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US-Australian Partnership Gets a Boost: President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced plans for the Air Force and Marine Corps to collaborate more closely with the Australian Defence Force during a joint news conference in Canberra Wednesday. Beginning in mid-2012, US military aircraft will have more access to Royal Australian Air Force facilities in northern Australia in an effort to strengthen the security of both nations and improve response time for humanitarian and disaster relief, said Obama. "I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific [region]," he said. Under the new partnerships, US Marines also will have the ability to conduct exercises by themselves on Australian soil. Obama said he expects marine companies to begin deploying to Australia on six-month rotations next year. "As it has been for six decades, our alliance is going to be indispensable to our shared future, the security we need and the prosperity that we seek, not only in this region, but around the world," he said. (AFPS report by Karen Parrish) (See also White House release on the force posture initiatives.)