In a previous article, I discussed the extraordinary telephone conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Jan. 28. As then noted, the rancor of the call unsettled not just the Australian political establishment but all U.S. allies. The Daily Telegraph headlined the story "Donald Thump" while the image of a bespectacled Koala offering a "G'day and Welcome" being punched trended on Twitter.
The argument was ostensibly about the resettlement of 1,250 refugees held in Australian-mandated detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Trump was unable to hide his exasperation that an agreement signed by his predecessor compelled him to take in Australia's unwanted refugee burden from some of the very countries that his executive order had banned from entering the United States. One can but wonder at Australia's folly in risking damage to its most consequential alliance relationship by raising, in a get-acquainted call, such a politically charged side issue.
Trump's unprecedented hostile treatment of the leader of the country that Republican voters judge to be the most reliable of all allies drew an equally extraordinary outpouring of support and reassurance from politicians, officials and people that was genuinely heartwarming. That acknowledged, the larger, big-picture significance for many Australians of Trump's hostile, rude and blustering treatment of the leader of America's strongest ally is it was an overdue call to Australia to wake up, grow up and stand on its own feet.