Obama delivers rallying call in Brisbane

US President Barack Obama has electrified a Brisbane audience, delivering a landmark speech in which he has pledged a deeper commitment to his pivot to Asia and urging nations including Australia to step up and tackle climate change.


Speaking in a large hall, partly powered by a solar array, Mr Obama used the Brisbane speech to announce the US would commit $3 billion to a UN fund to help poorer countries fight climate change.

In an auditorium at the University of Queensland, festooned with the stars and stripes of American flags, and amid an atmosphere akin to a US election campaign trail event, the president’s rallying call for more action to cut carbon emissions was punctuated with loud cheers.

No other country had more at stake than Australia when it came to thinking about and acting on climate change, he said.

Icons such as the Great Barrier Reef must be preserved, Mr Obama said, again to loud cheers.

“The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened,” he said.

Mr Obama said he wanted to be able to visit the reef again, and he wanted his daughters to be able to come back, and for them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit.

The Brisbane speech comes three years after Mr Obama addressed the Australian parliament and announced the new focus to Asia, regarded as a hedge against the rising influence of China.

On Saturday, Mr Obama said that despite being confronted with yet another conflict in the Middle East with the rise of Islamic State, “no one should ever question our resolve or our commitments to our allies”.

“The United States has invested our blood and treasure to advance this vision,” Mr Obama said of the US engagement in the Pacific.

By the end of this decade, the US would have deployed most of its navy and air force to the region and increased military training and education with its partners, including an increased rotation of US Marines through Darwin.

The historic oration comes ahead of an address to the federal parliament by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

Mr Obama said the US would pursue more trade and investment with China and more communication to prevent misunderstandings or possible conflict, as well as cooperation on issues such as climate change.

“But in this engagement we are also encouraging China to adhere to the same rules as other nations, whether in trade or on the seas,” he said.

He also spoke of unity with Australia in confronting Russian aggression, particularly after the “appalling” act that brought down MH17, killing 298 people, including 38 Australians.

“As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability.”

And Mr Obama urged the young people in the audience to continue to be engaged.

“You have to keep raising your voices because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable, but that’s not going to happen unless you are heard.”

High school student Bridie McKim, 17, said the speech had inspired her to take part in Mr Obama’s vision.

“Often in politics, all we see is the negative things, but to hear him speak with such a clear and positive view is just inspirational,” she said.

“I hope to be a leader for tomorrow.”