Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barack Obama Australian visit

From The Australian:

Obama to stay 24 hours in Canberra at end of Asia-Pacific visit

BARACK Obama will spend barely 24 hours in Australia as part of his rushed Asia-Pacific visit next week.

The White House today released details of the President's itinerary for a one-night stopover in Canberra that will include dinner and bilateral talks with Kevin Rudd and an address to a special joint sitting of Parliament.

A special media briefing today by the White House on the President's proposed visit to Guam, Indonesia and Australia indicates Mr Obama's departure will go ahead as rescheduled on Sunday, Washington time, after difficulties in passing health reform in the US congress forced a three-day delay.

It remains unclear, however, what the President will do if the health legislation that he rates as his number one domestic priority is not passed by the time he is due to depart.

One possibility is a further delay in the trip. A senior Washington insider told The Australian today that if Mr Obama left Washington for his Asia-Pacific trip without passage of a healthcare bill it would mean the reform agenda he values so highly was dead.

Mr Obama will visit Australia at the tail-end of a shortened Asia-Pacific trip that begins with Guam and then Indonesia. He was originally meant to bring his wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha, but now the President is to travel without his family. A proposed visit to Sydney during what was to be a longer stay has been cancelled.

The President will arrive in Guam on Monday to address the military personnel and local community living at the US base on the Pacific island.

On Tuesday he is to arrive in Jakarta for bilateral talks and a state dinner with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Obama will formalise a new co-operation agreement between the US and Indonesia on Wednesday. He will also deliver a speech rated by the White House as a follow-up to the President's Cairo address last June that affirmed a US desire to re-engage with the Muslim world in the Middle East. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

On Thursday next week Mr Obama will travel to Bali for a Civil Society event - an initiative of Mr Yudhoyono - that reaffirms Indonesia's commitment to democracy and human rights.

He will arrive in Canberra late on Thursday for a private dinner with Mr Rudd. On Friday, Mr Obama will fit a packed schedule into his day in Canberra before leaving for Washington in the evening.

He will meet Governor-General Quentin Bryce, hold bilateral talks with Mr Rudd, hold a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, address a joint session of Parliament, attend a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of official US ties with Australia and then depart from Canberra Airport aboard Air Force One.

The Obama administration's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, said Australia was a longstanding ally and had a model alliance with the US.

“Australia ... is an increasingly important ally in both the region and the world,” Mr Rhodes said.

“In many ways, it's a model alliance for the United States. We have very robust cooperation with the Australians on security issues, economic issues, environmental issues.”