politics

Malcolm Turnbull, you cannot remain silent about President Trump's Muslim immigration ban.

It seems almost unbelievable.

Trump has kicked off his presidency with an iron-fisted immigration ban that effectively will prevent 218 million people entering America. Signed this week, the ban will see anyone from his seven black-listed ‘Muslim-majority’ nations unable enter the US for 90 days, or be issued an immigrant or non-immigrant visa.

Refugees from war torn Syria are banned indefinitely.

Around the world, even the most conservative of political leaders have stood defiantly to condemn Trump’s policy and the pandemonium it has caused.

“We do not agree with this approach, and it is not one we will be taking” stated British Prime Minister Theresa May; whilst French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated, “Terrorism doesn’t have a nationality; discrimination is not an answer.”

Liberal leaders like Justin Trudeau were even more forthright in their support.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he tweeted on Saturday.

But on home soil, our silence was deafening.

When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull finally did step up to the podium to make an official comment yesterday, it was shamefully noncommittal.

After a short spiel promoting the Australian-American political relationship, he opened the floor to questions. Inevitably, he was asked about his opinion on Trump’s recently installed Muslim immigration ban. He shifted uncomfortably in front of the cameras before delivering a response that left many shocked.

“It’s not my job as Prime Minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries,” he said.

“We have here, in Australia, border security arrangements that are the envy of the world.”

Sensing the stunned response, Prime Minister Turnbull was quick to defend himself.

“When I was at the U.N. in September,” he said, “leader after leader spoke to me about how much they admired the intelligence-based security systems we have on our border to keep Australians safe, and to keep terrorists out of Australia.”

It was an embarrassment.

In the days since Trump’s election, it has been universally understood that the world has undergone a seismic shift.

Madness has replaced reason, fear has replaced compassion, and greed has replaced hospitality.

ADVERTISEMENT

The once feverish embrace of globalisation and travel has begun to shut down, replaced with fear and nationalistic calls to ‘protect our own’. (Even at the cost of others.)

Almost every nation – ours included – has seen the rise of a fear-mongering right convincing anyone who will listen that Muslim immigration is to blame for international terrorism.

And at the center of it all, the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.

World leaders and world citizens alike are protesting against the horror of Trump’s leadership. America’s new President has become the figurehead of fear, and is splitting the world down the middle: those who will fight for what is fair, and those who will not.

It seems unimaginable that the leader of our diverse and welcoming nation would ever fall into the latter category.

donald trump build the wall
Donald Trump's immigration ban has seen leaders worldwide speak out against his policies. Notably missing was our own leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who chose to remain silent. (Source: Getty.)

There are few who share Mr Turnbull's noncommittal stance towards Trump's immigration ban, with a flood of Australian leaders coming forward to express their shame at his limp response.

Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek was floored by his silence - “I think it’s extraordinary that the Australian Government seems missing in action on this action from the United States."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten voiced a similar sentiment, saying that Turnbull's silence could be interpreted as compliancy to to Trump's policies.

ADVERTISEMENT

"For that reason, I need to say that Mr Trump's ban on refugees based upon their religion or country is appalling and ought to be ended as soon as possible," wrote Shorten on his Twitter account.

penny wong speech on gay marriage plebiscite
Senator Penny Wong has been vocal in her disapproval of Mr Turnbull's impartial comments. (Image: Getty)

Speaking on ABC Radio last night, Senator Penny Wong was also vocal in her disappointment with Prime Minister Turnbull's non-committal response.

"I saw the Prime Minister's press conference today and what we saw was a man who was desperate not to say anything," she said.

"Let's be clear, Australians across our great country have spoken out with concern with what is occurring in the United States. Labor disagrees with their policy, we have a strong view that you don't ban people based on their origin or race or religion."

She noted that Australia has celebrated a non-discriminatory immigration policy for over four decades, adding it was "...disappointing that Prime Minister Turnbull feels so scared to stand up for what he believes in."

Wong said she believed Turnbull needed to 'find courage' in his stance against the Muslim immigration ban.

"An elected [party] does have the right to do what it says it was going to do, and an elected Australian government has the right to stand up for Australian interests and Australian values," said Wong.

While politicians continue to condemn Mr Turnbull, every day Aussies are also taking to social media to also express their sadness and frustration at his silence.

ADVERTISEMENT

"After my great grandparents were denied asylum in Aust they were murdered in Auschwitz. @TurnbullMalcolm please speak out against #MuslimBan" tweeted writer Mireille Juchau.

"Australia: the miserable cowardly friendless kid who gets his identity from supporting the playground bully. Thank you @TurnbullMalcolm" wrote another user.

The tides are turning. For most Australians, choosing to remain impartial to the Trump global disaster is simply no longer an option.

And yet, remaining impartial is precisely what Mr Turnbull has committed to.

In a follow-up press interview, the Prime Minister has said any communication with Trump in regards to the immigration ban will be done away from the public eye, saying our national interest is “best protected by me giving private counsel to our number one ally, the United States."

“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," said Mr Turnbull this morning.

“I don’t comment on American policy publicly. My job is to get results for Australia.”

All I can say is this: it's easy to be a coward behind closed doors, Mr Turnbull. Much harder to do it in front your people.

Prime Minister Turnbull: we are not a nation of people who shirk from helping those in need.

We are a country full of people desperate to extend our values of diversity, mateship, and equality to those in the world who need it now, more than ever.

We do not want a leader who chooses silence over strength, or censorship over controversy.

You say it is not your job to "run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries", but that is precisely your job.

Your job is to lead, not to follow. Your job is to listen to what your people are saying, and shout it to the world; to join the ranks of global powers to ensure you leave this world a better place than how you found it when elected to Prime Minister.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," said Edmund Burke, and I couldn't agree more. Silence is to tolerate Trump's scary new America, and I don't know a single Australian who would support that.

We're watching, and waiting.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???