This morning Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australian dual nationals would not be subject to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, saying that the White House had told our Washington embassy overnight that the UK and Canada would be afforded the same treatment. There’s an interesting story in the Financial Times overnight about the kerfuffle yesterday after British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that he had secured an exemption for the Brits (despite attacking the ban) and then seemed to be contradicted by the US embassy in the UK.

According to the FT: “After the stand-off with the US embassy, Mr Johnson said the exemption would be more limited; British officials said Canada, Australia and New Zealand have received similar carve-outs.”

Which raises the question — did Julie Bishop’s department, and Joe Hockey, actually do anything to secure an exemption for Australian dual nationals, or was it handed out as a block exemption to the Five Eyes nations instead? Or even, did the efforts of the Brits prompt the Trump administration — which so far has displayed a remarkable cluelessness about thinking policy through — to realise that they had to hand out a similar exemption to all the Five Eyes countries or risk security co-operation? One thing is certain though — the Brits, the Canadians and the Kiwis all criticised the ban, at the prime ministerial level, and still have an exemption. Turnbull has stayed silent and his ministers have supported the ban. Any suggestion his silence was important for securing an exemption for Australians is therefore rubbish.

Peter Fray

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