational crime, climate change, and the like - it is important for the United States and Australia, which share similar values and common national interests, to work closely together in addressing these problems. By combining our energies, ideas, and resources, we are better positioned to find appropriate remedies to these issues and to obtain the participation of other countries in those policies. Both our countries are well served in our doing so as is the entire Asia/Pacific region. In fact, the depth and breadth of the relationship between Australia and the United States on multiple levels has grown and strengthened over the past years. I have every reason to believe that it will continue in that vein in the future.

Richard in Australia writes:

Aloha & G'Day Mr. Ambassador,
Sir, this is not really a question but a unique opportunity to express a small bit of gratitude via a format that I just happened to run across on the DoS website.

The folks from Detachment 1, 735 AMS, who are stationed at RAAF Base Richmond, NSW, Australia, wish to thank you for personally taking the time to extend your appreciation for the support received from both the United States Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force personnel during President Bush's and Secretary Rice's visit to Sydney this past September.

The logistical support for the Asian Pacific and Economic Conference offered our small location a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with our fellow comrades-in-arms in accomplishing our assigned tasks. It is nice to know that the long hours devoted to the mission do not go by entirely unnoticed.

Best wishes in your tenure Down Under,

Ambassador McCallum:

Thank you for the note Richard. We highly value what the United States Air Force personnel of Detachment 1, 735th Air Mobility Support Command, are doing, not only to support President Bush and other senior U.S. officials, but also in the day-to-day support you give to your fellow American service men and women here in Australia. I am proud of you and of the work you and the Detachment are doing so ably for our country. It is a real honor and privilege for me and my wife, Mimi, to interact regularly with members of our military. All Americans are grateful for your service. As the Aussies would say: G'd on ya. Keep up the good work.

Sam in Australia writes:

Will it be possible in the future for Australians to travel to USA for a working holiday without having to apply for a visa which requires sponsorship from a U.S. company?

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Sam: As you may have heard the U.S. and Australia recently established a new student work and travel visa for Australians. It is called a "Gap Year Visa" in many publications. However, the program does require applicants to apply with the sponsorship of one of a number of approved educational exchange organizations in the United States. For more information on the new program, you can refer to a new page on our U.S. Embassy website: http://canberra.usembassy.gov/consular/visas/niv/studentwork.html.

The U.S. Congress has the responsibility for enacting new or changed visa categories, and so it is possible that the sponsorship requirement could be eliminated by legislation in the future. However, I am not aware of any plans or proposals for a work holiday-type visa that would not require sponsorship from an approved exchange organization.

Andrew in Hawaii writes:

How will the U.S. integrate Australian assistance regarding recent accomplishments of the APEC summit to formulate an Asia-Pacific security strategy vis--vis Japan for the next 5 years? What is the U.S. plan to mitigate such an Australia, Japan, U.S. triangle from appearing to contain anti-Chinese characteristics to Beijing?

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Andrew: The September 2007 APEC Summit in Sydney focused primarily on economic issues. The Summit was a tremendous success because of Australia's leadership and hard work to advance an ambitious agenda on issues like regional economic integration, climate change, energy/resources availability and reliability, and further trade liberalization including the DOHA Round.

While security issues were not a major item for the Summit agenda, they naturally came up in the many bilateral meetings that take place on the sidelines of the Leaders' Meeting and the various ministerial meetings. At APEC, for example, President Bush met bilaterally with leaders of China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, and Australia, and he hosted a lunch for the ASEAN leaders attending APEC. With respect to Australia, President Bush's attendance at the Summit was also an official state visit to Australia, and the President was able to discuss issues of joint interest with Prime Minister John Howard and others including the Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

The United States, Australia, and Japan regularly meet in what is called the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue to address a variety of issues of mutual interest and ways to cooperate with each other in addressing those issues. All three have made it very clear that these discussions between three, economically developed, free market democracies include a full range of global issues such as terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian relief, health and food safety, trade, and natural disasters. All three have made it very clear that the discussions are not directed against any other country, and all three will continue to make that clear. In fact, all countries in the region will benefit from successful discussions in the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue on such important issues because it will allow for greater cooperation and more effective use of resources.

Olufemi in Nigeria writes:

How will you work to foster peace in Europe, Middle East and Africa taking cognizance of the fact that you are attached to Australia?

Ambassador McCallum:

Olufemi: Great question. As U.S. Ambassador to Australia, my Foreign Service officers and I regularly meet with other diplomats from around the world, including those from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, to exchange views on a range of issues. While these discussions may not have an obvious or immediate impact on events in other continents, they are part of the consistent and patient work that is central to diplomacy. The cumulative effect of many different diplomats in many different locations around the world articulating the same message serves, over time, to educate and influence others, who in turn shape the policies of their governments.

A more obvious and direct role we can play in Australia, however, is to discuss with the Australian government U.S. positions on threats to peace in other parts of the globe. We then try to coordinate our actions, policies, and resources with those of Australia. For example, Australia and the United States currently are cooperating on the Global Peace Operations Initiative, a program involving training peacekeepers and police forces to complement peacekeeping operations around the world, especially in Africa. In the Middle East, we worked closely together to help evacuate civilians from Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, and in Europe, we coordinate closely to prevent the spread of nuclear weapon capability through the International Atomic Energy Agency. That sort of activity in Australia on our part can have an immediate impact on events outside of this region.

Mary in Virginia writes:

Mr. Ambassador,
I work for a K-12 teacher exchange program in the U.S. (designation authority comes from U.S. Department of State). We host international teachers from Australia. Is there a way to work with the U.S. Embassy to effect wider participation of the Australian teachers (publicity of program, etc.)? Thank you.

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Mary: I am so glad to hear of your involvement in educational exchanges. I firmly believe that educational exchanges are one of the best ways for our nation to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of another nation and vice versa. International teachers from the United States in an exchange program abroad are far more effective ambassadors for our country than I or other diplomats can ever be. They are able to participate in the key people-to-people relationships that mean so much in establishing a foundation for a close relationship on a nation to nation level. We here at the Embassy would be happy to discuss ways to help publicize and facilitate this opportunity for Australian teachers to come to the United States. They will then be able to return to Australia and spread the word about America and Americans to other Aussies. To initiate that discussion, I suggest you email our Office of Public Affairs at this address: info@usembassy-australia.state.gov.

Brian in Virginia writes:

Dear Ambassador Robert D. McCallum Jr.,
I've read that you have a keen interest in sports Sir, of all kinds. I was curious if you've been to any Australian sporting events while serving at your post? Also, have you ever had the pleasure to play a game of Netball? If you haven't, I highly recommend getting involved in a match sometime.

Ambassador McCallum:

Brian: You have hit a nerve. I do love sports, and the Aussies are a great sporting nation. They love competition and compete in just about everything. Unfortunately, I don't have as much time to attend sporting events in person as I did working in the private sector in my former life as an attorney. But I do try to follow Aussie sports, mostly on TV. I have become fascinated by Aussie Rules Football and did get to attend a classic one point game last year between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans, the two teams which several weeks later played for the championship. If you haven't seen a game of "footy," I describe it to Americans as a fascinating combination of rugby, soccer, basketball, American football ("gridiron" to Aussies), and general public mayhem most similar to a good old fashioned bar room brawl in a western movie. The Aussies are passionate about their particular footy teams and are as devoted to each as members of the Red Sox Nation or Cubs fans are to their baseball teams. I also got to attend the Australian Open. As a collegiate tennis player in years long past, I was awed by the power and finesse of today's players when observed up close and personal. Both the men and women play a game so far above what I did on my best days that it was remarkable to me. I have also seen Netball. I find it to be a very interesting game to watch, and it is played at all levels and ages here. You may be aware that Australia just won the world championship last week in a grudge match with New Zealand, the previous world champ. I am far too old and decrepit these days to even think about trying to play it, but it is fun to watch.

Martin in Germany writes:

Ambassador McCallum! Would you agree that the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Australia can be called excellent right at the moment? What do you think could still be improved?

Ambassador McCallum:

Martin, I think "excellent" is a perfect word to describe bilateral relations between Australia and the United States. By any measure, our relationship with Australia is as broad, deep, and strong as that with any other country in the world. Our political views and values coincide on most major issues, so we support each other in the international arena. Our defense cooperation under the ANZUS Treaty has resulted in greater interoperability between our armed forces, meaning that we can train together on the same equipment and, when necessary, coordinate operations in the use of force or in humanitarian relief. We share intelligence. We host civilian and military exchange officers throughout many levels of our governments. We concluded a Free Trade Agreement in 2005 that has already boosted the level of trade between our countries. Importantly, we have strong people-to-people connections in an incredibly broad range of area such as academia, science, technology, medicine, the visual arts, space exploration, cinema, music, and the like.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in all of these areas and in others as well. As mentioned above, I would like to increase the level of our educational exchanges. A new U.S. Studies Center is being established at the University of Sydney, and it will undoubtedly serve to increase interaction between U.S. and Australian academics and students. Another area that I would like to improve is expanding interactions by Aussies with U.S. citizens across all of Australia. Australia is as big as the continental U.S., and so there is a lot of area to cover. I particularly enjoy discussing and explaining U.S. policies to Australians, especially students who ask the most blunt, direct and perceptive questions. I have been traveling all over Australia trying to do that, and I have encouraged all members of our Embassy to do it as well.

Lloyd in North Carolina writes:

Many American colleges and Universities are having a variety of activities to celebrate the U.S. State Department's International Education Week. Elizabeth City State University, an Historically Black University that is part of the University of North Carolina system, is hosting an International Week dinner Friday, November 16th. Could you take a moment to provide a brief address to our college or other American universities related to "International Education: Fostering Global Citizenship and Respect". I would also like your permission to read your response at our dinner! We have never had an address from Australia before! Thank you

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Lloyd: I must apologize for missing the opportunity to provide an address to your International Education Week dinner last Friday. Because of technical and scheduling issues, I did not receive the questions until this week. That said, I hope I can belatedly pass on my greetings and best wishes to you and your colleagues at Elizabeth City State University.

I agree completely with the title of your suggested subject for an address: "International Education: Fostering Global Citizenship and Respect." As I mentioned in the answer to Mary's question above, educational exchanges are a vital part of our relations with countries all over the world. Secretary Rice certainly shares that view. In relation to International Education Week, she said: "Each year, more than 550,000 students from all over the world come to the United States to study in order to gain a better understanding of this country. They return to their home countries to share their experiences and develop careers that build on the knowledge and insights they gain at our colleges and universities. Many of the students go on to hold positions of leadership in their countries. At the same time, nearly 200,000 U.S. students study abroad each year, improving their language skills and gaining a better understanding of life in the countries where they study." As part of our recognition of International Education Week here in Australia, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting the Australian Fulbright Scholarship Alumni Association at the Embassy. We had several Fulbright Scholars there who came to America more than fifty years ago on that wonderful program, and they eloquently described to me how it affected their world view and their careers here in Australia.

Matt in California writes:

How are our relations with Australia and is it true that there Outback Steakhouses out there?

Ambassador McCallum:

As I commented to Martin above, the relationship with Australia is excellent, and we here at the Embassy are doing our best to maintain and enhance it.

To answer your other question, the Outback Steakhouse is actually an American company (OSI Restaurant Partners headquartered in Tampa, Florida). Australians get a kick out of the assumption by Americans that it is Aussie owned and operated. The theme is legitimately Australian as the Aussies love a good steak and a good bar-b-que. I understand that there are a few Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Australia. However, I have never seen one here as opposed to other U.S. restaurant companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken or Starbucks.

Josh in Australia writes:

Mr Ambassador,
I studied in the U.S. and I loved it, and I miss it, and the friends I made there terribly. I would like to be able to look for suitable employment in the U.S. (I'm a University graduate), but there seems to be so many roadblocks. Are there any suggestions that you are able to make?

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Josh: I'm very glad to hear you had a great experience studying in the U.S.! I suggest you look into the new E-3 visas to see if you might qualify. The E-3 was established specifically for Australian citizens, and it offers some advantages over other work visa categories, including reduced paperwork and the possibility for spouses of E-3 visa holders also to apply for a work authorization. For information on the E-3 please see this page on our Embassy web site: http://canberra.usembassy.gov/consular/visa-e3.html.

Alternatively, you may wish to look into other visa options, a full list of which can be found on our website at http://canberra.usembassy.gov/consular/visas/niv/index.html.

Tim in Australia writes:

I have heard recently about new visas for Australian's wanting to work in USA and am just wondering if what I have heard is true, and if it is, what are the differences between the new visas and visas such as H1, H2, E-3 etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ambassador McCallum:

Dear Tim: As I mentioned in my response to Josh above, there is a new work visa category specifically for Australians, the E-3 visa. I think our U.S. Embassy website can provide the information you need, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the new visa and how it compares to some of the other work visa categories. The relevant web page is here: http://canberra.usembassy.gov/consular/visa-e3.html.

Ryan in Alaska writes:

Hello, how are you today? So I am in my government class right now and we have to do an assignment on foreign policy issues, I was wondering what issue I should write my paper on. We have to write a imitation memorandum to the president about the issue saying what we want to change about the issue.

Ambassador McCallum:

Hi Ryan: First, I hope you did not actually surf the net and send your question from class while the teacher was teaching! If so, you may get you and me both in trouble with the teacher through the marvels of technology for not paying attention. I'm afraid I don't know enough about your interests to advise you on a subject for your paper. For a list of many of the major foreign policy issues on which we are working, I suggest you take a look at this page on the State Department website: http://www.state.gov/issuesandpress/. As you will see, the issues range from pandemic influenza and HIV/AIDS prevention to the challenges in the Middle East, from free trade agreements to nuclear non-proliferation. Choose an issue that you find intriguing and important. You can start your research right there on the State Department website. Then try to determine how you would make the policy more effective if you were Secretary of State advising the President. I'm sure you'll do well on the assignment.

Closing Comment: Thank you to all of those who took the time to submit questions. They were engaging and interesting, and I wish that I had the time to answer them all. I did enjoy hearing different perspectives on a variety of issues from all over the world. I hope that all of you who submitted questions have the opportunity to one day visit both America and Australia, and serve as an unofficial ambassador for your own country."

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