Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has stepped up his criticism of Malcolm Turnbull, slamming the Prime Minister for not “standing up for Australian values”.
In his first National Press Club address of the year on Tuesday, Mr Shorten continued to pursue Mr Turnbull for his decision not to speak out against US President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, which bans refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“When you are the Australian Prime Minister, you stand up for Australian values,” he said.
“When the German Prime Minister saw what was happening, she spoke up. When the Canadian Prime Minister saw what was happening, he spoke up. When the British Prime Minister saw what was happening, she spoke up.
“Our Prime Minister, when he saw what was happening, he stayed silent. There isn’t much point in having the top job if you’re not going to back in what you believe.”
Mr Shorten’s attack followed a Facebook post from the Labor leader urging Mr Turnbull to “reconsider what our nation’s position ought to be”.
Wherever possible, I want the United States to be able to go about its business without interference from…
He reaffirmed his stance on Tuesday, saying Australia’s alliance with America did not mean the nation’s leader had to agree with the US’s every action.
“I absolutely support the American alliance, but let’s be clear, sometimes there are issues where if the nation’s leader is silent, it can be interpreted as agreement,” he said.
“Does our alliance with America mean that you have to agree with everything they say and do? I don’t think so.”
Mr Shorten also said he would not apologise for his comments about Mr Trump made last year when he called him “barking mad”, but hopes his statement is incorrect.
“In terms of my comments about President Trump. Before the election, I seem to remember all sides of politics express some concerns about some of his views, and if you are asking me to apologise for criticising views which disrespect women, or disrespect people who come from different countries, how can I do that – because I don’t respect that,” he said.
“Now I hope I’m wrong. I hope that things work out.”
Malcolm Turnbull takes the stage at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Turnbull’s ‘frank advice’ to Trump
The Prime Minister has dismissed criticism for not speaking out about the US immigration ban, saying he will address any issues of concern with the President privately.
“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,” Mr Turnbull said.
“I don’t comment on American policy publicly. My job is to get results for Australia.”
He also rejected Mr Shorten’s comments, saying the Labor leader will do anything to gain political advantage.
“Now Bill Shorten is not the prime minister,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He wants to be, obviously. He will go out on anything that he thinks gives him the political advantage.
“He has no concern about our national interest and our national interest is best protected by me giving private council to the US, our most important ally, public refraining from commenting on their domestic policy, advancing the interests of Australia … and that is what I have done.”