SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's prime minister has taken a comical swipe at Donald Trump, mimicking his mannerisms and making reference to the Russia scandal, in comments he said were intended as "affectionately light-hearted".
In a leaked audio recording that comes just months after a tetchy phone call between the two leaders, Malcolm Turnbull is heard making fun of the United States president's idiosyncratic speaking style.
"The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls," Turnbull said in a closed event for journalists in Canberra on Wednesday (June 14).
"We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before.
"We are. We are. Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls. They're the ones we are not winning in," he said to laughs from the audience at the Mid-Winter Ball, where politicians and Canberra journalists let their hair down.
"We are winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win."
Typically, the event is off-the-record, meaning journalists would not report on what was said, but a recording was leaked to the political editor at commercial broadcaster Channel Nine, who did not attend the soiree and decided to report it.
Turnbull played down the speech late on Thursday, saying that he was the butt of the jokes rather than Trump.
"My speech was light-hearted, affectionately light-hearted," he told Melbourne's 3AW radio.
"It's a breach of protocol, it's a breach of faith," he added of the leaked recording. "But it's light-hearted, it's affectionate and the butt of my jokes, was myself."
In a statement cited by Channel 9, the US Embassy in Canberra said they saw the lighter-side of the address.
"We understand that last night's event is equivalent to our own White House Correspondents' Dinner," it read. "We take this with the good humour that was intended."
Last month, Turnbull met the US president in New York to mend fences, after the bad-tempered call early in Trump's White House tenure.
Trump reportedly exploded and cut short the conversation when he was told about a Barack Obama-era deal to move refugees from Australia to America.
The Australian leader appeared to make light of that icy conversation in the leaked recording.
"It was beautiful. It was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever," he said.
In another leaked clip, Turnbull poked fun at the ongoing controversy surrounding the Trump administration's ties to Russia.
"I have this Russian guy. Believe me, it is true. It is true," Turnbull said.