Lost in the shuffle of Obama’s immigration diktat and his sham of a farce of a travesty of a climate agreement with China was his speech about climate change in Canberra, Australia, where Obama went out of his way to insult Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Apparently our embassy personnel in Canberra advised Obama against this course, but naturally Obama knows better.
Australian newspaper columnist Greg Sheridan reports on the matter in an article that is behind the newspaper’s paywall (but easily gotten around through Google if you want to), so here are the important excerpts from it:
BARACK Obama defied the advice of his embassy in Canberra to deliver a stinging attack on the Abbott government’s climate policies in Brisbane last weekend.
The US embassy, under the leadership of ambassador John Berry, advised the President, through his senior staff, not to couch his climate change comments in a way that would be seen as disobliging to the Abbott government, sources have revealed. . .
It is normal practice when the US President makes an overseas visit that the ambassador in the country he is visiting is consulted about the contents of major speeches. It is unusual, though not unprecedented, for an embassy’s advice to be ignored.
The Obama speech in Brisbane was added to the President’s program at the last minute. During his extensive talks with Tony Abbott in Beijing at APEC, Mr Obama did not make any mention of a desire to make a speech, or of any of the contentious climate change content of the speech.
Only in Naypyidaw, in Myanmar, immediately prior to the leaders travelling to Brisbane for the G20 summit, did the US party demand that the President make a speech and that it be to an audience of young people. At the speech, the President did not acknowledge the presence of Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
Despite repeated Australian requests, White House officials refused to provide a text of the speech to their Australian hosts in advance, and did not provide a summary of what would be contained in the speech.
Mr Obama’s repeated references to the climate change debate in Australia, his accusation that Australia was an inefficient user of energy and his repeated references to the Great Barrier Reef, which has figured heavily in the climate change debate, have led observers to conclude that the speech was a deliberate swipe at the Abbott government.
Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech for the host government.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has accused Mr Obama of speaking in ignorance about the joint plans by the federal and Queensland governments to act to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. She sent a briefing on the reef to the White House after Mr Obama’s speech was delivered. . .
Sources in Washington said the Brisbane speech was a sign of deep divisions within the Obama administration over how to deal with Australia, and over Asian policy generally. . .
Since the Abbott government was elected last September, there has been a group within the Obama administration that wants to take a tougher public line against Canberra on differences over climate change, in particular the decision to abolish the carbon tax.
Washington sources say the figure who ultimately adjudicated on this internal debate was Mr Obama, who recognised that Mr Abbott had been elected with a clear mandate to abolish the tax. . .
Mr Obama has previously had a warm personal relationship with Mr Abbott. The President has been a frequent telephone caller to Mr Abbott, almost always with a request for Australian support for a US policy or initiative, from troops for the Middle East, US trade initiatives in Asia, or important regional diplomatic matters, especially those involving security. On every occasion the US President has asked for help, the Australian Prime Minister has provided it.
Doubt that will continue.