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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has refused to follow the lead of other world leaders and criticise Donald Trump’s harsh new immigration measures, saying he would not “run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries”.
Speaking publicly a day after his first phone call with Mr Trump since the billionaire businessman was sworn in as US President, Mr Turnbull said that if the policies were found to be harming the freedom of Australians to travel to the US, the Australian government would take it up with their American counterparts.
But in contrast to the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Canada, Mr Turnbull declined to condemn or signal disagreement with the new US executive order, which imposes a range restrictions – some temporary and some indefinite – on refugee intakes and other immigration to the US. This includes a three-month ban on virtually all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries entering the US.
“It’s not my job as Prime Minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries,” Mr Turnbull said.
He did however draw a distinction between Australia and the US, pointing to Australia’s non-discriminatory immigration policy. Asked whether he found Mr Trump’s policy discriminatory, Mr Turnbull said that “our rules, our values are very well known”.
“Our commitment to multiculturalism, our commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration program is well known … so that’s where we stand. That’s our policy. But our borders are secure. That is the bottom line,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said Australia’s border protection arrangements were “the envy of the world”.
He said there were as yet no known cases of Australian dual nationals being stopped from travelling to the US or otherwise having difficulty that needed consular assistance from the Australian government. Under the executive order signed by Mr Trump, citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen cannot enter the US for the next three months, suggesting that Australians who have dual nationality with one of those countries could be affected.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all spoken out against Mr Trump’s clampdown, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted pointedly timed tweets saying Canada welcomed refugees.
Those criticisms have included not just how Mr Trump’s executive order may affect dual nationals of their countries but also about the principle of discriminating against citizens of some countries and the world’s shared responsibility to solve the current refugee crisis.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd tweeted overnight that Mr Trump’s order could hamper the fight against the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
“I fear impact of Friday’s change in US immigration policy on ISIS future global recruitment and probability of further terrorist attacks in US,” he said.
Germany’s Dr Merkel reportedly explained the obligations of the Geneva Convention to Mr Trump when the pair spoke.
“The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” her spokesman said. “She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.
“The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”
Canada’s Mr Trudeau tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Ms May said US immigration policy was a matter for the US government but added: “But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking.”
France’s Mr Hollande warned Mr Trump against withdrawing from democratic principles, “in particular the acceptance of refugees”.
“Faced with an unstable and uncertain world, withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response,” Mr Hollande said.
Confirming for the first time publicly that Mr Trump had vowed to honour a pre-existing deal for the US to resettle some refugees currently held on Nauru and Manus Island, Mr Turnbull did not provide any further detail on how many of the roughly 2000 refugees the US would accept.
He said US officials were still carrying out their assessments and security checks and which individuals the US accepted was “entirely in the hands of United States government’s agencies”.
The story Malcolm Turnbull refuses to condemn Donald Trump’s US immigration ban first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.