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Bob Carr says Trump-Turnbull phone conversation a wake-up call for Australia -

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STAN GRANT, PRESENTER: So, should Malcolm Turnbull take a tougher public stance against Donald Trump? Certainly former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr seems to think so.

Carr has penned an editorial calling Trump a loudmouth nationalist. He says our leaders have acted like doting couriers in the past to the US, and Trump's behaviour is a wake-up call to those who insist we have a special relationship with America. Bob Carr heads the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology. He joined me earlier from Singapore.

Bob Carr, good to have you with us. You've written an editorial where you are questioning the future and scope of the US-Australia alliance. Is that not an overreaction to the Trump presidency?

BOB CARR, FORMER LABOR FOREIGN MINISTER: Oh, it would be if that's what I was saying, but in the op-ed I've written for The Australian tomorrow, I say that this is...this is a healthy thing for Australia.

The response of Donald Trump to the phone call made by our Prime Minister... I think it's a reminder to Australians that America is different, America has changed. America is declaring it's "America first from now on". That's a quote from the inauguration speech by the President.

And I just think it's healthy if we absorb that fact. Everyone supports the alliance in Australia, there's a consensus on that. I'm not advocating we move away from it. It's one of the pillars of Australian foreign policy, but it's not the be all and the end all of Australia's international character. And that's the point I'm making.

STAN GRANT: No, I hear you on the nature of Donald Trump and what he's had to say about America's role in the world, but how has that helped the relationship with the US and dealing with Donald Trump when you are using phrases such as a "loudmouth nationalist", that's what you're calling him.

You're saying that it should wake us up to the quaint belief that the US-Australia relationship is somehow something special. How does that help in what is a volatile time?

BOB CARR: Well, Stan, take that point I made - the notion that somehow we've got the most special relationship with America in the world. I could easily give you a list of 20 countries that hold that belief.

America is the proud possessor of an alliance system. It's one of the things that distinguishes the US and advantages it over any other contenders for global leadership. And it's useful if Australians understand that Poland, for example, would regard itself as having every bit as special a relationship with the United States as Australia. That Barack Obama, on his farewell tour to Europe, was talking about Germany as America's most important partner in the world.

In Britain, the Trans-Atlantic Alliance is regarded as an article of religious faith, up there with the Apostles' Creed. We've got to be... I think we've got to be sensible and realistic as Australians and practical about the alliance. It is not the only part of our international personality.

And if this rude dismissal of the representations by an Australian Prime Minister's altogether legitimate representations by President Trump serves to remind Australians of that great truth, that's a very good and healthy thing.

STAN GRANT: You talk about being realistic and sensible. Is that not what Malcolm Turnbull is doing here?

He has negotiated with Donald Trump. He says he has secured the deal to take some of the asylum seekers with the United States. Is that not better than calling him a loudmouth nationalist or other insults that others have thrown at Donald Trump?

BOB CARR: Well, if you're saying, Stan, that no Australian can criticise Donald Trump, that's a remarkable position to adopt. I think Donald Trump ought to be taken at his own measure.

He is saying he's a nationalist. He's saying, he said it in his inaugural address, that he's putting America first. He called NATO, this is his attitude towards alliances, he called NATO a redundant alliance. Now, we don't want to live... We don't want to live under the illusion that things are the same as they once were - where an American President can tweet his contempt for an Australian Prime Minister after what the Australian Prime Minister might have expected to have been treated as a confidential exchange between friends.

This has been... It has been a rude treatment of an Australian leader, unprecedented in the contact between Australian leadership and American leadership. It was followed up by a highly offensive tweet that was entirely unnecessary. And it contained... It contained the message that this American president doesn't regard ANZUS as a useful starting point for the Australian-American relationship. You don't treat a loyal treaty partner like this.

STAN GRANT: But...

BOB CARR: And that's why I said...I said in my draft op-ed that I hope appears tomorrow, that this is a darn healthy thing for Australians and I think we ought to reflect on it.

STAN GRANT: But it is about doing what is productive. The US still is a key part of the world global order. It has been a bedrock of, as you know, a bedrock of security and stability in the region and the relationship has been the bedrock one for Australia as well.

As Malcolm Turnbull seeks to navigate that at these times - isn't it better to be prudent rather than to be seen to be provocative?

BOB CARR: Stan, I've got no idea what your argument is. If Australians are banned on commenting on the most negative exchange between an Australian Prime Minister and an American President, going back to the time of John Curtin and Franklin Roosevelt, then I don't know what's become of any notion of us as an independent nation, and one that chooses to be an alliance partner of the US. That's our status here.

And if criticism of the United States is forbidden, if it's beyond the possibility that we could respond to a nationalistic dismissal of an Australian Prime Minister by the new American President, then I don't know what's become of us.

STAN GRANT: OK. Good to talk to you, sir. Thank you again for joining us.

BOB CARR: My pleasure. Thank you.