An Unmatched Choice: Ambassador Kim Beazley

Indiana University
Lilly Library
Bloomington, Indiana
April 7, 2011


Thank you all for coming this afternoon.

It is a great pleasure to welcome the Australian Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Kim Beazley, to Indiana University.

It is a particular pleasure for me to offer this introduction in light of the longstanding partnership between Indiana University and ANU, where Ambassador Beazley served as chancellor.

A Lifetime of Preparation

Upon the announcement of the ambassador’s appointment in 2009, Michael Fullilove, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, wrote that “Australia’s new ambassador will have to work hard to earn his keep—but no one could be better prepared for this job, at this time.”1

The son in turn of distinguished Australian politician Kim Beazley, Senior, the ambassador has spent his entire life immersed in politics. He earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Arts degrees at the University of Western Australia and was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship in 1973. He completed a Master’s of Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, writing his thesis on Soviet and American naval competition in the Indian Ocean. Upon his return to Australia, he tutored and lectured in politics at Murdoch University in Perth before his election to Parliament in 1980.

Decades of Politics

Mr. Beazley served as a Minister in the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments from 1983 to 1996. The breadth of his service is quite remarkable with, at various times, the portfolios of Defense, Finance, Transport and Communications, Employment Education and Training, and Aviation. He served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 1996 and twice served as Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Beazley served on parliamentary committees, including the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Joint Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee.

The Honorable Chris Bowen, a member of the Australian Parliament representing McMahon, New South Wales, and currently serving as Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, acknowledged Ambassador Beazley’s outstanding political credentials describing him in a somewhat bittersweet way as “the best prime minister we never had.”2

Retiring to a Professorship and a Chancellorship

Ambassador Beazley retired from politics in 2007 and was appointed Winthrop Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. In July 2008, he was appointed Chancellor of the Australian National University, my alma mater, a position he held until December 2009.

In 2009, Ambassador Beazley was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia for his service in the Australian Parliament, with special recognition of his contributions related to defense policy and international relations, and advocacy for indigenous people, among other areas. This is the highest civilian award given in Australia, and roughly equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom in this country.

And in February of 2010, Mr. Beazley began his service as Ambassador to the United States of America. His appointment was universally welcomed. Even John Howard, former prime minister of Australia and the ambassador’s bitterest political opponent for many years, called the selection a good and sensible appointment.3

Unmatched Credentials

Few can match Ambassador credentials, which include a deep understanding of American history with particular expertise in the American Civil War and military hardware.

Larry Irving, now head of Global Government Affairs at Hewlett-Packard, said that “[i]n three hours over dinner [with Kim Beazley] I learned more on U.S. military history than in four years of a political science major at Northwestern University.”4  What makes this more stunning is that Irving had been a senior member of the Clinton administration.

The ambassador’s credentials also include being on a first name basis with Washington insiders and having longstanding friendships with the likes of Tony Blair, with whom he went to Oxford, Caspar Weinberger, and Dick Cheney, among many, many others.

Conclusion: Mutual Admiration and Respect

After his retirement from politics, Beazley had planned to continue teaching international relations and Australian global politics, but when he was offered the ambassadorship of a country for which he has great “admiration and respect”5 he says he did not even blink before accepting.6

Ambassador Beazley, we at Indiana University feel a similar admiration and respect as we welcome you this afternoon.

Would you all please join me in welcoming Ambassador Kim Beazley?


Source Notes

1 Fullilove, Michael.  “Kim Beazley is the Right Man for Australian Ambassador to the United States.”  Brookings Institute Website.  18 Sept. 2010.

2 Birnbaum, Ben.  “Mr. Beazley Goes to Washington.” The Washington Times Website. 18 Mar. 2011. 

3Elliott, Geoff.  “Kim Beazley Appointed Australian Ambassador to the United States.”  The Rhodes Trust Website

4 Elliott, op. cit.

5 Cheney, Catherine.  “The Ambassador as History Buff.”  Politico Website.  2 Nov. 2010.

6 Birnbaum, op.cit.