Insights: Australian Ambassador
A Home Away From Home
The Honorable Joe Hockey, Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, is quick to point out the long and successful partnership that his homeland has shared with the US.
Australia is the only nation to fight side-by-side with the US in every major war. That’s incredibly meaningful and historically significant.
Having recently assumed the post he is one of the few Australian Ambassadors in history to previously serve as an elected official in Parliament, giving him an added edge and comfortability working with his counterparts back home. He is settling in well to his new surroundings and relishes the opportunity to work with global policy makers here in DC and abroad, calling his role an immense privilege. The son of Palestinian refugees that relocated to Sydney in the middle of the 20th century, Ambassador Hockey was the first in his family to attend college and has gone on to a distinguished career in law, finance and politics spanning 20 years and counting. Prior to his Ambassadorship he chaired the 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane as the Australian Treasurer, a duty he still reflects on with great pride.
That was very challenging, but a great success. Leading a group of Finance Ministers from the biggest economies in the world was an honor; the work we accomplished and the reforms and policies set forth have made major impacts on the global economy today, and will for many years to come.
The role of Ambassador to the US is generally considered the top diplomatic post and the weight of such a position is never lost on Ambassador Hockey. “I spend half of my time on defense and intelligence matters, it’s a senior role. We have military personnel in 32 US states, so you can imagine that plays a huge part in our daily activities here in DC.” Economic relations are crucial too, with Australia leading the world in coal and uranium exports as well as boasting one of the highest per capita GDPs. It’s an economy that has not seen a recession for over 20 years, something very few countries can lay claim. In addition to domestic affairs, Australia also sees over one million of their countrymen visit America each year for tourism. A relationship that covers nearly everything, from strategic military partnerships to family leisure and finance, the Ambassador plays a vital part in securing that comradery for decades to come.
As an admirer of history, the Ambassador relies on ever-present reminders throughout his stunning residence to ensure guests are granted with the same feeling of cultural heritage. Sculptures and paintings from his private art collection adorn several rooms on the home’s main level, depicting the Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s, and historical Aboriginal paintings on loan from Australia’s National Gallery display the roots and legacy of Australia – showcasing a rich history of a proud nation. The home itself has a deep history in Washington DC and prior to the Australian Government’s purchase in the 1940s the home belonged to the iconic General George S. Patton.
This home is extraordinary, and it’s a true honor to be here. The history inside the home is palpable, it’s hosted Queens and dignitaries, and of course my predecessors. The grounds are remarkable, and we have the only grass tennis court in Washington.
When asked about his favorite aspect of DC, he wastes no time to mention how respectful the people are, and how diverse the city he now calls home is, “it’s a wonderful city with a great deal of self-respect, and it comes out in the people. My family and I just love it here. You also get the seasons, the greenery is exquisite. I’m a history buff, and it reminds me of a modern Rome in many ways. The history, the people, you get that sense of greatness everywhere you go.” Of course he misses home, like anyone would; especially the famous surfing beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast and the picturesque Sydney Harbor. But the balance he finds in work and family life has been prosperous, and a true privilege to represent his homeland here in Washington. With a new $200 million Embassy renovation project currently underway, slated to finish in 2020, Australia will continue its special relationship and commitment to global affairs here in the US.
It’s a touch of irony that I was the Finance Minister in Parliament who oversaw the allocation of the budget for the new embassy, and now I’m here in DC overseeing the actual construction project.
The landmark building, with a stunning copper and glass façade that sets a new benchmark for green building practices in DC, will be a legacy Ambassador Joe Hockey carries on through his distinguished career.