Malcolm Turnbull says speaking out against Trump is not in Australia's national interest

Photo: Getty Images.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten openly challenged prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on his failure to make a stand against Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban in a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

Other political heads such as British prime minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel have this week condemned Trump for his actions.

“I will not stay silent – no matter how powerful the friend – when people are banned because of their religion, or their birthplace,” Shorten said.

“Because the job’s not worth having if you’re too weak to stand up for what you believe in.”

Turnbull has been criticised for a lack of commentary on US president Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily ban citizens from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US.

While Turnbull previously said it was not his job as prime minister to share his views on such diplomatic issues, Shorten later said that wasn’t good enough.

“Does our alliance with the US mean you have to agree with everything they say and do? I don’t thinks so,” said Shorten.

“I think when you’re the prime minister of Australia you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

However the prime minister has hit back at Shorten’s attack, justifying it by explaining that it’s not in Australia’s national interest for him to engage in the ongoing commentary.

“Look, what is important for me to do, as Australian prime minister, is to deliver for Australians and to deliver for the Australian national interest. That’s my job,” he said.

“When I have frank advice to give to an American president, I give it privately, as good friends should, as wise prime ministers do when they want to ensure they are best able to protect Australians and Australians’ national interest.

“Others can engage in commentary. My job is to stand up for Australia, Australian interests and deliver. That’s what we’ve done today.”

It came as the Turnbull government secured US exemption for Australian passport holders, which means that all dual-national Australian passport holders remain welcome to travel to the US.

The White House confirmed the US executive order of January 27 will not affect any Australian passport holder irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport.

It also confirmed that it will resettle 1250 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed publicly for the first time that the US would honour an agreement struck by former president Barack Obama, but has vowed “extreme vetting” will apply.

Turnbull is expected to speak at the National Press Club today where he will discuss economic growth, budget repair, trade, and education — one day after Shorten gave his speech.

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