AUSTRALIA: How region may be affected a concern

Australian leaders have insisted the rise of Mr Donald Trump will not affect Canberra's close alliance with Washington, but they have publicly opposed his platforms and all but confirmed a preference for Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

Outwardly, Australian politicians have said they can work with Mr Trump, but their language has demonstrated concerns about the unpredictable consequences he could have for Australia and the region.

"He doesn't scare me," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said last Tuesday. "Should he be elected, we'll work with him." 

Australia's ruling conservative Coalition has tended to align with the Republicans but this has not held under Mr Trump.  This is not only because Australian leaders oppose  his proposed ban on Muslim immigration and proposal to arm Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons, but also because Mrs Clinton is well-known and trusted among senior MPs.

Commentators believe that Mr Trump's threat to reduce the US military footprint in Asia could destabilise the region.

They have also warned he could disrupt Canberra's and Washington's relations with China and derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Most believe Mrs Clinton will continue to rebalance Washington's focus towards the Asia-Pacific. 

"Australian policymakers would be most comfortable with a President Clinton - likely to do as she did as Secretary of State: maintain the pivot, be visible in South- east Asia, engage with China," Ms Elena Collinson, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney's Australia-China Relations Institute, wrote in Fairfax Media last month.

Jonathan Pearlman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'AUSTRALIA: How region may be affected a concern'. Print Edition | Subscribe