The Canberra Times
By Judith Ireland
Barack Obama has talked the talk before. But this time, it looks like the 44th US President will actually walk the walk to Australia.
Yesterday, the White House announced Mr Obama will visit Australia on November 16 and 17. Parliament is not scheduled to sit during the visit but a special joint sitting could be convened to allow Mr Obama to address the Parliament, as was planned for March last year.
Mr Obama was forced to postpone two planned visits to Australia in 2010. He put off the March trip to negotiate his health-care reform package and postponed a make-up visit in June in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In a statement the White House said yesterday the President's visit would commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the ANZUS alliance: "Australia is one of the United States' closest allies and our troops have served together bravely in Afghanistan and conflict zones throughout the world."
US embassy charge d'affaires ad interim Jason Hyland said yesterday that he was "highly confident" Mr Obama would make it to Australia as planned. "We're delighted that the President will be coming to Australia in November," he said.
There are no details yet about where Mr Obama will visit or what his schedule will look like.
"We will be working very closely with the White House and the Australian Government in preparation for the visit," Mr Hyland said.
Sydney University United States Studies Centre Associate Professor Brendon O'Connor agreed Mr Obama's visit would likely go ahead as planned, as it was tied in with other events.
Mr Obama will host an APEC leaders meeting in Hawaii on the way to Australia and attend the East Asia Summit in Indonesia on his way back to the US. But Professor O'Connor said there was still a chance Mr Obama would have to postpone the visit, particularly in the lead up to the presidential election in 2012.
"Domestic issues always take priority," he said. "You don't win many votes by coming to Australia."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard renewed Australia's invitation to Mr Obama earlier this year.Yesterday she told Parliament the President was looking forward to his Australian trip.
"I welcome that, the Government welcomes that and I believe the Australian people will welcome that," Ms Gillard said of the visit.
The Coalition interjected loudly during Ms Gillard's question time speech about Mr Obama. Tony Abbott later addressed the House of Representatives on indulgence to confirm the Opposition's support for the visit.
Professor O'Connor said that in the history of Australia-US relations, a visit from a president was rare."American leaders have many things on their plates," he explained.