/ 26 October 2023

Setting the scene for a state dinner

Image source: X (@AlboMP)
Image source: X (@AlboMP)

The Squiz 

PM Anthony Albanese is about to sit down with US President Joe Biden and other dignitaries for a state dinner in the White House. He was already treated to a rare private dinner with the President this week, but the state dinner’s a notable event because they’re hard to come by…  Albanese’s the third Aussie leader to have one held in their honour over the past 20 years. And it’s also the fourth Biden’s held as America’s leader… He and First Lady Dr Jill Biden hosted French President Emmanuel Macron last December, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in April (who surprised with an impromptu karaoke performance of ‘American Pie’), and India’s PM Narendra Modi in June. We probably shouldn’t expect Albanese to commandeer the piano for a rendition of his go-to karaoke song – there’s a somber backdrop to proceedings given the Israel-Hamas war.

Gimme the deets…

Firstly, the B-52s have been canned in favour of the President’s Marine Band and the Army and Air Force Strolling Strings. Dr Biden, who’s in charge of the event’s set-up, said things have been toned down “in a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain”. But it’s still a bit fancy. There are plenty of preview photos showing the pavilion erected on the South Lawn of the White House will be decked out in floral arrangements of eucalyptus from Oz and roses from the US. For the catering, Dr Biden said she was “inspired to bring together the vibrant Australian spring and crisp American Autumn”. Well-known US chef Katie Button is behind the menu featuring butternut squash (ahem, pumpkin…) soup, roasted beet salad, sarsaparilla-braised short ribs, and hazelnut and chocolate mousse cake for dessert. As for who’s coming, that’s still shrouded in mystery with rumours Aussie stars Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have been invited… 

Sounds fancy, but what about business?

You’re right – it’s not all fine dining and dressing up. Albanese and Biden have met overnight and held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden this morning. There a huge list of the things we’re working on, but security in the Asia-Pacific region was the big agenda item – they didn’t say it, but that relates to China and its expanding role in our backyard. There are plans to deepen the countries’ defence ties, even beyond the AUKUS submarines deal, as we work together to build maritime infrastructure and lay undersea cables to strengthen internet connectivity. And we’ll do more in the space industry with Australia set to cut its restrictions on commercial rocket launches. From here, Albanese will have meetings with officials at the Pentagon – the headquarters of the Department of Defence – before returning home.

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