Transcript (featuring additional information):
So, our Prime Minister headed over to the United States this week to recognise the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea.
Turnbull met with President Trump and because Trump was three hours late, their meeting got cut down to 30 minutes. At the time of recording this video, what was discusses wasn’t fully disclosed but now it can be revealed that they discussed national security, trade, tax, economy and investment.
The cause for Prime Minister Turnbull’s visit provides the perfect opportunity to talk about diplomatic relations between Australia and the U.S.
Whilst there are other relations between the two countries, like economic relationships such as the U.S-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which led to a boost of U.S. exports to our country, and the pair sit on International Organisations like APEC and NATO together – I felt as though focusing on defence and security would be the best lenses to examine the relationship.
The Department of State website calls Australia, “a vital ally, partner and friend of the United States.” It also explains how “defence ties and cooperation are extremely close.”
Well, they ought to be, seeing as Australian soldiers has followed soldiers from the United States into every major war since the end of World War II. Probably the most notable of which is the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of 2011 and 2003 respectively.
In 50 years, the ANZUS Treaty has never been invoked – until September 14th 2001 – by Prime Minister John Howard.
Three days after the horrific September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the then Prime Minister released a statement after a special cabinet meeting.
He said, “The Australian people have been shocked and outraged at the enormity of the terrorist attacks on the United States. These heinous crimes have caused catastrophic loss of life, injury and destruction.”
He then went on to say, “The Government has decided, in consultation with the United States, that Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty applies to the terrorist attacks on the United States. The decision is based on our belief that the attacks have been initiated and coordinated from outside the United States.”
What is Article IV? It pretty much states that an attack on any parties in the Pacific area would result in acting to meet the common danger.
Thus, the invasion of Afghanistan.
Many academics debate the legality of this war, as is often done when war breaks out in the 21st century. However, the legality of the 2001 invasion is not the point of this video.
Fast-forward 16 years, we’ve had six prime ministers (yes, I am counting Kevin 07 twice) and three presidents, and there are two entirely different people in the driver’s seat. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are now two leaders of the free world – but they haven’t exactly seen eye to eye.
It all started when Trump learned about what he called a ‘dumb deal’ to take Australia’s ‘illegal immigrants.’
Australia’s offshore refugees need to be resettled due to the closing of Manus Island and Nauru. With the Coalition government adamant to have little to none of these refugees actually enter the country, resettlement deals need to be struck. With the collapse of the Malaysia swap in 2011, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and PM Turnbull turned to the United States and were determined to make it work. After all, they didn’t need another debacle where they took 4000 refugees, but none were taken from Manus or Nauru.
In November 2016, it was announced that the U.S. has, for a one off deal, agreed to take an undetermined number of refugees, putting women, children and families as priority. Only the 1626 people who have received positive refugee status are eligible to be picked for resettlement in the U.S.
If they missed out on this, they would be resettled in either Papua New Guinea or Cambodia. Any denied refugee status would probably be returned to their country of origin.
Australia may even take some with positive refugee status from Costa Rica in exchange, but with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton at odds over this part of the deal, it may be best to just put this part on hold for the time being.
Now, when the deal was announced, a journalist asked the PM if he thought Donald Trump would be a factor in the outcome of the deal.
He said, “We deal with one administration at the time. There is only one president of the United States at a time. These arrangements have had a long run-up. The agreement was reached some time ago.”
Ah, so young. So naïve.
The tension allegedly manifested itself in a phone call between the two leaders, in which The Washington Post reported that it ended more than half an hour earlier than planned after Trump called it the “worst call of the day” before hanging up. Whilst Turnbull insists that he wont speak about the call, and that it didn’t end that way. It’ll never be known exactly what was said and what happened in the call, but that didn’t stop the world from making fun of what transpired.
Even SNL had a crack.
That wasn’t the only awkward moment between the two leaders. In a press briefing about the deal and the phone call, Press Secretary Sean Spicer couldn’t even get Malcolm Turnbull’s name right.
When Vice President Mike Pence came to Australia as part of his tour of Asia, the deal was discussed. He spoke to the press, stating that whilst the U.S. didn’t admire the deal, they would honor it.
“The decision to go forward can rightly be seen as a reflection of the enormous importance of the historic alliance between the United States and Australia,” the VP said.
But has the damage already been done? Are U.S. and Australia relations ruined forever?
Well, in the end, we need them way more than it’s worth proving a point in this matter. Maybe that’s why the PM was so amicable, praising a terrible healthcare bill?
Ashley Townshend, research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said to news.com.au said that this difference of opinion was a political matter – not a defence matter. So it’s unlikely it’ll impact the alliance.
Peter Jennings, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the ABC that there must be contingency plans in place in case of a break down in relations.
Although this seems really unlikely with the scenes coming out of New York between the two leaders.
Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr spoke to the ABC Lateline program on the matter as well, and he said the term, “fear of abandonment” sums up Australia’s need for an alliance. He said, “We’ve always been part of a relationship with a dominant maritime power. The British Empire, which we didn’t leave – it left us. And of course the American alliance system.”
With America as our ally, Australia doesn’t have to spend as much as it would on defence as it would without them. America spends more on defence than the next than anyone.
So, as our PM said during his time in New York in condemnation of North Korea, who threatened Australia with the possibility of being the target of a nuclear attack, “We fight together in Iraq and Afghanistan to defeat and destroy the terrorists who threaten our way of life. Australians and Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder defending our freedoms.”
That is the essence of the relationship between the two countries.