Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull was an idiot to insist that, right in the middle of Donald Trump acting tough on refugees, the US honour Obama’s agreement take some of Australia’s imprisoned refugees.
Spinners suggest Turnbull was standing up to the bully. If he was, that’s like the class nerd insisting that the school bully honour the student charter. Admirable, but stupid, because not only do you still lose your lunch, you get a black eye.
It seems more likely that Turnbull is, like many in the political establishment, a bit rubbish at the job in the newly emerging conditions.
He, or his advisers, didn’t appreciate the scale of the request he was making of Trump. And over such a small domestic matter as 1250 refugees, which the Australian ruling elite hasn’t had the guts to fix itself.
Wouldn’t it have been far more insightful of Turnbull to recognise Trump’s position and say – “We are prepared to deal. How about we allow you to claim you forced us to back down on the agreement, and in return we fast track a refresh of the trade deal?”
New Zealand’s position as a fair dealer in international affairs poses some problems for us in the new world order. The relatively cosy forty years of Western establishment liberal understanding is ending. International relations is getting pushy again.
Realpolitik is back. Even to play our straight bat style, we will need the type of cunning that has been out of fashion in politics. It has also, dangerously, been out of use. Our politicians will need to learn the ropes quickly.