WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Biting coverage for Obama

November 16, 2011 - 8:20 AM
Australia Obama

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard looks at U.S. President Barack Obama speak during a joint press conference in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Stefan Postles, Pool)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — You won't find THAT policy in the U.S. health care law.

When President Barack Obama visits Australia's Northern Territory Thursday, he will be presented with insurance coverage against attack — crocodile attack.

The territory's chief minister, Paul Henderson, said he will give Obama the unusual policy when the president arrives in the remote tropical city of Darwin.

Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory which boasts the largest crocodile numbers in Australia. The local TIO insurance company offers a 50,000 Australian dollar ($51,000 U.S.) insurance policy against crocodile attack within the region. The novelty certificates, at a price of 10 Australian dollars, make popular souvenirs among tourists.

"We've got the crocodile insurance ready to go for Michelle and the kids — 50 grand if the president does get taken," Henderson told Sky TV. "We don't think that's going to happen, but it should provide a little bit of reassurance."

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The president tried his hand at a bit of Australian — or, as he put it in Canberra's native tongue, he "gave it a burl." In the process he embraced a phrase he said would serve him well back home.

Offering a toast at the start of the official Parliamentary Dinner, Obama spoke of "sticky wickets" and of having a "chin wag" with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"When Julia and I meet we listen to each other. We learn from each other. It's not just a lot of ear bashing," he said, using slang for endless talk. "That's a good one — ear bashing. I can use that in Washington. Because there's a lot of ear bashing sometimes."

After Obama was forced to postpone two previous trips to Australia, he and Gillard have been frequent companions in recent days. Both were in Honolulu over the weekend for an Asia-pacific economic summit, prompting her to welcome him by saying, "It's good to see you again after so long -- I think it's been two days."

She said that upon seeing Obama disembark from Air Force One, she concluded "it's easier to run down stairs without heels."

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Long day — but what day is it?

President Obama spent 10 hours flying from Hawaii to Australia, a journey that crossed the international dateline and hurled him into a brand new day. While it was still Tuesday in the U.S., it was already Wednesday in Canberra.

The day-difference, and perhaps a bit of jet lag, caused some presidential confusion.

Discussing the effect of Europe's debt crisis, Obama told reporters that unless European leaders take steps to stand behind the euro "we're going to continue to see the kinds of turmoil that we saw in the markets today — or was it yesterday? I'm trying to figure out what time zone I'm in here."

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Something for the high and mighty.

Demonstrators outside Parliament House in Canberra awaited Obama's arrival with a banner in the style of Shepard Fairey's iconic Obama poster from 2008. The image had a twist, however, that is unlikely to grace Obama campaign appearances in the U.S.

The image shows Obama with a marijuana cigarette in his hand. "LEGALIZE," the banner states. The sub line adds: "YES WE CAN-nabis." The demonstrators also wielded a 30-foot inflatable facsimile of a marijuana cigarette emblazoned with "Good Medicine."

"Obama inspired us a bit because Australian politicians have been scared to take it out of the too-hard basket," demonstration organizer Michael Balderstone said, referring to debate surrounding legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana is prohibited in Australia for both recreational and medical use.

Obama vowed in 2008 to respect state laws on medical marijuana. Still, under his administration, the federal government has moved toward more restrictive marijuana policies.

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Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.