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Fed: Aust embrace Obama for president

05 Nov 2008 6:36 PM
Fed: Aust embrace Obama for president

By Sandra O'Malley, Diplomatic Correspondent

CANBERRA, Nov 5 AAP - Australians have enthusiastically embraced Democrat Barack Obama's historic victory to become the first black man to lead the world's premier superpower, the United States.

They joined people across the globe who have been transfixed by the dramatic race between the 47-year-old senator from Illinois and his Republican rival, 72-year-old John McCain, to become the 44th US president.

Both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull sought inspiration from the late Martin Luther King as they congratulated the new US president-elect on his landslide win.

"Forty-five years ago Martin Luther King had a dream of an America where men and women would be judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character," Mr Rudd said.

"Today, what America has done is turn that dream into a reality."

Mr Rudd, in Launceston for a community cabinet meeting, is yet to telephoneSenator Obama to congratulate him on his victory but is expected to do so soon.

He painted the Obama win as a message of hope for the world.

"Senator Obama's message of hope is not just for America's future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well," Mr Rudd said.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown predicted an Obama administration would manna for a greener globe.

"President-elect Barack Obama raises the hopes of the world for a fairer, securer, more ecologically-sound future," he said.

Mr Turnbull mused on whether Dr King would have ever dreamt of a day when an African-American would be US president.

"The idea that an African-American could be president would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago," he said.

"As president, Barack Obama will have the opportunity to show the world thestrength, resilience and above all the diversity of American democracy."

Across Australia, crowds big and small watched the historical moment unfoldon their television screens as the result was announced just five hours after the first polls closed in the US.

In Canberra, the US embassy hosted a red, white and blue-themed election party at the National Press Club, where hundreds of guests supped on pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and donuts.

It may have been a bittersweet moment for US ambassador Robert McCallum, a close friend of outgoing President George W Bush.

He told journalists he would resign his commission, as is tradition, at thetime of the presidential inauguration in January.

And he reiterated the continuing strength of relations between Australia and the US no matter who was in the White House.

The moment in history appeared tempered for Mr Turnbull's coalition colleague Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals' Senate leader, who questioned what SenatorObama protectionist leanings would mean for Australian farmers.

"It is essential for Australia to understand that the rules of this game have changed with confirmation of the new President-elect Obama and his impending trade policies," Senator Joyce said in a statement.

The Queensland senator warned agricultural and manufacturing industries could suffer from a more parochial US trade agenda.

"For Australia, the question is how Mr Rudd and Labor will mitigate the effects of President-elect Obama's proposals and how they will affect our Australian economy," Senator Joyce said.

Mr Turnbull expects the realities of global politics will prevent the US heading down a protectionist road.

"I think we might find that some of the ... almost protectionist rhetoric that we've heard from Senator Obama during the campaign will become subject to the realities of a global economy," he said.

AAP sonf=0A