Pacific News Minute: Tumultuous Week in U.S.-Australian Relations Over Immigration Deal

Feb 7, 2017

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Credit Wikimedia Commons

After a week of leaks, tweets, phone calls and high level meetings, it looks as if The Trump Administration will honor an agreement with Australia to take in as many as 1,250 refugees held on the Pacific Islands of Nauru and Manus…more from Neal Conan in Today’s Pacific News Minute.


This all goes back to a now notorious phone call between President Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


According to a transcript leaked to the Washington Post, the conversation grew heated when Prime Minister Turnbull asked the President to uphold the refugee deal struck in the last weeks of the Obama Administration.

Trump reportedly accused Turnbull of trying to export the next Boston Bombers, complained that such a deal would kill him politically, and hung up after just 25 minutes, saying that, after talks with a string of foreign leaders that day, his conversation with the Australian Prime Minister had been the “Worst by far.”


Later, in a tweet, President Trump said he would have to review what he called a “dumb deal,” but the tone calmed down a bit after Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey met with senior White House staff. At last word, the agreement will go ahead even though the President still doesn’t like it.


Prime Minister Turnbull acknowledged what he described a frank and forthright exchange but said Trump had not hung up on him. He vowed that he’d made no promises of Australian military support in exchange for the deal, and didn’t mind that White House Press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly referred to him as “Trumbull.” In fact, Turnbull told a news conference, “This has been a very good week for Australia.”


Most news analysts describe it as the lowest point in the alliance since Prime Minister Gough Whitlam abruptly pulled Australian troops out of Vietnam in 1973.