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Breaking ban: Turnbull’s art of the deal

Breaking ban: Turnbull’s art of the deal

Friday 3 February, 2017
Let us not lose sight of the facts. Malcolm Turnbull concreted our refugee agreement with the US, despite the ugliness of Trump's immigration ban.
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Let us not lose sight of the facts. Malcolm Turnbull concreted our refugee agreement with the US, despite the ugliness of Trump’s immigration ban.

It may be lost in the foggy mire of everything that surrounds President Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States, but Malcolm Turnbull’s proactivity in assuring that the US honours their existing refugee agreement with Australia is a small win in otherwise terrible days.

There can be no two ways about it: Trump’s signing of an executive order to temporarily ban people travelling from Muslim countries is nothing short of despicable. Reports of families being torn apart, citizens and green card holders refused entry, as well as high-profile people like Academy Award nominated film director Asghar Farhadi also being turned away are all bad things.

Although the order is “only” a temporary ban for four months, one might suspect this is merely a political attempt to keep an election promise. It’s difficult to know what conversations Trump has with his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, but there’s a small inkling of hope in me, at least, that wants this to be some morbid, twisted political action that no one really believes in. In any event, you can’t help but think that one day, in a classroom, somewhere in the not-so-distant-future, children will be learning about President Trump’s reign as leader of the free world and there will be raised hands from students asking “but why did they vote him in the first place?”

The President has been in power for a week and there are nothing but dark clouds circling over the carcass of a bald-headed eagle.

Land of the free and home of the brave, indeed.


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But amidst reports of American lawyers clambering outside JFK Airport, working pro-bono and filing petition of writs for habeas corpus for detainees – that is, signing petitions for a court order for the unlawful imprisonment or detention of a person – Australia, like many other countries, have their own political and societal concerns with the implementation of Trump’s ban. It was reported yesterday that Prime Minister Turnbull spoke with President Trump for 25 minutes on the phone regarding specifically the international agreement the two countries have with the resettling of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru.

Regarding fears that the deal would be discarded by Trump, the executive order signed over the weekend does allow for “case by case” assessments by the State Department to honour pre-existing international agreements. And it appears Mr Turnbull was quickly – and rightly – onto this. In this respect, it appears our Prime Minister has done a good thing.

Of course, there exist wider issues within this significantly turbulent time, like “should Australia be dealing with the US at all?”, “what is Australia going to do in reaction to this Muslim ban?” and “what will it take for Australia to stop being America’s lap dog?” – and these may well be all fair and reasonable questions. But, in the meantime, there are hundreds upon thousands of refugees in Australian offshore detention centres who need resettling and to be cared for. Australia’s own refugee policy is nowhere near perfect, or perhaps even good, but the resettling of refugees is one of, if not the only, good part of our refugee plan and it needs to be honoured.

I guess now we just take Donald Trump’s word that he will actually honour the agreement.

 

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