Monday morning the VIP aircraft carrying the returning PM’s entourage touched down on home soil and Australians began to wonder, Mr Turnbull’s meeting with President Trump achieved exactly – what?
There must have been some sly satisfaction enjoyed by the President of the United States, as, the Australian PM standing beside him, Mr Trump issued an emphatic rebuttal to the TPP, reiterating his earlier “It’s a bad idea” claim as well as offering Mr Turnbull an issue – gun control- on which to agree with the President. Turnbull chose his words with care and diplomatically declined to enter the issue.
A long-time Washington insider, not much aligned to the President’s views, told Flat White “Trump has hunter’s instincts, like Putin, they scent weakness and hone in on it. Trump doesn’t need briefing from Canberra to know the Australian Prime Minister isn’t truly in sync with his politics, he [Trump) is much more comfortable with the Japanese Prime Minister or Mr Putin, than with Malcolm Turnbull who falls into the same ‘white, east coast elite’ camp of much of the Democrats, someone who has more in common with Obama or Hillary.”
Malcolm Turnbull too felt the tension, speaking with cautious diplomacy, making the case for ‘we’re very different people, where gun culture was concerned and the nervous body language, the hasty removal of his reading glasses before the official photographs.
Despite this meeting being termed a ‘making up’ one, the Nauru refugee swap still rankles with the President, as does the slip up by Alexander Downer, that helped spark FBI investigations into possible Russian interference with the US election.
Malcolm Turnbull had a final slapdown in Washington when, over drinks at the White House guest house, it was reported that he received news of Barnaby Joyce’s decision to step down. Joyce informed Acting PM Matthias Cormann and reporters to confirm his departure. Turnbull found out from the media.
The hero of the hour is surely Finance Minister Matthias Cormann, who, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conducted her running affair with UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, robustly and with good humour held the fort in his leader’s absence.
Despite all European sniping about Belgium (“Name ten famous Belgians, Tin Tin and Hercule Poirot don’t count”) Cormann does Australia and his birth country proud. If this had been an African developing country, a leader travelling overseas might have signalled a coup.
In Australia, we worried about sharks.
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