Australian Associated Press
by Doug Conway
Australia and the US remain "rock-solid" allies and the postponement of President Barack Obama's trip should not be interpreted as a snub, says an academic specialist in US affairs.
"This is not any kind of snub, but a recognition of the enormous tipping point about to happen in Washington in the President's domestic agenda," said Professor Geoffrey Garrett, chief executive of the US Studies Centre at Sydney University.
Obama scrapped next week's visit to Guam, Indonesia and Australia to steer through a knife-edge congressional vote on his health reform package, and hopes instead to come in June.
Prof Garrett described the package as "the greatest change to US health care and society since the 1960s".
The president hoped not only to add 30 million currently uninsured Americans to the healthcare rolls but to cut $150 billion from the US budget deficit in the next decade, and $1 trillion in the 10 years after that.
"It's a perfect one-two punch for the administration," said Prof Garrett.
"Surely no one could oppose that."
The president hoped to use a healthcare success as a platform to cut America's 10 per cent unemployment rate, and to pass further legislation on climate change and financial services reform.
Prof Garrett said there was no significance in the fact that Obama had planned to spend three days in Indonesia next week and just one day in Australia.
"Australia and the US have a rock-solid foundation," he said.
"It is an incredibly mature relationship.
"There is no relationship to build, and no problems to be fixed in the current relationship.
"Indonesia is the most important country America knows least about.
"I wouldn't read anything into the shortness of the (postponed) visit.
"I would go the other way; the president might have been bleary-eyed and tired, but he was still determined to come and make his speech.
"That's a positive, not a negative."
Prof Garrett said Obama was keen to deliver on the notion of becoming America's "first Pacific President".
"He wants to move Asia up the foreign policy agenda," he said.
"It has been on the backburner for too long."
He said the US and Australia were "on the same page" on Afghanistan and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
He predicted Obama's plan to expand US exports by 50 per cent in five years would make trade the big Asia-Pacific story of 2010.