US Politics

Former PM John Howard says Australia can trust Donald Trump

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Former Prime Minister John Howard said it is too early to judge the US President and urges people to look past the 'different style' of Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump is a man Australia can trust and those writing him off are "foolish," former Prime Minister John Howard has told a forum in Sydney.

Mr Howard was speaking at an event hosted by Sydney University's United States Studies Centre and moderated by the editor-at-large of The Australian newspaper Paul Kelly.

When asked whether Mr Trump will be a successful president, Mr Howard said it was too early to tell.

“I think the key to [President] Trump’s political future lies very much in how successful he is on meeting the expectations of those who supported him,” Mr Howard said.

On Trump’s tendency to tweet, Mr Howard said he doubted that would cease, and urged people to look at the substance of his decisions instead.

“His style is different and we have to look through the style. We’ve got to be careful we don’t fall for the trap of rushing to judgment.”

Mr Howard said after a hesitant start to the year, President Trump had worked to reaffirm the One China policy as well as NATO, and that he “seemed to be doing things to maintain a good relationship with European countries.”

Australia can trust Trump as President and as an alliance partner, Mr Howard said, although that “doesn’t mean he’s always going to do what we want him to.”

The main risks for Australia’s relationship with the US lie in the area of trade as they “always have,” Mr Howard said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s dealings with the Trump administration so far were praised, with Mr Howard scoring his efforts to secure a deal over Manus Island refugees a solid 10/10.

"I think Malcolm Turnbull has handled him very well. [He] came out of the exchange over the Manus Island deal as someone who was sticking up for the Australian national interest and that's what a Prime Minister should do."

Mr Howard became Prime Minister halfway through Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1996. He was also PM during the 2000 US election, which saw the mismatch of the Electoral College and the popular vote.

Conservatives welcome in Libs

Mr Howard said there will "always be a place for conservatives in the Liberal Party," when asked about Prime Minister Turnbull's speech in London earlier this week.

Mr Turnbull had used the speech to appeal to the "sensible centre" after weeks of party in-fighting over the direction of the coalition, largely driven by another former liberal Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. 

Mr Howard warned conservatives not to seek out minor parties, like that of breakaway South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, and said it will only "end in tears."

"If you're a conservative, you're always welcome in the Liberal Party," Mr Howard said. 

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