How would Australia deal with President Trump?
Somewhere in Canberra, in a bunker that requires a retina scan for entry and is swept hourly for bugs, experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Defence Force and the Advanced Hair Studio are undoubtedly war-gaming a scenario that was once unthinkable, but is now looking increasingly likely: President Trump.
Once best known for fake-sacking fake employees and writing his name on garish buildings, the billionaire’s candidacy has gone from enacting a joke from The Simpsons to becoming the Republican frontrunner, while remaining no less amusing.
His policies consist exclusively of “captain’s calls”, he has offended just about every demographic group besides white men, and his platform’s as confusing as our new $5 note. But still The Donald marches on to what will soon be known as the Trump White House Resort And Casino.
So Australia needs to start thinking about how to deal with a man who combines Jacqui Lambie’s maverick unpredictability with Kanye West’s love of a Twitter outburst.
While we’ve traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the US, we could be in trouble if Trump takes up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue, because we’ve done very little to ingratiate ourselves with his business interests.
The most obvious problem is that there are no Trump properties anywhere in Australia. We would be wise to approve a few shiny towers as a gesture of goodwill, ideally on the Gold Coast. To celebrate the new Trump Surfers Paradise, we could present him with a pair of white sandshoes featuring the presidential seal.
There are also some markets where we dare to compete with the Trump Organisation. We run our own universities and produce our own wines, and we continue to export our own beef despite him making it very clear that Trump steaks are the best in the world, regardless of whether they’re actually on sale.
We even screened a local version of The Apprentice, in which we replaced The Donald with a guy you just know he’d call Borin’ Mark Bouris. Sad!
Most impertinently of all, we’ve got a competing billionaire politician in Clive Palmer. Like Trump, he gets media coverage for every bizarre whim, thanks to a fascinating lack of filter between brain and mouth. And like Trump, Palmer has owned resorts featuring golf courses, and has a — well, let’s say an interesting business record, because he’s as litigious as his American counterpart.
Given our cheek in competing with the Trumpire, it might be time for some displays of obeisance. Ambassador Joe Hockey could be sent to stand awkwardly on one side during a news conference, and since Trump appreciates endorsements from former politicians with a unique approach to the English language, we should deploy Pauline Hanson as a special envoy.
Australia will want to align itself with President Trump’s policies, but they aren’t always easy to discern, even for Trump himself. It is clear, though, that he wants to “bomb the (expletive) out of ISIS”, — presumably in keeping with our usual approach, we’ll simply go along with him on all this.
We could appeal to his love of walls by offering our rabbit-proof fence expertise, and no doubt he’d also approve of our habit of making special policies for casinos. In fact, it might be prudent to appoint James Packer as a special cultural attaché, just as long as Trump has forgiven him for building the hotel he once wanted to construct in Barangaroo. The potential president might still go for a joint venture, especially if it was called Crowned Trump.
The former Apprentice presenter has taken a strong position against American companies’ overseas manufacturing, preferring that the US makes things such as iPhones on its own soil. This will suit us, seeing as we have practically no manufacturing industry. What we can offer is iron ore for future skyscrapers, which we should begin marketing as “casino-grade”.
There are some points of difference, however. He’s opposed to gun control, wants to take on China at the trade table, and has released a more comprehensive tax reform plan than any major Australian party has dared to put out.
While President Trump would be our most sensitive diplomatic relationship since Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman split, the good news is that we have the right leader in place. Malcolm Turnbull knows how to handle irascible billionaires, as he was Kerry Packer’s lawyer. Like Trump, he’s also a prolific tweeter with a fondness for waterside mansions. In fact, since the PM isn’t using it, Kirribilli House might make an excellent Sydney Mar-a-Lago.
If Trump wins the election, Australians can be confident of one unique advantage. The usual rules and restraints of political conduct simply won’t apply, meaning that anything could happen at any time. After the bizarre unpredictability of the past six years in Australian politics, we will be well prepared to handle President Trump.
Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald