Beer in hand, ‘very cool’ Morrison holds court on the global stage

Beer in hand, ‘very cool’ Morrison holds court on the global stage. By Adam Creighton.

A beaming Scott Morrison, beer in hand, held court at the Australian ambassador’s residence on Thursday night in Washington, confident his US trip would leave Australia stronger militarily and diplomatically, and reassured French pique over its lost submarine deal will prove to be water off a duck’s back.

From the US President to the Austrian Chancellor and the Swedish, Japanese and Indian prime ministers, leaders from across the political spectrum, Australia’s supercharged role in underpinning security in the Pacific was welcomed and appreciated. …

One European leader, according to a senior European embassy staffer, had even described the PM as “very cool”. …

France is miffed because Australia just joined a very exclusive club at their expense. Hanging out with the world’s current superpower, hobnobbing with the world’s previous superpower, and receiving the best in their nuclear submarine technology — Australia has arrived on the world stage.

The AUKUS pact that will see Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines, announced last week, thrust Australia into the US media cycle like never before, revealing our privileged position in American orbit. …

The President himself, far from the doddery caricature taking hold in the American public’s mind, was involved all the way. And he was methodical, alert and interested throughout discussions with the Prime Minister in New York and Washington, officials at the highest level insist.

Indeed, the UK and Australia were awaiting the President’s personal sign off on the submarine deal for weeks before the announcement on 16th September, which took even the best-informed talking heads in Washington by surprise. …

The praise was bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans feted the Prime Minister on Capitol Hill …

Submarines:

Will Australia’s submarines come from the UK or the US? Fierce competition between the UK and US defence industries looks set to kick off. …

Wherever the designs ultimately emerge, more UK or US nuclear submarines will be coming to Australia, manned by Australian navy personnel, far sooner than the first Australian-made sub emerges years down the track.

China, whose belligerence prompted AUKUS, already has the world’s largest navy. The aim of AUKUS is not to lease or rebadge existing nuclear powered submarines among the three Anglo powers but build more.

While France’s diplomatic clout appears diminished, Australia’s has been in the ascendant for years, a mix of savvy diplomacy and the reality being a resource rich nation in a key part of the world.

Covid:

In a break from submarine chat, Mr Morrison visited the Federal Reserve, shocking chairman Jerome Powell with the fact the US was losing more people from Covid-19 every day than Australia had lost in the whole pandemic. More than 2,000 Americans died yesterday from Covid-19, up almost 30 per cent from a week ago.

It’s not through lack of effort in Washington at least, the most Covid-obsessed of all American cities. Australian journalists, all fully vaccinated, endured five separate Covid-19 tests on their five day trip, including two to go anywhere near the President, and a bewildering array of masking requirements.

If some in the US have been shocked by Australia’s increasingly tough Covid response, in DC it’s nothing but admiration.

That last point — and their anti-Biden stance — might explain why in the US some right wing commentators are so keen to traduce Australia by exaggerating the lockdown excesses, while misunderstanding and ignoring the successes of closing borders and elimination lockdowns. Too bad the US missed that chance — a border that stops covid also stops illegal immigration.