Xenophon’s comments followed remarks by one-time Australian defence minister and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley – lately the nation’s US ambassador – that a Trump victory could cause havoc for our national security and decimate the US alliance.
“He would trash basically the structure of alliance relationships and trade relationships in our immediate region… that would affect in a major way some of our most important trading partners and destabilise enormously the relationship we have in the north part of Asia,” Beazley told the ABC.
Xenophon told ABC891 radio today the one-time Labor leader was “a wise and measured man” and “I don’t think he’s said what he said lightly”.
“The elephant in the room is this: if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, and depending on some of the foreign policy initiatives he’ll carry out – that he’s threatened -then I think that may force a rethink of the US-Australian alliance,” he said.
Xenophon has himself been compared to Trump by political opponents accusing him of populist politics. It was also a comparsion leveled by Ian Dempsey, the priest against whom Xenophon used parliamentary privilege to air an accusation of rape – an accusation that was never borne out.
But the Senator, whose party won three upper house seats at the recent federal election, said any comparison between him and Trump was “really rough” and “quite reckless”.
Liberal Education Minister and fellow SA senator Simon Birmingham was more diplomatic in responding to questions about Beazley’s comments, but hardly offered a glowing endorsement of the business magnate turned aspiring US President.
“Kim Beazley is a very respected figure in foreign circles, he’s very knowledgeable and informed and obviously he sounds warnings that people around the world would listen to and consider,” he said.
“The Government has been clear all along that the decision for the presidency of the United States is a matter for the American people, and obviously we will seek to work with whomever is elected.”
Asked if that included a “total nutbag”, Birmingham responded: “We’ll have to work – as will the world – with whomever the American people elect… we have to trust that the safeguards built into the constitution… all work effectively.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull critiqued Labor leader Bill Shorten during the election campaign for claiming that “Donald Trump’s views are just barking mad on some issues”.
Shorten’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong was more diplomatic on 891, saying her party was “not going to provide a running commentary on Mr Trump or Ms Clinton”.
“Many Australians do have concerns about some of the things Mr Trump has said, I think that’s true,” she conceded.
“But whatever our personal concerns, the US Alliance is a very important and key part of our foreign policy architecture, and we would work with both parties of government and the US to make sure that alliance is strong, robust and reflects Australia’s national interest.”
It comes as Trump ignited a new firestorm of controversy, suggesting that gun rights activists could act to stop Democratic rival Hillary Clinton from nominating liberal US Supreme Court justices.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said at a rally on Tuesday.
“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” he continued.
The US Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear firearms.
Clinton’s campaign called the comments “dangerous.”
“A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way,” it said.
When asked to clarify what Trump meant, his campaign said Trump was referring to getting supporters of the Second Amendment to rally votes for Trump in the election.
“It’s called the power of unification – 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” the statement said.
Asked for comment, the US Secret Service, which provides security details for both Trump and Clinton, said: “The Secret Service is aware of the comment.”
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