How they see us: Australia stands up to Trump
Donald Trump has been “bested by Australia’s prime minister,” said Miranda Devine in The Daily Telegraph. Thanks to leaks, the world now knows the gist of the angry phone call last month between President Trump and our own Malcolm Turnbull. During their conversation, Turnbull tried to confirm that the U.S. would honor a refugee resettlement deal negotiated with the Obama administration. Under that agreement, up to 1,250 refugees Australia is currently housing in detention camps on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island nation of Nauru are to be settled in the U.S. Some of the refugees are from Iran and Iraq, two of the seven Muslim-majority nations on Trump’s travel ban list, and the president was furious that he was being asked to weaken his executive order. “This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed, accusing Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers.” But Turnbull stood firm, telling Trump, “I’m a businessman, you’re a businessman—a deal’s a deal.” Trump said he’d stick with the agreement, but hung up 25 minutes into what was supposed to be an hour-long call.
Turnbull’s behavior following the leak of his chat with Trump was “straight out of the pop psychology literature” on how to deal with a “malignant narcissist,” said Jacqueline Maley in The Sydney Morning Herald. The prime minister didn’t brag about his victory, and refused to comment on the phone call. This is the “gray rock” technique taught to battered women, in which you do not provoke the abuser or react to his rants, and instead make yourself bland and uninteresting to him. That approach will help keep the U.S.-Australia relationship alive, but it won’t be popular with the voters, who want Turnbull to face down this bully. Still, it would be disastrous for Australia to jeopardize this alliance, said Tom Elliott in the Herald Sun. What if China turns expansionist, or Indonesia becomes a hard-line Islamic state? In any global conflict, “we need America more than America needs us.” That means that “even if Trump hangs up on our PM, it’s still in our interests to remain friends.”
The whole dustup was unnecessary, said Azadeh Dastyari in The Sydney Morning Herald. For five years, our government has warehoused asylum seekers offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, in wretched, prison-like camps. Women have been raped in the detention centers; men have set themselves on fire. Authorities won’t let these desperate people into Australia because they tried to travel here by boat—their resettlement will supposedly only encourage other desperate refugees to make the often deadly journey to Australia by sea. Yet there’s “no evidence that the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. is any more of a deterrent for future boat arrivals than resettlement in Australia.” These asylum seekers have already been thoroughly vetted. If our government genuinely believes they will not pose a threat for the U.S., “then there is no reason why they should not be resettled in Australia instead.” ■