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In which Turnbull is thoroughly played by Trump

Towards the end of the Obama administration, a classified “deal” was made between the then President and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to send an undisclosed number of refugees from detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to the US for resettlement. In return, Australia agreed to accept refugees from Costa Rica.

The classified nature of the deal infuriated Republicans, who after the election of President Trump called for details to be released, claiming the agreement covered the resettlement of an estimated 2,400 refugees, some from countries already on Obama’s list of “countries of concern.”

It was on the basis of Obama’s list that Trump formed his own list of seven predominantly Muslim countries from which entry into the US is now forbidden for ninety days, with refugees refused resettlement for one hundred and twenty days.

Both Obama and Turnbull were likely confident of a Clinton win when the agreement was reached, though Turnbull did express confidence that if elected, Trump would honour the agreement.

It was and remains, an unholy deal. The US is the last of a number of countries successive Australian governments have attempted to persuade to take refugees who legally sought asylum in Australia, and were incarcerated in off-shore camps for exercising those legal rights. Both the LNP and ALP have engaged in increasingly desperate efforts to wash their hands of the refugees, and both parties were relieved and enthused by the US “deal.”

It’s been revealed today through leaks to the Washington Post, that Trump exploded at Turnbull during a phone call over the weekend, telling him it was the worst deal he’d ever heard of, and why did he, Turnbull, expect that Trump would agree to importing the next Boston Bomber. Trump later tweeted this:

The clue as to what is actually going on here is in the tweet, and to understand it, you need to know some context.

In 2011, Trump’s attacks on President Obama’s origins were at their height, the so-called “Birther” controversy. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that year, Obama, who was guest speaker, took the opportunity to thoroughly trash Donald Trump, who was also present. Witnesses to this trashing claim Trump’s humiliation and rage were palpable, and many have since commented that this was the moment that determined Trump to enter the presidential race, and in victory avenge himself, lay his humiliation to rest, and assume power over every Obama initiative instigated during his administration, with the aim of dismantling as many of them as possible.

Much as in our own country, Tony Abbott set about dismantling every Labor government initiative of any note, regardless of its value, simply because it was a Labor initiative, and he could demonstrate his power to be greater than the ALP’s through this destructive rampage.

Trump misses no opportunity to denigrate Obama, either overtly or covertly. This “dumb deal” of Obama’s is being used by Trump to demonstrate to the American people that his predecessor was reckless enough to enter into a secret deal that allowed refugees from “countries of concern” into the US, and in so doing, risk the safety and security of Americans. Trump’s message is that he is better than this. He knows a dumb deal from the Obama administration when he sees one, and he’s not going to just go along with it.

Turnbull and the refugees are collateral damage. Turnbull deserves it. The refugees do not.

Trump personally loathes and fears Muslims. He is also no doubt genuinely irritated at having to negotiate his way through this “deal” which, should he decide to honour it (and he may yet, the man is mercurial and entirely unpredictable) will cause him considerable embarrassment, given his hardline stance towards countries that are also the homelands of many of those whose fate is in limbo. Politcially, Trump allegedly said to Turnbull, I’ll get killed by it. I don’t want these people.

The future of the refugees is still as uncertain as it has been for years. At the very best, Trump might agree to “extreme vetting:” a process very few are likely to survive, given their homelands, the involvement of many in protests against their ill-treatment, and their demonised reputations, for which Australia is entirely responsible, having cast them as “criminals” and “illegals” in order to win political favour with the ignorant.

It is with increasing incredulity we now watch as Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton attempt to rebrand those they’ve slandered as criminals and illegals, into “genuine”refugees worthy of resettlement in the USA. As we are wont to observe on social media, you could not make this shit up.

Turnbull continues to insist that Trump has agreed to honour the “deal.” However, neither he nor the media are particularly honest in their explanations of this deal: it is not a deal to accept anyone. The terms are such that the US can refuse to take even one refugee, and still honour the agreement. This has been known by the government for some time:

A reminder: regardless of the personal relationship between Trump and Turnbull, the “deal” does not require the US to accept a single person (Sen Nick McKim via Twitter).

Our politicians seem not to have caught up with events. Trump is feral. He’ll do what he wants. He has no regard for diplomacy, checks and balances, time-honoured channels, or the right way of doing things. We’re in an entirely new political landscape. Documentary film maker Michael Moore claims there’s a coup underway even as we speak, a coup in which a handful of men destroy the US state via the transference of executive power to a small, tight inner circle, over-ruling any efforts by relevant agencies to intervene in their power grab.

The only certainties we can have about Trump is that he will act in ways that benefit and gratify his personal goals, and that his thirst for revenge is a legendary driving force.

Turnbull is in a pickle, and one he richly deserves. This is the karma bus coming to call.

However, he has an opportunity to redeem himself, at least as a human being, if not as a politician. I fear that latter ship has sailed. He could, however, recognise that there is nothing left to do but bring the refugees here, and attend to it without further ado.

At the moment he continues to insist, like a petulant and disappointed child, that Trump “promised” to keep the agreement, and he won’t stop believing he will. Unfortunately, Turnbull doesn’t seem to realise yet that keeping the agreement does not mean the US accepting any refugees.

Meanwhile, those on Manus and Nauru continue to suffer. Pawns in successive Australian governments’ pandering to xenophobia, fear and ignorance. Well done, both major parties. Now let’s see you get out of this mess.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. mandy vuk

    Love this prepicklement the lnp have here. World news! Shows the world the errors of our elected people. Hopefully they’ll read it and learn.

  2. Jaquix

    These poor sods that have bern damaged in detention by our government, what will their fate be in America, with no health care (and they will need some) and a 50% hostile population? Turnbull is very pleased with himself. He should not be. Trump is right in that this is a bad deal, but not for the reasons he thinks. Its bad because its not where they should be sent. The majority have bern proven to be refugees. Turnbull in his privileged ivory tower has lost any compassion or courage he may have had.

  3. helvityni

    mandy vuk, people who not admit to their errors, will never learn.

    They simply NEVER make errors; the LNP KNOWS that all errors in Oz politics are of Labor’s making…

  4. Kronomex

    Malcolm said The Donald has “a very big personality”. Strange, everything leads to Trump being one of the most arrogant, self-centred stand over man and thug the world has seen for a while. Poor ickle gutless Malky-walky. Let the refugees in and be done with it. Oh, that’s right, Bernardi, Christensen and the rest of the rabid right wing nutcases won’t let him.

    In closing, we must always remember the LNP mantra: It’s all Labor’s fault.

  5. guest

    A powerful post, Jennifer.

    The Pacific Solution was a central part of the Howard war against refugees, until he admitted detainees into Oz. Abbott bolstered Manus and Nauru with the attack by big boats on little boats and the indefinite detention of refugees, the logical extension of Howard’s policy, as Rudd pointed out.

    Manus was declared illegal and unconstitutional by the New Guinea government. There has been world-wide condemnation of the Oz ‘Stop the Boats’ program.

    If Manus and Nauru were so important in the way it guarded Oz from people in boats, how are Oz’s borders being protected now? We always knew the solution was not sustainable long-term.

    But the weakness of the whole program is that Turnbull the deal-maker is reduced to making deals with the USA to take in refugees where Oz would not. Now the deal seems to be in limbo. Some deal, easily vetoed.

    Where does that leave Oz and its infamous border protection?

  6. Max Gross

    Welcome to Monstralia

  7. Kaye Lee

    Bring them here and tell Trump to take his marines home. We could house the refugees in thier base until other arrangements can be made. I am fairly certain it would be better facilities than living in mouldy tents.

    And while you’re at it, cancel the dud jets – and tell Trump you are doing it on his advice.

    Quote his words back to him – “it’s way, way behind schedule and many billions of dollars over budget. I don’t like that.”

  8. Zathras

    Trump’s obviously playing to his local media but it would have been better if Turnbull showed a bit of spine.

    The reaction from most world leaders to the Trump immigration ban stance was very vocal and critical – except from Australia where it was silent.
    Now it’s only reactionary – carefully responding in vaguely favorable terms while the Trump machine tries to patch up any poor perception of bungled diplomacy.

    One day Turnbull will have to stand up to Trump publicly or forever be seen as his “bitch” – or at least it will become official.

  9. wam

    as a long term trustless cynic and conspiracy lover, i have searched for the sweetener that allowed trump to bluster and scream obama’s an idiot for the shocking deal.
    But australia is a friend and we will honour the deal with the proviso of veto over the selection.
    This saves a bit of trunbull face and a lot of trumfs skin.

    The sweetener????
    a nuclear base in darwin????

  10. Percy

    Kaye lets not forget the army base outside Woomera SA the Refugees BURNT

  11. Ron Chandler (@RonChandler6)

    The pain and suffering a weak man can inflict on the poor asylum-seekers, is likely to be even worse than the suffering a strong man can dish out.

  12. jim

    We have a NewsLtd/IPA COALition regime in power in Australia as intended by the religious right wing fundamentalists and their masters in the corporate world.

    The Pacific Solution (LNP initiated) consisted of three central strategies:
    Thousands of islands were excised from Australia’s migration zone or Australian territory.

    The asylum seekers were removed to detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea while their refugee status was determined.
    The policy was developed by the Howard government in response to the Tampa affair or “keeping us safe” in August 2001, and was implemented by then Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock on 28 September before the 2001 federal election of 24 November.

    The policy was largely dismantled in 2008 by the Rudd government following the election of the Australian Labor Party; Chris Evans, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship described it as “a cynical, costly ($Billions) and ultimately unsuccessful exercise”.

  13. sandrasearle

    I agree with you Kaye Lee, refugees are being treated abominably.
    I would like to ask Bill Shorten to his face to make the strong decision to change his stance with those refugees on both Manus & Nauru by making this statement to the general public as to why the change.

    ‘We have a strong border force set up now. One that stops those “illegal” boat people from coming to this country, so that it in it self is the deterent and a defence for our country.
    In view of that we see it is now our duty to let those that have been incarcerated in both camps and found to be genuine refugees to be resettled here in Australia’.

    Anything would be better that the current arrangement with the so called American arrangement.

    If I was in those detention centres, I certainly would not want to go to a country where I was not welcome.

    My other agreement with you is that we need to grow some intestinal fortitude and stop pandering to America. They have been a strong power for 400 or so years now and I believe they are on the way down. Look what happened to the Roman Empire and many other ruling powers of their times. We need to look after ourselves as well as those around us, that is what keeps a society nourished and happy.

  14. helvityni

    Liberals very often say: Labor started it…

    The leaders of a country like Australia, with its yearly bush-fires, ought know, that fires, even the ones started by arsonists, can be put out…

    All parties pander to the electorate, it’s up to the people (us) to show their unhappiness about how we treat asylum seekers..

    Even today, the conversation is about Turnbull and Trump, not the plight of those poor souls on Manus and Nauru…

    And yet we keep talking about what the Nazis did…we kill them slowly.

  15. Jack Straw

    helvityni this is perfect for them because they are both narcissist’s .

  16. helvityni

    I used to call Morrison a monster,sadly he’s not the only one…

    Yes Jack, lately the politics seem to attract monsters and narcissists…

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