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US-Australia alliance 'has survived crises before': Simon Jackman -

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SABRA LANE: Malcolm Turnbull can't seem to take a trick.

Earlier this week he was lashed for failing to stand up to the new US President; and then yesterday the Prime Minister was caned for upsetting Donald Trump and for not being straight about the substance of their phone call last weekend - which, by all accounts, focused solely on the refugee deal.

So should Australia be alarmed or at ease over Mr Trump's responses?

Professor Simon Jackman heads the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. I spoke to him a short time ago.

Professor Jackman, thanks for talking to AM. How worried should Australians be that we've witnessed this tension so early in the life of Mr Trump's presidency?

SIMON JACKMAN: Look, it's not a good look. There's no way to skin what happened between the Prime Minister and the President any other way.

But I think you've got to keep in mind that the foundations of the US relationship are very broad and very deep and that, you know, the alliance has survived crises before. I don't think I'd call this a crisis, but it will get through this one OK as well.

SABRA LANE: Should it surprise people that Mr Trump thinks that the refugee deal is a "dumb deal", given his campaign rhetoric on these things?

SIMON JACKMAN: No, it shouldn't, right? And I think that what Australians need to keep in mind: the very fact that this deal is not dead on arrival and has survived first contact, perhaps even second contact with the Trump administration speaks how highly Australia rates in DC, and of the great work that I think our embassy over there must be doing to keep this thing alive.

SABRA LANE: Australia has been a long and trusted ally. The alliance is 65 years old. How significant is this particular incident in the life of the relationship?

SIMON JACKMAN: Yeah. You know, these things do come up from time to time: not often. I think you've got to go back to the MX missile test crisis back in - what was that: the Hawke government? And before that, you might go back to the tension that simmered between Nixon and Whitlam.

You know, good relationships sometimes have down moments. But the point is: all in all, when you keep in mind the breadth and the depth of this relationship, it will endure this. There's plenty of other things Australia and the United States will be doing business on in the years ahead.

SABRA LANE: Should it change Australia's approach to the relationship during the next four years? And if so, how?

SIMON JACKMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Look, Australia… Before the election, I think, Australia's foreign policy establishment was coming to the view that it's time for Australia to have a very hard think about all its strategic relationships, but perhaps especially the American one.

Irrespective of who won, I think Australia was going to be asked to do more, one way or another.

Now, this isn't quite the outcome anybody was expecting, nor has this sort of moment of introspection… I think it's arrived a little sooner than anybody was anticipating, either. But, you know, it's always…

SABRA LANE: It's not the way to treat an ally if you want them to do more?

SIMON JACKMAN: Well, that's true. That's true. And I think that is a message that is going to be delivered loud and clear to the Trump administration by the many, many friends Australia has in Washington.

Today it's happened already. John McCain has issued a very forceful, eloquent press release reminding Americans of the strong and long relationship between Australia and the United States. And if anything, I'd say Australia has had a fantastic 36 hours in the American media on the back of this.

You know, I've been bouncing between the two countries in my entire adult life. I do not recall a news cycle in the United States where Australia has had more positive press on the back of what looks like a crisis here. I think it actually could even be building capital for Australia going forward, and behoves us on this end, you know?

Of course, we've got to think seriously about the American relationship. We'd be crazy not to.

SABRA LANE: Mr Turnbull's been really restrained in talking about what actually happened on that phone call last weekend until the details were leaked yesterday. How can the two leaders trust one another now?

SIMON JACKMAN: Look, at the end of the day, I think Trump is a dealmaker. I think he feels, perhaps, boxed in on this one.

The fact that he can't bring himself to kill the deal: I think he's got people around him telling him how important this is to an important ally like Australia. I suspect, personally, that probably drives him crazy, given his political rhetoric and everything else he's done and said with respect to immigration - and in particular, immigration from countries he's got qualms about, with respect to national security.

I suspect that there will be a deal down the road, not too long from now: where it's another deal and another day for Donald Trump where Australia is on the winning side from where he sees it. And it will just be another deal and we'll take it from there.

SABRA LANE: This will go down well in the United States with Mr Trump's supporters, won't it? I mean, he's carrying out what he said he was going to do. He's unconventional and he's upending the normal way of doing politics?

SIMON JACKMAN: That's exactly right. And indeed, he may be buying himself some political cover in the United States by stamping his feet on this one.

He probably understands it's something he may end up having to do - and he may not, by the way. But if he does end up doing it, I think he is buying himself some political cover with his base by stamping his feet loud and long over this one.

SABRA LANE: On a scale of one to 10, one being unlikely, how likely do you think it is that he will actually honour the deal?

SIMON JACKMAN: Six. (Laughs) Six.

SABRA LANE: All right. Simon Jackman, thank you very much for talking to AM.

SIMON JACKMAN: Thank you.

SABRA LANE: And that's Professor Simon Jackman, who heads the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.