POLITICS

Turnbull Attacks Labor As 'Hopelessly Divided' On National Security

The U.S/Australia alliance is getting a rethink in the wake of Donald Trump's win.

16/11/2016 2:37 PM AEDT | Updated 16/11/2016 3:25 PM AEDT
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Andrew Meares, Fairfax
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Labor is hopefully divided on national security.

CANBERRA -- In the wake of Donald Trump's surprise win as president, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared Labor has "always been uncomfortable" with the U.S-Australia alliance, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten insists nothing has changed.

Turnbull has attacked a fresh assessment of Australia's most strategically important alliance by the Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

In opinion piece published in Fairfax Media Wednesday, Wong said Trump's election marked "a change point" and she suggested Australia "not be naive" and put more emphasis on Asia.

Alex Ellinghausen, Fairfax
Labor's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says Australia needs to work harder in our region

"There is a very real prospect of a substantive shift in US foreign policy," Wong told RN Breakfast.

The Shadow Foreign Affairs spokeswoman is not proposing walking away from the American alliance, but cites trouble spots including the prospect of a trade war with China and Trump's very different position on climate change.

"I simply think it is important for us to have a sensible and adult conversation here about how we continue to assert Australian interests in the context of an alliance framework," she said.

"Part of that is ensuring we work harder in our region."

But the Prime Minister said that was a dangerous position coming from a party which has "always been uncomfortable with the United States alliance".

"You have Penny Wong going in one direction, wanting to move away from our strongest, most important, most trusted, most enduring ally, wanting to move away, putting our nation's security at risk," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"On the other hand you have the right of the party trying to crab-walk back from where she has gone.

"Labor is hopefully divided on national security. They are hopelessly divided on border protection."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has insisted "nothing has changed" with Labor's foreign policy which he said was based on the American alliance, deeper engagement in our region and respect for multilateral institutions and international forums.

"Labor sees the American alliance, regardless of who's the president of the United States or indeed the prime minister of Australia, as something that has been going for seven decades and important to our national security," he told reporters.

"We have shared values with the United States, but we are not exactly the same at the United States."

Labor's Defence spokesman, Richard Marles, stressed to Sky News that Wong saw not proposing cutting ties and had made it clear the alliance was more important than any one individual.

Last week, former Labor prime minister Paul Keating called on Australia to "cut the tag" with the United States and focus more on building diplomatic relations within Asia.

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