Outgoing US ambassador Jeff Bleich has warned that American taxpayers may tire of footing the bill for global security in a coded plea for Tony Abbott to stick to his promise to boost defence spending.
Mr Bleich, who ends his four-year stint as Washington's man in Canberra on Thursday, said while he was not telling Australia what it should spend on defence, the US wanted all of its allies to better share the load.
It is well known Washington was concerned about the former Labor government's military budget cuts - which took spending down to levels not seen since 1938 - particularly given increasing strategic uncertainty in Asia. Labor, in its May budget, restored some of that lost funding, and the Coalition vowed to increase spending back to its benchmark 2 per cent of gross domestic product within a decade, up from 1.6 per cent.
Mr Bleich said all of its allies, Australia included, should share the burden so that US taxpayers did not lose patience.
''Philosophically, I think the US is looking to all of our partners to share the burden with the US,'' he said.
He stopped short of criticising Australia's current level of spending, saying ''we don't have a particular view about where Australia's defence budget is''.
On Thursday, Mr Abbott met the outgoing ambassador in Canberra on his last official day.
Mr Bleich said the US was "so looking forward to the opportunity to work with you as a country, I just wish I could be doing more of it personally."
Mr Abbott said that the US was key to Australia's security, foreign policy and economic prospects.
"I know there’s been a lot written in recent times about the changing world order, but for at least the rest of our lifetimes I think there’s no doubt that America will be the most significant country in the world."
Mr Bleich replied: "I know you and I are planning on living a very, very long time!"
The ambassador also talked of the affinity between the US and Australia.
"When we say there’s no better friend in the world than Australia, we mean it."
The prime minister-elect responded: "Well, as I’ve often said, America is our best friend, no ifs no buts!"
It also emerged on Thursday that Mr Abbott had spoken to US President Barack Obama and overnight had also spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.