Joe Biden calls Scott Morrison 'that fella Down Under' during AUKUS nuclear submarine announcement

It‘s one of the most significant strategic and defence moves in decades, cementing Australia’s alliance with the US and the UK for years to come. 

But as Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined the UK’s leader Boris Johnson and Joe Biden for a virtual announcement, the US President raised a few eyebrows in Australia. 

“Thank you Boris,” he said to the UK Prime Minister who had dialled in via video from London. 

Then Mr Biden turned to the other screen showing Mr Morrison who had joined from Canberra. 

‘And I want to thank that, uh, fellow Down Under,” he said. 

“Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr Prime Minister.”

Mr Morrison gave a smile and a thumbs up. 

Social media was immediately ablaze with speculation the US President might have forgotten Mr Morrison’s name. 

On Twitter, #ThatFellaDownUnder began trending as users debated whether it was a memory slip or a term of endearment. 

But moments after thanking his “pal”, Mr Biden, perhaps with the help of a teleprompter, referred to the Prime Minister by name. 

“As Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Johnson said, I want to thank you for this partnership, your vision as we embark together on this strategic mission,” he said. 

As far as awkward moments go for an Australian leader engaging in diplomatic relations with the US, being called “pal” is pretty tame. 

From lost pants to ‘Malcolm Trumble’ 

Whether it’s misplacing a pair of trousers during an official trip or an awkward fumbling of a surname, the potential for embarrassment has always been high for Australian officials. 

In 2017, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer twice referred to Malcolm Turnbull as “Malcolm Trumble” during a media conference. 

“The president had a very cordial conversation with Prime Minister Trumble,” he said. 

And in 2003, then-opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd expressed regret when he found himself in a New York strip club on a taxpayer-funded trip to the US. 

“I had had too much to drink,” the future PM said when details of the trip to Scores emerged during the 2007 election campaign.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have gone on for a further drink.” 

The club owner, Elliot Osher, would later say Mr Rudd seemingly wandered into his establishment unaware it was a strip club.

“I guess when he sat down he kind of realised it was a strip club and he said, ‘Oh no, this won’t do,'” he said.

But there is arguably no Australian leader, past or present, who had a worse time in the US than Malcolm Fraser. 

In 1986, the then former PM appeared at a reception desk of a hotel in Memphis with a towel wrapped around his waist. 

He reportedly said he had woken up in a hotel room, with his watch, cash and trousers missing. 

Mr Fraser refused to talk about the incident publicly, only to say: “I wish I’d never been to bloody Memphis.”

His wife Tamie Fraser would later say he was likely drugged during the ill-fated trip. 

 “Poor old boy. It’s really horrible. He was so embarrassed. And still is,” she said in 2007. 

Mr Morrison will head to the United States next week for more talks with Mr Biden. 

But the Prime Minister seemed unperturbed by the possibility that his new strategic partner may have briefly forgotten his name. 

In fact, he had a nickname of his own for the new pact between Australia, the US and the UK. 

“I describe [it] as a forever partnership,” he said. 

“A forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends.” 

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