Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who flew halfway around the world to meet with Donald Trump today, had his New York meeting with the US president cut to just 30 minutes after Trump stayed in Washington to celebrate Republicans finally winning the House vote to replace “Obamacare”.
The pair met in dinner suits aboard the decommissioned USS Intrepid, which is now a museum, ahead of the pair speaking at a gala dinner to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea on the ship.
Trump flew to New York, his home town, for the first time since he became president to meet with Turnbull face-to-face in a move some interpret as an attempt to repair the damage caused by a fractious phone call between the pair in the early days of Trump’s presidency.
But the US president called any suggestions of conflict over the call a “a bit of fake news”.
“You guys exaggerated that call,” Trump said. “I mean, we’re not babies. We had a great call. Right?”
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 4, 2017
The President said the controversial deal to take refugees from Australian detention centres, which supposedly sparked the clash, was “all worked out”.
“That has been worked out for a long time,” he said.
Turnbull was empathetic when Trump said he “appreciated him waiting”.
“Well I know the feeling! We have challenges with our parliament too. We have only 29 seats in a Senate of 76 so you need a lot of work to get legislation through,” the Australian prime minister quipped.
During his speech at the Coral Sea dinner later on, Turnbull began by congratulating Trump on his success in Congress with the healthcare bill.
“It’s especially great to win a vote you were expected to lose,” Turnbull said.
The Australian PM spent the day meeting with US counter-terrorism experts and touring NYPD Counter-Terrorism Joint Operations Centre, as well as discussing energy policy with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, a key Trump advisor, and meeting the Commander of the US Pacific Command about North Korea. His meeting with the President was put back three hours to 7.15pm local time and cut to just 30 minutes. The White House had the pair scheduled to discuss expanded bilateral agreements between the two nations alongside officials from both countries. It is the first time they’ve met in person.
Trump called Turnbull to explain the reason for delaying their meeting and held an extended press conference at the White House before heading to New York
He later quipped to Turnbull that “right now Obamacare is failing… I shouldn’t say this to my great friend from Australia because you have better healthcare than we do.”
Repealing Obamacare was a key election promise for Trump during the presidential campaign.
The PM will leave New York tomorrow, returning to Australia for Tuesday’s federal Budget. .
Speaking to the press ahead of their meeting, Trump said he loved Australia – “I always have” – adding it was “one of the most beautiful places on earth”.
Australia and the US had a “fantastic” relationshop
Expatriate golfer Greg Norman received a shout out from the president as “a friend of ours” who was at this evening’s dinner
Trump said the US had a “fantastic” relationship with Australia and promised to visit the country during his term.
“I have so many friends there. I will be there. We will be there absolutely,” he said.
The president went on to praise social media as “a great way to communicate, the modern way to communicate”.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 4, 2017
Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, along with Australia’s Us ambassador, Joe Hockey, met with seven veterans of the Battle of the Coral Sea aboard the Intrepid ahead of the commemorative dinner.
— Australia in the US (@AusintheUS) May 4, 2017
— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) May 4, 2017
Here is part of the PM’s address at the dinner, via SkyNews Australia.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 5, 2017
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