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Tony Abbott and Barack Obama agree to new defence force posture

ABC News logo ABC News 12/06/2014 ABC News
President Barack Obama talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. © Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo President Barack Obama talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and US president Barack Obama have agreed to a new defence initiative which paves the way for extra American military forces and activity in Australia.

During wide-ranging talks at the White House, the pair also discussed their different approaches to climate change, with both agreeing they would like energy efficiency on the G20 agenda.

Defence arrangements were one of Mr Obama's top priorities for his first formal face-to-face meeting with Mr Abbott.

The Force Posture Initiative sorts out some of the legal, indemnity and jurisdiction issues for Americans rotating through Australia.

It also opens the door to further military cooperation in the future, possibly at bases across the nation's north or even HMAS Stirling in Perth.

Advisers say the old agreement was out-of-date.

"Obviously I am here to thank the United States for its deepening engagement in our region," Mr Abbott said.

"I'm here to further entrench our economic and security cooperation."

Different approaches to tackling emissions

Climate change was also raised in the wide-ranging talks.

The pair noted they had different approaches to tackling emissions, and agreed to discuss the issue of energy efficiency further at the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November.

Mr Obama reportedly said he understood the Australian Government had a mandate for its policy, while Mr Abbott said the fuel excise is already acting as a carbon price signal to improve energy efficiency.
Perhaps tellingly, the topic was not raised in front of the cameras.

Regional trade and investment came first.

US vice-president Joe Biden was also there, with several other senior aides.

With the events in Iraq, global security issues were also discussed at length. So, too the rise of China and the US focus, or pivot, to Asia.

There are some in the Abbott Government who think Mr Obama is one of the lamest of lame duck leaders, and is crippled by the Congress. But the meeting of political opposites appeared warm.

The pair also discussed surfing, and Mr Abbott gave Mr Obama a specially-made surfboard, saying: "The people who made it are in my electorate."

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