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Donald Trump tests Australia-US alliance like never before -

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STAN GRANT, PRESENTER: The Australian American alliance has endured, indeed strengthened through war, recession, political crisis but Donald Trump is testing it in ways, many say, are unseen before.

There is so much uncertainty, volatility and questions about President Trump's impulsiveness but people with long histories in diplomacy and defence and security are seriously asking whether it is time to recalibrate what has been an essential strategic relationship.

It is all tied to the extraordinary revelations this week of a tense phone call between Malcolm Turnbull and the President and the ongoing speculation about a deal for America to take asylum seekers Australia detains offshore.

In a moment, we speak to senior Government Minister Christopher Pyne, but first, Matt Peacock takes the temperature of Australia's ties with its most important ally.

MATT PEACOCK, REPORTER: It is the phone call that reverberated across the globe.

In Washington, senior political figures have been quick to hose down the damage from the biggest public spat between two close allies in decades.

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I know Prime Minister Turnbull, he was in my office a couple of months ago.

He is a very important ally. Australia is a very essential ally - they are and they will continue to be.

I think it is important that presidents and prime ministers, heads of state, are able to have candid and private conversations with one another.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: I think the President should sleep more and tweet less but that is his call.

The relationship is strong, it will withstand the phone call but in a tense world, our President need to be firm, even with our allies but not present ourselves as a nation who doesn't appreciate all Australia has done.

MATT PEACOCK: White House spokesman Sean Spicer was also making soothing sounds.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The President is unbelievably disappointed in the previous administration's deal that was made and how poorly it was crafted and the threats to national security it put the United States under.

He has tremendous respect for the Prime Minister and for the Australian people and has agreed to continue to review that deal.

MATT PEACOCK: But his efforts weren't helped by an embarrassing stumble on the Australian Prime Minister's name.

SEAN SPICER: The President had a cordial conversation with Prime Minister Trumbell ... respect for Prime Minister Trumbell.

JOHN LAWS: I welcome our very own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the studio.

MATT PEACOCK: Today, Malcolm Turnbull was also playing down the damage, assuring that the refugee deal with the US will go ahead.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, PRIME MINISTER: It is obviously a deal he wouldn't have done, he has expressed his views about it.

But he has committed to doing it.

DONALD TRUMP, US PRESIDENT: A lot of people taking advantage of us, a lot of countries taking advantage of us.

MATT PEACOCK: But was there a cost we have yet to hear about?

PROF. JAMES CURRAN, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: He will expect something in return for this deal. There have been suggestions from the White House that the Americans will expect Australia to contribute a battalion to Iraq or Syria or perhaps to conduct a freedom of navigation patrol through the contested waters in the South China Sea.

And neither of those, I would argue, are in Australia's national interest.

DONALD TRUMP: I have a lot of respect for Australia. I love Australia as a country.

MATT PEACOCK: It is not the first spat between the two countries but according to Sydney University's James Curran, who has studied the history of the alliance, this one is different.

JAMES CURRAN: It is not uncommon in the history of the alliance to have violent disagreements between American presidents and Australian prime ministers but what is unprecedented is the fact that this telephone conversation has been leaked.

DR MICHAEL FULLILOVE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOWY INSTITUTE: Based on everything we know about Mr Trump, it is not surprising that he has a poor telephone manner or that he is rough and ready with his tweeting.

So it is both, like everything Mr Trump does, it is shocking and yet unsurprising.

MATT PEACOCK: The US alliance has been the cornerstone of Australia's national security since 1942, when the Japanese invasion seemed imminent.

It was to America the then prime minister Curtin declared that Australia had to look for support. The ties that formed then have lasted down the decades.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: My father was stationed in Australia during World War II and actually served in an Australian unit for a period of time in New Guinea.

If politics is music, the president was off key.

MATT PEACOCK: President Trump's tweet has also produced a rare display of Australian political unity.

BILL SHORTEN, OPPOSITION LEADER: I don't think you can run an American alliance by, an American Australian alliance by Twitter.

If the media reports are right, I think Mr Trump needs to show more respect to Malcolm Turnbull and to Australia than it would appear has happened.

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON: Every American and LBJ is with Australia all the way.

MATT PEACOCK: Australia's joined the United States in every major conflict since World War II, including Vietnam and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, though, it might be different.

JAMES CURRAN: These are new and dramatic circumstances. This is a different kind of America and a very different kind of president to which Australian leaders are used to dealing with.

They can't retreat into the assumptions of the past and think now that the old appeal to values and shared history will necessarily work.

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: I think the alliance is larger than Mr Trump and I think the alliance will survive Mr Trump and the reason is that it is in our vital national interest and it is in America's national interest but equally, this is not business as usual.

This is not normal behaviour and so I think Canberra will be recalibrating how it works within the alliance.

MATT PEACOCK: Australia still has joint spy facilities and US marines stationed in the Northern Territory, neither of which are likely to be reconsidered any time soon.

But, equally, there will be more distance now between Canberra and the White House.

JAMES CURRAN: We will need to say no to President Trump, I suspect, a little bit more often.