‘America doesn’t have a stronger, closer ally’: US ambassador Caroline Kennedy on her Australian posting

Few names are bigger than “Kennedy” in American politics.

From serving as president to holding a variety of roles as senators, congressmen, and ambassadors, the Kennedys have held high positions in US office for decades.

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Now, we have one serving in Canberra – the new US ambassador, Caroline Kennedy.

The daughter of president John F Kennedy, the ambassador has been officially on the job since the end of July after being appointed by President Joe Biden in December 2021, and she quickly settled in.

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Caroline Kennedy standing in front of the flag.
Caroline Kennedy speaks to the media during a press conference at the US Embassy in Canberra.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

“I’ve just had the most amazing introduction. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s an important time to be an ambassador,” he told ABC News Breakfast in an exclusive interview – his first with Australian media since his arrival.

“America has no stronger, closer ally.”

But Ms Kennedy’s post comes at a tumultuous time in the US, with attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband now dominating the headlines, and crucial midterm elections just around the corner.

Here are some key takeaways from her interview.

Pelosi’s home invasion

Nancy and Paul Pelosi stand in front of the board saying 'The Kennedy Center Honors'.  They are both in formal attire.
Paul Pelosi was attacked by an intruder with a hammer at his home in California.(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

Authorities across the US are now bracing for more political violence after the attack on Paul Pelosi.

Mr Pelosi suffered a fractured skull, and Ms Kennedy said the attack was a horrific incident.

“Nancy Pelosi has been a friend of our family for all my life, really. And her husband is really just a wonderful person. I was really shocked and saddened,” she said.

“Any kind of violence should not happen, especially in a democracy.”

However, he said he did not believe it was a sign of rising tensions in the nation.

“I think that most Americans condemn it. I think our democracy is strong, and most people in America are probably not what you see in the media,” he said.

“People still say President Kennedy to me all the time in terms of public service and patriotism. I am proud of our democratic traditions, and I hope they are strong.”

Pacific power plays

The ambassador’s interview comes as Four Corners revealed the United States plans to deploy B-52 nuclear bombers to northern Australia, in a move some analysts see as a warning shot to China.

The US has a very strategic interest in the Indo-Pacific region, as it continues to wrestle with China for geopolitical control.

“This area has been experiencing increasing tensions. I know that, since I have been in service [as US ambassador] in Japan,” he said.

Photo of a B-52 bomber flying over the desert under a blue sky.
B-52s can deliver long-range strikes from nuclear and conventional weapons.(US Air Force photo)

“But America has, for the last 75 years, worked hard to support a rule-based order that lifted millions of people out of poverty and really supported peace and stability in this region.”

Northern Australia is an important area of ​​US interest – the US spu base and Australia’s Pine Gap are located near Alice Springs, and the US has committed more than $1 billion to upgrade its military assets in the Top End.

“We’re doing it through diplomacy, we’re doing it through dialogue, we’re doing it through prevention … we’re working with our allies and partners to make this safe,” Ms Kennedy said.

Climate coordination

Combating global warming is another issue on the agenda for the new ambassador.

He has long advocated for cleaner energy, and earlier this year he told students at the Australian National University that there is no issue more relevant to protecting the earth than tackling climate change.

His comments came after attending the Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land, where he said he quickly learned the importance of respecting the land.

“I think our two countries are compatible and we can really help progress towards this goal,” he said.

“[It’s] it’s getting harder, because people feel the higher energy prices… but I think that this commitment is one that the whole world really needs to pay attention to and accelerate.”

Embedding into Australian culture

The new ambassador has only been in Canberra for a few months, but he’s already joined the staple of Australian cuisine – the humble sausage.

“I had the best time. People selling sausages raise money for cancer, which is obviously something close to my heart. So, I’m happy to support them,” he said.

She will not be drawn on whether she put her onion above or below the sausage, though.

“I’m not revealing all my secrets.”

And as for Aussie Rules, he hasn’t picked a team – as much as Western Bulldogs fan (and News Breakfast host) Michael Rowland might try to persuade him.

“It’s always interesting to be an ambassador. You learn as much about your own country as you do about the country you’re serving in,” he said.

“I’m really honored to be here.”

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