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February 06th 2017 print

Peter Smith

The Dumb Deal and a Presumptuous PM

The agreement to offload uninvited arrivals warehoused in Nauru and Manus was struck five days after the election by a lame duck president intent on saddling his successor with an intolerable obligation. Is it any wonder Trump reacted the way he did?

trump phonePerhaps there have been others but to my knowledge only Andrew Bolt nailed it. The dust-up is Malcolm Turnbull’s fault. Though, mind you, slippery Julie Bishop shouldn’t be let off the hook. This is a dumb deal, as President Trump so pithily put it.

Now let’s see. The United States agrees to admit 1250 so-called refugees stuck in Australia’s offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. We knew this was even more bizarre that Julia Gillard’s Malaysian deal when we first heard of it. It never passed the sniff test. Why in the world would the US ever agree to it? Ah! The US body politic did not agree to it. Barack Hussein Obama and his left-wing henchmen did. There’s the rub that Mr Turnbull should have appreciated from the very start.

Does anyone think that Hillary Clinton would have agreed to such a dumb deal if she’d been elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Of course she wouldn’t. If elected in 2016, she would not have undone it or railed against it, but that is not the same thing.

This is hard for nearly all commentators. Put yourself in Trump’s position. He was elected on November 8 in large part because he promised to crackdown on illegal immigration and take resolute action to prevent Islamic terrorists from entering the US. While in the making for some time, the dumb deal was not finally concluded and signed off until November 13. Five days passed during which Mal and Julie should have thought about it. Signing that dumb deal was tantamount to spitting in the eye of Trump. The honourable and diplomatically proper procedure for Turnbull to have adopted would have been to sign the deal subject to its ratification by the President-elect when he took office.

Turnbull knew that he would be pilloried politically if the deal fell through. He knew his political capital was rock bottom. He calculated that it was better to embarrass the new president than it was to suffer more domestic political odium. He was too clever by half, but seems to have got away with it. Why? Because Trump is a political pariah who can do no right.

Perception is reality. And all of the MSM reportage and commentary that I have come across in Australia and in the US has the little guy being bullied by the big guy. Trump is the villain; as he was absolutely bound to be. Republican Senator McCain apologised to the Australian ambassador for Trump’s behaviour. What a lark, Turnbull must be thinking.

This is a verbatim taste of the Australian press’s Trump-berating emphasis: petulant Trump, tweeting like a juvenile, badgering and bragging, appearing to be unhinged, treating Australia like dirt, stamping his feet and screaming, completely clueless, a narcissistic buffoon. The last ad hominem attack came courtesy of a dug-up quote from the diplomatic ex-diplomat Kim Beazley.

Not being privy to this particular telephone conversation nor to any of the others between world leaders since the telephone was invented in 1876, I don’t know how far out of diplomatic bounds this one was. No Trump fan, Greg Sheridan seemed to take a grounded view. “Too much is being made of Trump’s leaked testy language [it was] the end of a long day and he was tired and terse.” That kind of balanced comment is going to get Sheridan drummed out of the press collective. He should have at least once included the descriptor buffoon.

Never mind the substance, what about the style? This pretty well sums up the MSM’s reaction to everything Trump does. It is plainly pathetic and common-sense people — those Deplorables — can see through it. In this case, Turnbull pulled a shifty on Trump. Trump knew it. Imagine how galling it must have been for him to be reminded by Turnbull that they were both businessmen and a deal is a deal. I am surprised that Trump didn’t use a string of expletives. President Nixon undoubtedly would have, and there would have gone his reputation down the toilet.

Let’s go back to why this deal was ever contemplated by President Obama. Who first suggested it? I just cannot believe it came from the Australian end, as desperate as the government is to empty detention centres. I mean, surely, this would not have entered Turnbull’s or Bishop’s wildest imaginings. It must have come out of Obama’s henchmen. Maybe I am paranoid but if these refugees had been Hindus, Buddhists, Jews or Seventh Day Adventists would this deal have ever entered Obama’s wildest imaginings? I think not. He just likes Muslim immigrants; their religion and their proclivity for voting left.

Is this any way to treat a loyal ally, ask the Trump critics. I would suggest a different question be put to Turnbull. Is bushwhacking a new US president any way to treat an ally? Turnbull has earned brownie points for standing his ground against ‘the big bully’. Okay, but exactly what options did he have once he’d unequivocally committed to this dumb and slimy deal with Obama, five full days after Trump was elected; which he knew would put the new president in an impossible position (as of course, calculatingly, did Obama)?

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [36]

  1. Peter OBrien says:

    Peter, you are quite right. Regardless of who won the Presidential election, the Australian government should have sought their imprimatur to the deal before announcing it. And normally something like this would have been announced jointly – possibly by the Foreign Affairs Minister and Secretary of State. Had that been done it might have been possible to pass it off as a normal government to government arrangement rather than as a deal between a desperate Australian PM and a lame duck US President determined to make life difficult for his successor. It could not have been seen by Trump as anything other than a slap in the face. Trump should have said no deal. Had Turnbull handled the matter more diplomatically he might have been able to re-negotiate a deal more acceptable to Trump. The whole purpose of this exercise was to rid ourselves of a festering sore bequeathed us by Rudd and Gillard viz emptying the offshore camps. But this deal won’t do that. You can bet your bottom dollar that, however many the US take (and I’m betting it won’t be 1250), there will still be people left on Manus and Nauru. However small that number it will still be grist to the Leftist mill and we will still be subject to the nauseating spectacle of the likes of Sara Hanson Young telling us that we’re the pariah of the world.

  2. Peter OBrien says:

    Further to my last, Peter, I can’t quite agree with your supposition that Obama or his henchmen initiated this deal. I think it’s all Turnbull’s own work.

  3. Jody says:

    I could never understand why America or any other ally would want our left-overs from detention centres. People say that the exporting of them to the USA creates a new market for people smugglers but anybody who interprets Trump’s reaction as a green light for people smugglers needs his/her head examined.

    I always thought this was a dumb deal. Why not ask Canada – they seem to want to take the whole world and pretty-boy Trudeau is anxious to be loved by the bien pensant. It’s a win/win.

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    Spot on. I haven’t heard the msm ask the obvious question if Turnbull.
    Why did you do this deal with Obama?
    Was it good diplomacy?
    Why was involved in this deal?
    Now that your relationship with Trump has tanked because of it. Could it be said you put your political interest ahead of Australias interest?

    After Trump was inaugurated wouldn’t good diplomacy have been for you to approach Trump with an offer to renegotiate rather than demand he honours Onama’s deal.

    I’ve done business with men like Trump. They never ever forget a slight and Turnbull will bear Trump’s eminty forever.

    It would be in Australia’s best interest for all those involved in this debacle to resign and leave politics in Australia altogether.

    • ianl says:

      > “I haven’t heard the msm ask the obvious question of Turnbull”

      Nor will you, ever.

      The MSM, the meeja, lost power and credibility over the US election. Vanity is so sorely wounded.

      The only issue on its’ mind is how to get that power back; red-necks from flyover territory simply don’t matter – in fact, how dare they think they do ?

      Trump isn’t afraid of the MSM … but Waffle is, so he plays exactly its’ game. The hypocrisy is so deeply entrenched that it can never be removed. That is, the swamp cannot be drained.

      • padraic says:

        Exactly ianl. The pollies here are frightened of the Media, despite the “media training” they are given by ex-MSM hacks. In effect they are controlled at both ends by the MSM who ask them the sort of questions whose answers can be used against them to further the leftist media’s agenda. They can’t win. The other thing is that because the MSM is a business (including their ABC and SBS) they are desperate for material to improve their ratings and/or please their advertisers. They also need stuff to fill the 24 hour News Cycle, preferably of the “man bites dog” genre or news of a broken fingernail of some vacuous self-styled celebrity. I suggest that the present mob have a month off and not appear on the electronic media and stop issuing press releases to the print media and just tweet from Parliament House after each day’s sitting. That may be simplistic because being the POTUS is different from being the PMOA and Australians are not Americans (except some clones in the MSM)and tweeting may not work. But the MSM has to be advised in some way the “their behaviour is unacceptable”.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Here are some more questions.
    What was Bishop’s role?
    What was Duttons role?
    Was it subject to cabinet approval?

    The last Australian PM to inflict serious damage to relationships with a neighbour? Indonesia, Rudd.
    The last Australian PM to be lectured by a foreign Head of State. China, Rudd.

    Seems we’ve another one!

  6. Dallas Beaufort says:

    Dallas Beaufort
    2 February at 17:29 ·

    Malcolm Turnbull’s irresponsibly initiated deal with Obama was a dud from the beginning, It’s time to stop passing the buck to the US and take responsibility for illegal boat smuggling cargo to be shipped back to their home ports.

  7. Dallas Beaufort says:

    Dallas Beaufort
    12 hrs ·

    The lying media Donald Trump exposed covered Malcolm Turnbull’s arse here last week on his stupid deal with Obama.

  8. Bill Martin says:

    Can’t you just imagine the freshly revised instructions to the Americans doing “extreme vetting” in Nauru and on Manus? “ Extreme vigilance is of utmost importance. Do not fail to identify the most minute of details which would justify the rejection of the applicant.” Not many will get past the process. You can be sure of that.

    • ianl says:

      It’s an obvious answer to Waffle’s opportunistic sleaze and deep cynicism, but the MSM will spin any US attempt at “rejection by vetting” as proof of a racist Trump. This may not worry the Don but it will help Waffle, unhappily.

      In the mid to longer term, the MSM will always win. A very large majority of the population aquires its’ “information” from the meeja and said majority has the attention span and memory range of goldfish. FakeNEWS is now bigger than ever.

      My personal answer is as Jody gave on an earlier thread about the muesli issue – organise one’s life in a location where these pustules have as little effect as possible. This will only work for those who are past the age of struggle street.

    • Jody says:

      The courts in America will prevent Trump doing absolutely anything to protect America. Of course, judges will be out there manning the barricades come the revolution. They will throw themselves in front of the Prophet’s Truckers to protect Americans. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

  9. exuberan says:

    What we are seeing with Trump is pure Business Acumen and Boardroom tactics. It is as though those who voted for him are shareholders that must be paid a dividend. This is real ‘Outside of the Swamp’ stuff and I hope it catches on here in Australia.
    Little chance I think. Trump will be a catalyst though.

    • Jody says:

      Word is coming through the Cory Bernardi is quitting the Coalition. Don’t know if Senators can actually do that, but it’s certain to end in the demise of the government and an ungovernable polity here. Labor and Coalition are both on 35% and that’s absolutely critical mass when it comes to being viable political parties. God help us if we get that fish and chip saleswoman.

      • Philby says:

        That “fish and chip saleswoman” is elected to the Senate which I note you are not Jody, yes she was/is a small business operator who was her own boss not relying on government for a living. There are a great deal of people who are university educated but it does not mean they have a monopoly on logic and common sense, life is a great educator. Demeaning a person on the basis of one successful aspect of their life is pure arrogance. If you are going to argue policy then do it just stop the name calling.

      • colroe says:

        In general your comments are mostly relevant, but abuse or snide remarks show a weakness of character. Ms Hanson is a Senator, you are a daily blog contributor. Senator Hanson has earned her position through years of hard work and resistance to comments such as yours. To sell fish and chips, or to have less than perfect command of English are failings? These two things make her less intelligent? Pardon my anger, but I fail to see how you can justify rudeness and a sense of superiority.

        • Jody says:

          Mandatory prerequisite for public life: articulate, reasonably intelligent, worldly and across all the issues. Being less so is a burden for the candidate as well as a pain for the constituency. I prefer somebody like Ross Cameron – fabulously intelligent, experienced, worldly and across all the conservative issues. Also, well-read, rather sophisticated and easy to like. And I prefer my political heroes to know more than I do about what’s going on in the society across and broad range of contexts.

          • Warty says:

            Though younger than I, you do sound a little like my mother Jody, God rest her soul. She too tended to be rather pompous about those she considered ill-educated. What she failed to do was to regard the good qualities of the individual, and Pauline has this by the bucketful. She is courageous, you must admit, above all. She is up front in what she says and does. She actually rose up from amongst the ranks of the unwashed, speaks their language, earned their adoration and stands as their champion. In human terms (a funny term) she is far more convincing than a DT, though part of that being the fact she is working class Australian. The Liberal Party, including both Abbot and Howard treated her shabbily, possibly because they recognised the threat of a populist to their voter base.

      • Homer Sapien says:

        A rather dilettante remark about our only former political prisoner.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    Bernardi is not the answer. He’ll be just another voice in the Senate unless he secures a half dozen lower house members. That would make a difference. Then we’d see the tail wag Trumbull

    The Liberals would be finished under Trumbull.

    So it would be a pick between a banker and his ‘bought’ supporters, a snake oil salesman and his shiftie shadows or a successful business person and her part rabble.

    No the answer is Abbott, the only recent PM to actually fulfill his promises and Dutton, one of the few Cabinet Ministers to have balls regardless who is PM.

  11. en passant says:

    All,
    Fortunately, I have disconnected the ABC where I live, so I am slowly slipping back into the sane, real world. It also means I am no longer up to speed on some of the angles people post. I have got over it.
    I read international blogs and saw an interesting question from an American with little knowledge of Oz. He said: “If these people are not good enough for Australia, what makes these arrogant **** think the USA should take their rejects? If Australians think they can help the failed Obama play his last evil game and still keep our friendship and our assistance when they need it I think they may find they have won a minor skirmish, but have lost the war.”

    One reply comment was “Extreme vetting will reject all but one of them.”
    No doubt as the smartest guy he knows, Malcolm and Lady Macbeth thought all this through with care and consideration. I mean they could not just have blundered into anything this stupid, would they?

    • Tezza says:

      The US will doubtless proceed as e.p. suggests. But the first question of all is how did Malcolm ever think such a deal, if it worked, would ever have served Australia’s interests? ‘We’ll never let you come to Australia; we’ll send you to the US instead!”

      In terms of securing Australia’s borders, this is saying ‘We’re denying you second prize, and giving you first prize instead.’

      Only Malcolm could think this was smart for Australia, let alone smart in terms of Australia’s relations with the US.

      • en passant says:

        I think it is actually the best deal I have ever come across as every time I think about it I feel the urgent need for Chivas Regal therapy. Sho, go fur it malcum, hooever u r. burp.

  12. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody,

    Why doesn’t it surprise me you are both anti Trump and anti Abbott?

    The elitists think the same as you about both men. Both high achievers outside the elites, both of communities outside the elites and both hated by the elites.

    There is no one else Jody. And Abbott is what we need, just like Trump is what America needs.

    If you notice with both Bernardi and Hanson neither ever talk about job creation or question ‘free trade’. A leader that actually questions the accepted practise on both those won’t really be one of us.

    Abbot made a point of talking with small business people and so did his minister Bruce Bilson. I met both. I’ve never seen anyone from the current Liberals, One Nation nor Gina Reinhardt or the labor/union party.

    Our economy is based on small business not public service or big business. We are the bulk of the deplorables and the policy of the last 40 odd years has focused on the elites … public service, unions and big business.

    We’ve seen our economy go stupid with emphasis or massive debt and deficit and the screwing of small business. Were sick of the excessive perks the elitesoutside the deplorables, have given themselves. We will change that.

    It’s no wonder you hate the people who will do as we want.

    Were over it and you elitists. And you won’t ‘be ok ‘Jack’.

    • Jody says:

      I anxious await the change of which you speak. I’m not ‘anti Trump’ but I see too many faults for him to really succeed. I’m a hard-nosed realist. He’s a pit-bull and that’s good but he’s narcissistic and that’s bad. That last characteristic will probably bring him undone because, above all, narcissists are thin-skinned and reactive – not thick-skinned and PRO-active. We shall see.

      • Philby says:

        This Ross Cameron of ROM Wikipedia?

        “Cameron ran regular prayer meetings for politicians in his office in Parliament House.[3] Mark Latham former leader of the Federal Parliamentary Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition from December 2003 to January 2005, wrote of Ross Cameron in 1997: “Ross Cameron, the brilliant but creepy Liberal member for Parramatta, has talked me into participating in his youth leadership forum in Canberra. I rather suspect it’s a front for mobilising Christian soldiers, plus some quality box for Ross”.[4]

        Cameron ran an eight-year campaign while in office against the Parliament House contemporary art collection.[5][6]

        In August 2004, Cameron revealed in an interview in Good Weekend that he had an extramarital affair with an “exotic solicitor” while his wife was pregnant with twins.[7] Cameron “was a frequent overnight visitor to the house his mistress shared with a reporter”.[8] In Truth Overboard, journalist Tom Dusevic wrote in Time Magazine that once Cameron’s story was in the public domain “…reporters in Canberra immediately ran with further details of Cameron’s private life, unleashing stories they’d been sitting on for years” which included accounts of numerous other affairs which he had failed to disclose in the original interview with Good Weekend.[9][10][11]

        Mark Bahnisch wrote “He was probably…. unwise not to enquire of the “exotic solicitor”‘s flatmate what her occupation was – she turned out to be a member of the Canberra Press Gallery – hence his pre-emptive confession.”

  13. Warty says:

    The thing about being forced into a ‘dumb deal’ (and in a sense Trump was obligated to fulfil it) is that it rankles and will continue to rankle, much to our long-term detriment. This is something Turnbull fails to appreciate. The noodle-headed MSM over here, may indeed consider this a victory of sorts for Wormpill, a bit of desperately needed political kudos to bolster support on the home front, but Trump’s alleged explosion of anger ought to say it all.
    Honestly, saying a ‘deal is a deal’ is simplistic to say the least. Can you imagine expecting the arch enemy of an acquaintance of yours, being asked to honour a deal made by the said acquaintance? The response, by all rights, ought to be the decapitated head of your beloved doggy placed alongside you on your pillow, as you sleep. Alright, your prized racehorse’s head. Do our wise MSM commentators sincerely believe Wormpill will ever be able to request anything of Trump ever again?
    “Ah, Good Afternoon Mr President. I’m afraid we’re in a spot of trouble here”.
    “And what’s the problem . . . Mr Trumble isn’t it?”
    “No Sir, it’s Wormpill. The problems is that China has decided to permanently occupy our famous Darwin Harbour, you know, the one that was more bombed by the Japanese than your very own Pearl Harbour”.
    “look Sonny, nobody had a harbour more bombed than our Pearl. Not a good start dude”.
    “No, Sir, you are absolutely right; a terrible mistake on my part; but they’ve taken it, Sir”.
    “Taken what”?
    “They’ve taken our Darwin Harbour”.
    Well, I think you know where I’m going, and it is not good for either Australia or its worm-infested PM.

  14. Keith Kennelly says:

    Trump’s a very very successful businessman. How come his ‘narcissism’ hasn’t bought him undone in that field?

    That it hasn’t tends to suggest your assertions re narcissism are a tad inconsistent.

    A thin skinned re active business billionaire. Hahahaha.

    I’ll tell you something about billionairebusinessmen, Jody. I’ve known two. They both have a singlemindness that is awesome and they never ever forgot a slight.

    Is that narcissistic too?

  15. The extraordinary Australian responses to US president Trump’s criticism of the Turnbull/Obama refugee deal display both ignorance of the facts of the US-Australian alliance and Australia’s mean-spirited concept of the alliance’s realities. That Australia sought to dump a relatively small number of refugees upon the United States was a cheapskate approach at best. Perhaps Obama agreed in order to embarrass his successor but that prime minister Turnbull could not accept Trump’s characterisation of the deal as realistic is a sad commentary upon his understanding of alliance realities.

    Much of the subsequent commentary too has insisted that Australia has always been a faithful ally. Thanks partly to American concerns that if they don’t fawn over us, we’ll take our ball and go home, the reality is that our commitment of Australian forces to military operations in support of the United States has always been token. In Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and the Middle East, we have boasted about our tiny commitments that have been no more than the sacrifice of our young troops to buy American support for possible future threat to our security. We have never since 1945 done our fair share and still fail to do so. If president Trump is calling us down, maybe we need to take stock of reality.

  16. ajlowy66 says:

    Peter, you are spot on! Here is my very similar view, as an Australian living in the US: https://spectator.com.au/2017/02/hanging-on-the-telephone/.