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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 23:44 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 23:44 | SYDNEY

'All in': Obama's address to parliament

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COMMENTS

17 November 2011 11:48

My first impressions (as always, open to revision and debate):

  • The main news value from the visit came to light some time ago, so we were never going to get any surprises from this speech, which will be quickly passed over by journalists sniffing for news. (UPDATE: Actually, the part about quarantining this region from defence cuts probably is news. See below.)
  • Still, what was remarkable about the speech was the sheer weight of emphasis Obama placed on the strategic logic behind those already-announced policy decisions.
  • When the White House framed this as an 'anchor speech', they clearly meant to signal that it was one designed to serve as a marker for the beginnings of a new policy approach, and a frame of reference that would give context to future decisions.
  • On that level, I think the speech succeeded. Here's some of what he said on the Asia Pacific:
    • The US is turning its attention to the Asia Pacific, and is making a deliberate decision to play a larger long-term role in the region.
    • This region will define whether or not the new century will be a peaceful one.
    • America will never allow the economic and political progress of the Asia Pacific to be reversed.
    • The Asia Pacific is a top priority for the Obama Administration, and America's military presence in the region will be quarantined from defence cuts.
    • America will maintain its military presence in North Asia while enhancing it in Southeast Asia.
  • This 'anchor' quality could also be why the speech seemed somewhat detached from the venue and audience. Obama name-checked a lot of Southeast Asian countries, as if he was addressing them.
  • After the emphatic, even stark, treatment of America's place in the region, the speech seemed to peter out a little into a rather rote sermon on shared values.
  • Nevertheless, Obama's speech-writers deserve credit for the subtle way they 'Ozzed up' the president's remarks, with a few deft rhetorical nods to Dorothea McKellar's My Country.
  • Opposition Leader Tony Abbott again used a ceremonial occasion before a foreign dignitary to score a domestic political point. It's unstatesman-like and he should stop it.

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