US President Donald Trump has agreed to an Australian refugee deal that he hates, but has “absolutely not” asked for anything in return, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.
Heading into the first parliamentary sitting week of the year, Mr Turnbull has tried to put a positive spin on a dismal week, during which Mr Trump reportedly said the refugee deal was “the worst ever” and publicly labelled it “dumb” on Twitter.
The spat has strained the US-Australia alliance but the prime minister insists there’s never been more public support for it.
“We have seen dozens and dozens of congressmen and senators talking about the importance of the Australian alliance,” he told the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.
“So this has been a very good week for Australia.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer late last week said the president would honour the asylum-seeker deal with Canberra “in some way”.
Mr Turnbull on Sunday said he had stood up to Mr Trump and secured his commitment to honour the resettlement plan agreed to by former president Barack Obama.
Asked if Mr Trump asked for anything in return, the Liberal leader replied: “Absolutely not.”
Mr Turnbull says Australia won’t owe the US any favours such as committing more troops to the Middle East or ships to the South China Sea.
“We assess all requests for military assistance on their merits,” Mr Turnbull said.
“There is no linkage at all between an arrangement relating to refugee resettlement and any other matters.”
The PM said the US and Australian military establishments worked “seamlessly” together.
“Any further or varied or different military engagement is something we assess on its merits.”