Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made fun of US President Donald Trump and alluded to his ties with Russia, according to a leaked tape of an off-the-record media event. Turnbull, who had a frosty first telephone call with the US president early this year, was recorded mimicking Trump at a media ball at Parliament House in Canberra late on Wednesday, which was strictly off the record. “The Donald and I … we are winning in the polls. We are! Not the fake polls. We are winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win,” Turnbull said in the leaked recording, adding: “I have this Russian guy…” An Australian journalist later broadcast the recording saying because he had not been at the event, he was not bound by the confidentiality rule.
Turnbull later told the 3AW radio station he was disappointed by the leak, which he said was a breach of protocol. He said his “affectionately light-hearted” speech was a “good humoured roast” in which he was the butt of his own jokes. The US embassy in Canberra said it understood that the Mid-Winter Ball was the equivalent of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual Washington event at which the media and president traditionally rib each other. “We take this with the good humour that was intended,” the embassy said. Turnbull was one of the first foreign leaders Trump spoke to after he took office on Jan. 20.
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During their telephone call, the president became irritated about an agreement made by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to accept as many as 1,250 refugees held in Australian processing centres on remote Pacific islands. In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump broke off what was supposed to be an hour-long call after 25 minutes and later tweeted that the refugee agreement was “dumb”. Vice President Mike Pence visited Australia in April and made clear that while Trump was not happy about the refugee agreement, the United States would honour it. The two leaders were all smiles during their first face to face meeting in New York last month, when they declared that they “get along great”.