Early on in Malcolm Turnbull’s infamous January 28, 2017, phone call with US President Donald Trump, the Australian Prime Minister revealed something that has largely been ignored.
It could be significant in the light of Mr Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration and the release of horrifying images and audio of crying children caught on the US-Mexico border and locked in cages in detention centres.
That contentious Turnbull-Trump phone call came just eight days into the Trump presidency.
However, the transcript of the call revealed Mr Turnbull had already discussed Australia’s tough immigration policies with the President’s son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner.
“We have, as you know, taken a very strong line on national security and border protection here and when I was speaking with Jared Kushner just the other day, and one of your immigration advisers in the White House, we reflected on how our policies have helped to inform your approach,” Mr Turnbull told the President.
“We are very much of the same mind.”
Mr Turnbull made the comment while attempting to persuade Mr Trump to accept up to 1250 asylum-seekers prevented from entering Australia and housed on Manus Island and Nauru.
It was a deal Mr Turnbull struck when Barack Obama was president.
Mr Trump reluctantly agreed to the deal.
The phone call transcript, leaked to The Washington Post, showed Mr Trump liked Australia’s tough approach to refugees.
“You are worse than I am,” Mr Trump told Mr Turnbull.
In the weeks and months after that phone call, the President rolled out strict, controversial immigration and border control policies.
Australia was referenced by the White House in public comments.
In August last year, when Mr Trump announced a major overhaul of America’s immigration policy that would eliminate the green card lottery, his key adviser on the issue, Stephen Miller, took centre stage at a fiery White House press briefing.
“We are establishing a new entry system that’s points based,” Mr Miller told reporters.
“Australia has a points-based system, Canada has a points-based system.
“And what will the system look at? It will look at, does the applicant speak English?
“Can they support themselves and their families financially?
“Do they have a skill that will add to the US economy?
“Are they being paid a high wage?”
The transcript from the January 28, 2017, phone call shows Mr Trump had concerns the refugees held on Manus Island and Nauru could become “the Boston bomber in five years”.
“Why haven’t you let them out?” Mr Trump asked Mr Turnbull.
“Why have you not let them into your society?”
Mr Turnbull endeavoured to explain Australia’s policy.
“It is not because they are bad people,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is because, in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product.
“So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Nobel prize-winning genius, we will not let you in.”
Mr Trump was impressed.
“That is a good idea,” the President told Mr Turnbull.
“We should do that, too.”