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The ballad of Trump and ScoMo

Jul 19, 2019 • 14m36s

With Scott Morrison emerging as a Donald Trump favourite, there are questions to ask about the meaning of their association.

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The ballad of Trump and ScoMo

39 • Jul 19, 2019

The ballad of Trump and ScoMo

[Theme music]

ELIZABETH:

From Schwartz Media. I’m Elizabeth Kulas. This is 7am.

ELIZABETH:

Scott Morrison has emerged as one of Donald Trump’s favourite leaders. But the association asks questions about race and crude politics. Chris Wallace on what she believes is a big test for the national character.

[Theme music ends]

[Ambient music starts]

Archival tape — Donald Trump:

”These are people that in my opinion hate our country. Now you can say what you want but get a list of all the statements they’ve made and all I’m saying is if they’re not happy here they can leave. They can leave, and you know what, I’m sure that there’ll be many people that won’t miss them.”

ELIZABETH:

Chris. So, this moment in US politics quite a week. The president telling four Congresswomen to essentially go back to where they came from.

[Ambient music ends]

CHRIS:

Yes it's been a really depressing turn of events in the US. We've seen fairly strong hints of this before. Some would say outright racist statements but this week has been seen something really quite terrible and that is his excoriation of four serving US Congresswomen, a group of four very active politicians known as the Squad.

ELIZABETH:

Chris Wallace is an historian at the Australian National University and formerly a longstanding member of the Canberra Press Gallery.

CHRIS:

The most well-known is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez AOC who's made an incredible impression during her opening term as a congresswoman.

[Ambient music starts]

Archival tape —Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

”I am not surprised when the president says that four sitting members of congress should, quote, should go back to their own country when he has authorised raids without warrants on thousands of families across this country...”

CHRIS:

The other three are Ilan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Archival tape — Ilhan Omar:

“He’s launching a blatantly racist attack on duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives. All of whom are women of colour.”

CHRIS:

And of course these are four congresswomen all of whom are US citizens, three of whom were born in the US. And Trump has basically said you know go back to where you came from.

[Ambient music ends]

ELIZABETH:

How is this moment different to say, the comments that he's made about Mexican immigrants moving to the U.S or the comments he made in light of Charlottesville?

CHRIS:

You're right. Trump has been building up a long catalogue of horribly racist comments and policies that do terrible things to people of color. This is not new in that sense, but it is so overt, you know, it's an ultimate racist trope; go back to where you came from. He actually said go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which you come and then said these Congresswomen hate their country. Now to do that to serving political representatives in your own parliament, it really takes it to a new level.

Archival tape —Donald Trump:

“They have to love our country, they’re congress people and I never used any names, but these are people - QUIET, QUIET, QUIIIIIET, QUIET.”

ELIZABETH:

This also comes at the same time as Scott Morrison's announced he'll be offered a state dinner when he has his scheduled visit to the US later this year?

CHRIS:

This is an honour for a visiting leader. Prime ministers, presidents come and go to the US, not very often does a serving president turn on a state dinner. It means you're really on the in. And Scott Morrison has been working away at Trump and his team trying to get the inside track. Here it is, the big reward.

Archival tape —Unidentified newsreader:

“The goodwill continued after the Japan bilateral with the working dinner with Donald
Trump where he said, he knew Scott Morrison would win the election, he didn’t think it was an upset.”

Archival tape —Donald Trump:

“They called it an upset but I don’t call it an upset, you probably did, you’re wife didn’t call it an upset."

CHRIS:

Morrison is the new favourite international leader of Trump. And the, the White House dinner is going to be a very visible symbol of our government being in bed with a pretty nasty one.

Archival tape —Donald Trump:

“I think, especially when it comes to those great Allies, and Australia would be right there, we’re very proud of it, it’s one of our oldest and one of our best…”

ELIZABETH:

And in what ways do you think Trump is drawn to Morrison? What's the connection there?

CHRIS:

I think border security policy and the treatment of asylum seekers is the absolute, you know, key motif here. Everybody is seeing the shocking scenes going on down at the US- Mexican border. And Trump is pointing to Australia and Scott Morrison as the champion of this approach to border security and the treatment of asylum seekers. And I think Morrison and Trump are similar kind of guy — they like rich people, they share a view of a set of policies that very much centres around race, around the treatment of asylum seekers, about attitudes to the poor, about attitudes generally to people of colour.

ELIZABETH:

And the world’s taking notice of that?

CHRIS:

Well it was very interesting when the White House dinner for Morrison was announced this week; there was very broad coverage. The New Indian Express reported: “Morrison and Trump's political careers have both been built on strong opposition to illegal immigration. Trump praised Australia's stance on illegal immigration declaring that much can be learned.” Now it's just one paper but that paper has a geographic footprint of about a quarter of the Indian subcontinent and what it's saying is these guys are using the military to close their borders and a whole lot of implied politics comes from that.

On the other hand you've got the alt right media outlet Breitbart. Breitbart gushed about the quote historic invitation: “Mr Morrison enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to visit Washington DC praising the US president as a strong leader who will, quote, “follow through on what he says.”” So the Trump Morrison love-in is there for all to see and you know everybody's covering it and noticing these two guys are very, very close.

[Music starts]

ELIZABETH:

And you think that’s also going to be reflected in the way that Australia is likely to be seen by the global community?

CHRIS:

Yes and this is very bad news for us as Australian citizens because most people around the place don't tend to distinguish between governments and citizens, they conflate them. So if our government cosies up to an overtly racist US government, we are likely to be seen in the eyes of the world as, at the very least, racist by association. I think it's gonna be a surprise when people wake up to the fact that, cozying up to Donald Trump means that we will be seen in a very bad way in the world.

ELIZABETH:

We'll be right back.

[Music ends]

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ELIZABETH:

Chris, you've been looking at Donald Trump's relationship with Scott Morrison and the affection between these two leaders. But you also think there's a question that Australia needs to be asking at this moment about what we do and how we should be engaging with the Trump presidency. Tell me about how you think we should be doing that and potentially how we should be doing that better?

CHRIS:

This week's really the origin moment of a big test of national character for Australia; the biggest we've faced in half a century. Before the end of this year comes anyone with any historical perspective at all is going to know and understand that we're going to have to take a position on Trump, his presidency and the overlapping policies we share on border security and asylum seeker treatment. And I think, you know, we're going to face a classic choice between appeasement or action. I don't think there's gonna be a lot of scope to hover in between. And I think it's going to be a matter for us individually as citizens and as a country to really face up to what's been happening here and do something about it.

ELIZABETH:

And what do you think the likely outcome of that is going to be?

CHRIS:

It's a big worry. I think as a policy Australia has not dealt well with the real issue of border security, the real issue of how we treat asylum seekers and I think the fudging that's gone on for a long time can't go on any longer.

ELIZABETH:

And where is Labor on this?

CHRIS:

Labor's historically been in a difficult position. There's been this terrible binary that has occurred. You know you're either seen as racist if you care about border security, or you're seen as a soft, stupid bleeding heart if you prioritse the plight and needs of asylum seekers. And I think our politics has been very crude, we haven't developed the process by which each side of that binary can be heard, so that the conversation about how we get past the binary can happen.

Now, you know, it's not brain surgery. There are there are processes called mediation. You can think back to that you know great Labor prime minister Bob Hawke. He had a classic technique for this kind of problem. He'd get everyone around a table, people with violently opposed positions on things, could get everything off their chest and feel that they'd been heard. And there's something magical about that process. Suddenly possibilities are created that did not exist before to find new ways forward. Now Hawke was a master of that and I think Labor has been able to do work-arounds on this for a long time. I don't think that's going to work in the current context with Trump really electrifying the racist aspect of this element of policy. And I think, Anthony Albanese has got a huge challenge to try and open up and lead that conversation with Labor to get to a better policy place.

ELIZABETH:

Where was Albanese on this, this week?

CHRIS:

I think on the Trump front, this is so new and the implications are so big it kind of hasn't registered much on the overall Australian political radar. So Albanese hasn't been particularly relevant on that topic this week. I think there's gonna be a dawning realisation of what the implications for Trump going so far out is going to have and how that's going to feed into our own politics. So I think homework for Anthony Albanese there.

ELIZABETH:

And once it twigs for Albanese, what is it you think, is lying ahead for him. What could he actually do?

CHRIS:

Albanese could attempt something deeper, something better, something more likely to lance border protection as a consistent winner for the Coalition. And I think through a national mediation on the issue with everyone heard, acknowledged and brought along together on a better, agreed, jointly crafted, national solution. Surely it is possible to combine secure borders with humane, insourced rather than outsourced, care of asylum seekers.

[Music starts]

ELIZABETH:

And do you think Albanese's capable of that?

CHRIS:

Well we're going to see. This is the test of leadership. Albanese has got a big, big responsibility but at the same time a big, big opportunity to craft an historic solution to the problem, that's not going away for Labor, it's not going away for Australia and it's only going to become more intensely uncomfortable as the Morrison government leads us deeper and deeper into an embrace with the Trump administration.

ELIZABETH:

Chris thanks so much for joining us.

CHRIS:

Pleasure.

[Music ends]

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[Theme music starts]

ELIZABETH:

Elsewhere in the news:

The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty has criticised the Newstart welfare program, saying it creates miserable conditions that are not fitting for an advanced economy such as Australia's. At the same time, former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has backed a targeted increase for the payment. Newstart has been capped at $275 a week for 25 years - a real term reduction of 40 per cent over time.

And in Melbourne, celebrity chef George Calombaris has been fined $200,000 by the Fair Work Ombudsman, for underpaying workers. The contrition payment comes as it is revealed Calombaris failed to pay $7.8 million in wages to more than 500 staff, by denying minimum award rates, penalty rates, overtime and other benefits.

Just a quick note, the wonderful Paul Bongiorno is on holidays this week — we hope you’re having fun Paul. He’ll be back with us next Friday.

7am is produced by Emile Klein, Ruby Schwartz and Atticus Bastow with Michelle Macklem. Erik Jensen is our editor.

Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Equate Studio. If you’ve got a second, please subscribe to the show through your favourite app or leave us review if you listen to us on iTunes or Stitcher, it helps other people find us and really helps us.

This is 7am. I'm Elizabeth Kulas. See you next week.

[Theme ends]

Scott Morrison has emerged as one of Donald Trump’s favourite leaders. But the association asks questions about race and crude politics. Chris Wallace on what she believes is a big test for the national character.

Guest: Historian and former member of the Canberra Press Gallery Chris Wallace.

Background reading:

Scott Morrison faces Trump test in The Saturday Paper
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is hosted by Elizabeth Kulas. The show is produced by Emile Klein, Ruby Schwartz and Atticus Bastow. Our editor is Erik Jensen. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Equate Studio.

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39: The ballad of Trump and ScoMo