back to top

Australia Comes To Trump's Defence On Refugee Ban

"...if others wish to emulate what we're doing, they're welcome to do so," Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday afternoon.

Posted on

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has refused to criticise Donald Trump's refugee ban, saying the US is "welcome" to emulate Australia's border policies.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"It is not my job as prime minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries," Turnbull said on Monday, three days after Trump signed a controversial executive order that places a temporary ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States and suspends the country's refugee program.

In recent days Western allies have distanced themselves from Trump's decision.

But Turnbull refused to condemn the move and instead likened the president's approach to the Australian government's brutal crackdown on asylum-seekers in recent years.

"We have here in Australia, border security arrangements which are the envy of the world... if others wish to emulate what we're doing, they're welcome to do so. But I am not about to run a commentary on other countries' practices."

Turnbull's handling of the Trump ban differs starkly from that of German chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who have made their feelings known over the phone and on social media.

The UK's conservative prime minister, Theresa May, and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, have also now criticised Trump's move, the latter characterising it as "divisive and wrong".

It's a different story in Australia. Senior government figures including foreign minister Julie Bishop and treasurer Scott Morrison have defended the move.

"We have a very positive relationship with the Trump administration" - @JulieBishopMP speaking at @GDAYUSAofficial…

"The Australian government will continue to work closely with the Trump administration to ensure we can both implement strong border-protection policies," Bishop said to an Australian press pack at a black tie event in LA.

Treasurer Scott Morrison, who has played a key role in militarising Australia's maritime borders in recent years, defended Trump's decision on Sydney radio on Monday.

"[The US] had an election and the president has implemented what he said he would do," Morrison told 2GB.

"How the rest of the world wants to handle [borders] is up to them."

Morrison said Trump's move showed the world was "catching up to Australia".

"Well, the rest of the world would love to have our borders and the way they are secured and the immigration arrangements we have put in place, particularly most recently over the last three or four years."

Some have questioned whether a deal for the US to take refugees from Australian-run detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru is behind the lack of public criticism from Turnbull and his government ministers. As BuzzFeed News first reported, Turnbull secured the deal in a morning phone call with Trump on Sunday.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.