Malcolm Turnbull says his infamous phone call with US president Donald Trumplast week has worked in Australia’s favour, because it inspired “dozens and dozens” of US congressmen to publicly support the Australia-US alliance.
He has also admitted the Liberal party has been in serious financial trouble for a number of years, saying that is why he donated $1.75m to the party during the 2016 election campaign.
“It is a big challenge that we face,” he told Channel Nine on Sunday.
“The corporate sector, particularly public companies, are much more reluctant to make political donations to anybody and we face enormous financial resources from the unions and Labor, so there is no question we are at a massive disadvantage financially these days,” he said.
With the major political parties returning to Canberra this week for the first sitting week of the year, Turnbull said last week’s embarrassing phone call with Donald Trump was not a bad thing.
He said Trump’s administration has since agreed to honour the refugee-swap deal that he had made with the former US president Barack Obama, and US leaders had made it known how highly they valued Australia’s friendship.
“So this has been a very good week for Australia,” Turnbull said.
Asked if he would now feel indebted to Trump if his administration wanted Australian troops “for some Middle Eastern adventure” or for “ships in the South China Sea”, Turnbull said he would not.
“We assess all requests for military assistance on their merits. And there is no linkage, no linkage at all between an arrangement relating to a refugee resettlement and any other matters,” he said.
He said Australia’s military worked very closely with the US military so he would not be caught off-guard by any requests for military help from Trump.
On Saturday the White House released a list of calls and meetings between Trump and other world leaders, which failed to name Turnbull and referred to him as “the president of Australia”.