MISTAKENLY thinking he was off the record, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly mocked United States President Donald Trump at a media event in the country’s capital.
At the press gallery’s midwinter ball at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday Night, Turnbull imitated Trump’s oration style and joked about allegations of the Republican leader’s ties to Russia to a laughing crowd of journalists.
While the midwinter ball is supposed to be off the record, footage broken by Nine News Australia shows Turnbull mocking the president: “The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much.”
Turnbull joked about “fake” polls – a reference to Trump’s open hostility to much of the American news media which he brands as “fake news” – and that opinion polls are “so easy to win. I have this Russian guy.”
The relationship between the US and Australia – old allies in a relationship the latter considers “special” – has been fraught since Trump was inaugurated in January.
Trump reportedly hung up prematurely on the PM in his first bilateral phone call with Australia as president, describing it as the “worst so far.”
The president was angered by an agreement signed under former US President Barack Obama, which Trump slammed on Twitter as a “dumb deal,” whereby 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres will be resettled in the US.
Netizens were amused by White House Press Secretary’s repeated, erroneous references to Turnbull as “Trumble” during official press briefings. At a special meeting in New York last month, however, Turnbull and Trump appeared friendly in a meeting the president described as “fantastic.”
On Wednesday night, Turnbull jokingly referred to the meeting as “beautiful. It was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever.”
The press gallery incident on Wednesday sent the Australian commentariat into a storm, with prominent right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt condemning the PM and arguing it reflected he was not fit to lead the ruling Liberal Party.
“He sucked up to a Left-wing audience by bashing a conservative,” wrote Bolt, who said Turnbull’s behaviour had “hurt Australia.”
Meanwhile, Junkee’s politics editor Osman Faruqi slammed journalists that had not immediately reported the event as “cowards.”
Everyone who went to the Ball last night and didn't immediately publicise the fact Turnbull took the piss out of Trump is a coward.
— Osman Faruqi (@oz_f) June 15, 2017
Australia’s Finance Minister Mathias Cormann accused the opposition Labor Party of leaking the footage to the media.
He said the party’s leader Bill Shorten should “clarify today whether it’s true his office was behind leaking those secret recordings and, if so why they thought that was a good idea to do so,” an allegation they later rejected as a “disgraceful lie.”