Turnbull reached Trump early via Greg Norman via Joe Hockey – November 2016

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Foreign Affairs,

Eye-catching story of the week was that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became just the second head of government to speak personally to Donald Trump after his election success because Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, passed on Mr Trump’s private mobile number.

Mr Hockey reportedly obtained the number from Australian golfing great Greg Norman, a golfing “mate” of Mr Trump, according to an article in The New York Times, quoting Norman.

On the home front, things haven’t been so smooth for the Prime Minister.

Questioned on the ABC’s 7.30 program about the persistent pressure from Coalition MPs to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, Mr Turnbull agreed that it was not a priority issue for the electorate.

But he said the ABC and “elite media” were responsible for distracting people from the government's focus on economic growth. He was at pains to emphasise that he was in touch with the concerns of real people.

“How many Australians do you reckon sat around on Saturday night and said: 'Geez, you know what I am really worried about? Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act',” 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales asked him.

“Well it isn't a subject on everybody's lips, I can assure you of that but … it raises important issues relating to free speech. But you're right, it is not the big issue – the one that I spent eight weeks of the election campaign talking about which is the economy, it is about jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.

The president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has backed the proposal to change section 18C – although Mr Turnbull has made it clear she will not be reappointed.

The current law makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of race. Professor Triggs said removing offend and insult and inserting “vilify” would be a strengthening of the laws. “It could be a very useful thing to do,” she told ABC radio.

Mr Turnbull has strongly criticised Labor demands for a crackdown of the use 457 visas for temporary skilled migrants but the Government itself has put forward proposals that would tighten the screws on the use of foreign workers by forcing them to leave the country sooner if they lose their job.

The Government hopes it will ease concerns among its own backbench and the voting public about the use of foreign workers. Labor dismissed it as tinkering at the edges.

The change means that a 457 visa holder who loses their job must leave the country within 60 days, down from the current 90 days, if they are unable to find a new sponsor.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the change “will assist in ensuring that the 457 program meets its intent of acting as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, Australian workers”.

On another front, the news was more positive. Tony Abbott said Mr Turnbull’s complaints about the so-called “elite media” showed he had changed.

He said Mr Turnbull was growing into the role of prime minister and applauded him for acting like a “centre-right” leader should.

Mr Abbott said he was pleased the man who ousted him from the top job was standing up for the public on issues like the impact of renewable energy policies on power prices, border protection and union corruption.

Further Reading