This reference guide documents all in-person interactions between Australian prime ministers and US presidents since the beginning of the George W. Bush administration. It details the location of meetings, main topics of discussion, and enables conclusions to be drawn about the frequency and nature of leader-to-leader contact over the past 16 years under presidents and prime ministers from both sides of politics.
Since Bush was inaugurated in January 2001, the US president has hosted the Australian prime minister in the Oval Office on 12 occasions — more than the comparable figure for both the Japanese and Canadian prime ministers. During his eight-year term, Barack Obama hosted Rudd (2), Gillard (1), Abbott (1), and Turnbull (1) in the Oval Office a total of five times, while Bush hosted Howard (6) and Rudd (1) a total of seven times. Bush and Obama each visited Australia twice during their presidencies, for one bilateral visit and one international summit apiece.
Across the Bush and Obama presidencies, the president saw the prime minister roughly 3.4 times per year in a formal or informal capacity. During their eight-year presidencies, Bush held more official bilateral meetings with his counterpart (10) than Obama (6), but Obama conducted more meetings on the sidelines of international summits (6) than Bush (3). Bush attended a regional or global summit with the Australian prime minister on ten occasions, where for Obama the figure was 29.
The upward trend in the frequency of personal contact under President Obama — if not necessarily the length or depth of direct leader-to-leader engagement — was largely due to the proliferation of presidential attendance at multilateral meetings. In addition to longstanding presidential and prime ministerial attendance at summits such as the UN General Assembly, ASEAN, APEC and NATO, the United States has attended the G20 since President Bush first hosted the grouping in 2008, while President Obama was the first US leader to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2011. Indeed, Obama was only absent at one EAS thereafter (2013) owing to a US government shutdown at the time. Presidential attendance at Asia-Pacific multilateral organisations is perceived by Asian partners as a sign of American commitment to the region.
If the Bush and Obama presidencies are an accurate guide to the future, we should expect to see President Trump interacting in a formal or informal setting with the Australian Prime Minister at least ten times by the time his first term expires in January 2021. This would include a couple of Oval Office meetings, interactions at Asian and global summits, and perhaps even a Trump visit to Australia — an intention he made clear at the Coral Sea Commemoration — including a potential address to Parliament.
Below is a list of all face-to-face interactions between the Australian prime minister and the US president since January 2001.
Official bilateral: Official working visit in the United States or Australia.
Sideline meeting: Official working meeting on the sideline of a regional or global summit.
Informal: Leaders attended the same summit.
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