Government is mismanaging US alliance: Albanese

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says Scott Morrison went too far in his relationship with Donald Trump. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says Scott Morrison went too far in his relationship with Donald Trump. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not speak to Donald Trump in his final days as US President, while the Opposition Leader will use a speech to accuse Mr Morrison of being too close to Mr Trump and mismanaging the alliance between the two countries.

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as president in the early hours of Thursday morning (AEDT), but Mr Morrison says the alliance between the two countries will not change despite the change in leadership.

In a stark departure from the usually bipartisan nature of Australia's foreign policy, Labor leader Anthony Albanese will on Wednesday accuse Mr Morrison of mismanaging the alliance with the United States, and call for a reset of the relationship under President Biden.

In a speech to the Perth USAsia Centre, Mr Albanese will say the government has poorly managed the alliance with America and Scott Morrison went "too far" in his relationship with President Trump.

"There is no doubt Mr Morrison put this affinity and his political interests first when he effectively went on a campaign rally stage with Donald Trump in Ohio," Mr Albanese will say.

He will also take a swipe at Foreign Minister Marise Payne, saying backbenchers like George Christensen and Andrew Hastie speaking out on foreign policy issues have been facilitated by an "absent" minister.

Mr Morrison has in recent days been more forceful in his language around President Trump and the events leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, but has still not criticised Mr Trump directly.

"Recently, unlike most world leaders, Scott Morrison refused to disavow President Trump's incitement of the storming of the Capitol," Mr Albanese will say.

"He remains afraid of the far-right extremist fringe dwellers who make up the bedrock of his personal support - and who he cultivates through the avatars of Trumpists and conspiracy theorists like Craig Kelly and George Christensen."

Ahead of Mr Biden's inauguration, the US ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr has quietly left the country.

Mr Culvahouse had previously signalled he would be leaving the role when Mr Biden took over the White House, acknowledging that as a political appointee his role would end with the president's term. President-elect Biden has requested that the Trump-appointed ambassador to Russia stay on, as well as others, but it is not clear if Mr Culvahouse was among those.

He leaves Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Goldman as acting Ambassador until the new administration makes an appointment.

As well as attacking the government's handling of the US relationship, Mr Albanese will call for a rest in the alliance in order to encourage the US to take on more leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.

"Australia's interests call for greater, more strategic effort from the US in south-east Asia," a draft of the speech says.

"Further encouraging the US to be more engaged will require Australia to lead the way through our own actions and lift our game in the region."

Australia's government is preparing for the change in administration in the United States, but Mr Morrison said on Tuesday the best is yet to come for the alliance.

Mr Morrison spoke to both outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recent days, describing the calls as a chance to thank them for their work in the alliance.

"We spoke about how important that relationship is now, probably more important than ever, and really welcomed their offers of the engagements they've had with the incoming administration," he said of the discussions.

"I welcome the fact that despite all the terrible things we've seen happen, there has been that positive engagement between them and those who are coming in after them."

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Mr Morrison said he had "no plans" to speak to Mr Trump before he leaves office.

The prime minister is confident a Biden presidency will not change the alliance between the two countries.

"I expect there would be a continuation of those policy settings that have so favoured the Australian alliance," Mr Morrison said.

He said the US alliance was important to Australia and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

"The one thing that always brought us together has been our understanding of how strategic and significant the relationship is," Mr Morrison said.

with AAP

This story Government is mismanaging US alliance: Albanese first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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