The view from Billinudgel

The Donald visits Europe
What does Trump’s reckless brand of diplomacy mean for Australia?


It could have been worse. Donald Trump did not try and grab Queen Elizabeth by the pussy. But no doubt his critics would say that may have been because he was so preoccupied with kissing up to Vladimir Putin.

As the rest of the world contends with the smouldering remains of Trump’s most recent incursion, even the more sanguine are starting to wonder just where this is all headed. And, not before time, Australia’s leaders are considering what might come next and how to manage it.

Even Malcolm Turnbull, determinedly insouciant about the chaos all around him, has been forced to admit that perhaps Putin may not be the benign force that Trump seems to assume him to be, and that perhaps POTUS’s initial announcement that he accepted Putin’s protestations of innocence over hacking the 2016 US election was a trifle naïve.

Of course Trump, after accusations of treason from furious Americans, offered the hopelessly unconvincing explanation that he had tripped over a double negative. But the consensus was that it was just another case of The Donald’s adoration of dictators, combined with the conviction that he can ad lib his way through complex negotiations and the obsessive egomania that allows him to say anything in the belief that his supporters will not waver over the contradictions.

Both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Labor counterpart, Penny Wong, have signalled that Trump’s recklessness and unpredictability will make Australia a different and more dangerous place. Many other experts in the area agree: we can no longer unquestioningly rely on our great and powerful friend – if, indeed, Trump’s America is in fact a friend.

At this stage we have been at least partially shielded from the America First rhetoric that has cut a swathe through Europe, but Trump’s record tells us that no treaty is binding, no alliance secure. Australia might be the last page in the annals of Pax Americana to be discarded, but it is in the book.

Trump’s army of acolytes tell us that at least their man means what he says, and very often he does. He is, after all, dedicated to the idea of gaining advantage, however ephemeral, and there is nothing insincere about that. But even when he does make sense, no one has any idea what he will do next. It is all slogans – Make America Great Again, America First – or dog whistling to the fundamentalists, the racists, the gun lobby and his mega-rich friends.

This is not a recipe for international order. Bishop and Wong have acknowledged this, and Turnbull seems to be reluctantly coming around to the idea that we just might need a contingency plan if Trump casts his vengeful and myopic eyes on our region.

Or, perhaps worse, if he doesn’t. Either way, it is time to break from this particular “conga line of suckholes”, especially when the one we are sucking up to is already sucking up to Vladimir Putin.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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