Australia’s prime minister played down the significance of a call from Donald Trump as “brief and uneventful”, despite mounting controversy over a politically fraught offer to help the US president.
Scott Morrison said Trump had simply asked him to establish “a point of contact” within Australia’s government for an investigation that the US president hopes will discredit findings that Russia helped his 2016 election campaign.
Morrison said he was “happy” to fulfil Trump’s request on the basis that the country’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, had already offered Australia’s assistance in the investigation back in May.
“It was fairly uneventful conversation,” Morrison told Sky News. “We’d said we were prepared to assist and cooperate in that investigation, which is not unusual. The US is a significant — in fact, our most signficant — ally and we’re used to sharing a lot of information.”
“Australia would never do anything contrary to our national interest. It would have been, frankly, more surprising had we chosen not to cooperate.”
Close relations with the United States usually enjoy strong bipartisan support in Australia, but that consensus has been tested since Trump took office — with the revelations surrounding the recent phone call sparking concern that Australia may be co-opted into helping Trump tarnish his domestic political rivals.