ANU experts comment on Malcolm Turnbull's US visit

21 February 2018

Experts from accross the ANU have shed some light on some of the key issues for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Washington DC visit to meet with US President Donald Trump.

The two will discuss a range of topics with a focus on economy and defence, as well as commemorating the historic Battle of Hamel fought by US and Australian troops during WWI a century ago.


Dr John Blaxland, Head of Department, ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

"Much like the 75th commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May this year, the centenary of the Battle of Hamel, which took place on US Independence Day, the 4th of July 1918, provides another significant moment on which to focus on the significance of Australia's military ties with the United States.

"As security challenges loom closer to home in the Indo-Pacific, there is growing concern that a transactional Trump presidency, bent on removing the threat of a nuclear weapons from North Korea, may drag Australia into a conflagration not of its making and which could severely damage Australia's economic interests in Northeast Asia.

"If the US administration finds itself at war in Korea, Australia will be hard pressed to avoid becoming involved as well.

"It can't afford to see America fall short. Indeed, with a transactional presidency, anything short of fealty in a crisis would likely have negative repercussions on the American security guarantee.

"So Turnbull goes to Washington with a spectrum of weighty issues to contemplate. While he remembers the shared sacrifices of those made a century ago, much will be made of shared values and the bonds created through shared sacrifice. But he likely will not be confident that a transactional president will be satisfied with anything less than unconditional support for the steps the United States intends to take.

Dr Ron Huisken, ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

"Australia still expects a lot of the US but these expectations are now clouded by unprecedented uncertainty. This makes opportunities for the Prime Minister to get a first-hand feel for the mood in the US invaluable."

Professor John Warhurst, ANU School of Politics and International Relations, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

"There is great domestic interest in this trip, Malcolm Turnbull is behind in the polls and needs to make every post a winner and to show that he's got some authority internationally."

"He'll also be dogged by the Barnaby Joyce issue during the week, that's not going away."

Associate Professor Matthew Sussex, ANU National Security College, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

"With a new US Ambassador to Australia finally coming to Canberra, it is very important that this trip is seen as a success."

"There has been a lot of Australian foreign policy made recently during trips by Prime Ministers and Ministers, and it's important that the public is positively engaged with the US-Australia relationship."