Malcolm Turnbull on What Trump’s Win Means for Australia
9 November 2016
Leigh Sales, Presenter: Well, what does this election result mean for Australia? With me now from Parliament House in Canberra is the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who, thanks to the time difference between the US and Australia, is one of the first world leaders to react to Donald Trump’s election. Prime Minister, what is your reaction?
Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia: We congratulate Donald Trump on his election win. And as I said, President-elect Trump has sought to heal the wounds of the campaign, which, of course, was a very hard-fought one.
We offer our good wishes to Secretary Hillary Clinton for her hard-fought campaign as well, but it’s notable that, despite the bitterness of the campaign and the intensity of it, which was confronting for many Australians – a much more bitter-fought campaign than we are used to.
But nonetheless, the first thing President-elect Trump has done is sought to bring Americans together. He’s paid tribute to Secretary Clinton. He’s sought to set out how he will govern for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not.
Leigh Sales: Earlier this year, the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he trembled at the thought of Donald Trump becoming the United States President, that there’s an instability about him that bothers me. Does it bother you?
Malcolm Turnbull: Leigh, as the Australian Prime Minister, my job is to defend Australia’s interests, and ensure that we work effectively and constructively with the President the United States people elect – they have elected Donald Trump, and after the 20th of January, he will be the President, and we will have a strong and effective relationship with his administration just as we have with President Obama’s and many administrations before that.
Leigh Sales: Donald Trump has already indicated that he doesn’t support some of the traditional foundations of American foreign policy, for example, he won’t guarantee coming to Japan’s aid in the event of an attack by North Korea, he has raised the prospect of withdrawing from NATO.
How can Australia continue to rely on the ANZUS Treaty? Why would we trust that a Donald Trump-led administration would come to Australia’s aid should we require it?
Malcolm Turnbull: The United States will stand by its commitments. The United States Administration, the Trump Administration, just like the Obama Administration, will act in defence of America’s enduring national interests.
You know, prime ministers and presidents, congressmen and senators, come and go. But the nations enduring interests continue, and the alliance between Australia and the United States is set in the enduring national interests of both countries.
It’s in our mutual interest to stand together, and we’ll continue to do so through the Trump presidency and the presidencies that follow it.
Leigh Sales: But, given that I just pointed out that he’s made it clear that he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the traditional foundations of American foreign policy. What’s the source of your confidence there?
Malcolm Turnbull: Leigh, it’s important to remember, Leigh, that during a hard-fought campaign, it’s important to remember that great observation, another American politician said, which is that they – he’s speaking of American politicians. He said, “We campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose.”
Now, whether you regard the debates in this last American campaign as poetry, the fact is that when an administration takes office, when a President takes office, he is confronted with the realities of the national interests of the United States, the strategic realities that confront the United States, the importance of its alliances, the significance of the global prosperity that is underpinned by America’s commitment to the rules-based international order especially, of course, in the Asia-Pacific, so...
Leigh Sales: Donald Trump will be now the Commander-in-Chief, as we know, Australia is one of the United States’ closest military allies. As Prime Minister, could you comfortably deploy Australian troops, risk Australian lives, on the judgement of Donald Trump?
Malcolm Turnbull: Can I say to you that when Australian troops are deployed, when Australian servicemen and women’s lives are put on the line, with their professionalism, their heroism, those decisions are taken in the judgement of their government – the Australian government, not any other government.
Leigh Sales: You look at what’s happened with the Brexit, with the election of Trump, with the rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, with the Nick Xenophon party here.
Citizens are staging their own disruption of political systems in Western democracies. What lessons are you taking from all of this for Australian politics?
Malcolm Turnbull: It is very important, Leigh, to ensure and I have made, I’ve made this point actually in the United States, quite recently. It’s very important…and here, too, of course. It’s very important in this time of an unprecedented change, economic change, technological change, it’s important for leaders to ensure that everybody in the community, all sectors of the community, are included, that the strong growth that we have, for example, in Australia, includes all Australians, that sectors and communities are not left behind, and that when we defend free trade and open markets, we make it very clear why it is in Australia’s interests in our country to do so. We have to make the strongest case we can for open markets and free trade. This was one of the resolutions at the G20 in China just a little while ago.
Leigh Sales: Prime Minister, it is such a momentous day in world affairs that we’re sticking with US politics tonight, but it would be good to have you on the program soon to talk about some domestic issues. Thank you very much.
Malcolm Turnbull: It’s always a pleasure. Thank you, Leigh.