The Morrison government does not want to pass up the opportunity to participate in the G7, but is also hesitant to back the push to welcome Russia back into the group and sideline China.
Russia was kicked out of the then-G8 over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
A federal government spokesperson said “membership is a matter for the existing G7 countries to decide”.
“Australia’s position and views on Russia are well known and won’t change at all due to their involvement in G7+. It is in Australia’s interests to participate regardless and we will continue to provide our views consistent with our values,” the spokesperson said.
Senior government sources were on Tuesday emphasising that Mr Morrison’s acceptance of the offer was no different to when he agreed to attend a G7 meeting last year on the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The hosts of G7 meetings have always been able to invite leaders who are not a part of the group, but Mr Trump’s comments over the weekend went beyond this suggesting the world’s most exclusive political club was “outdated” and calling for new additions including Australia, Russia, India and South Korea.
Herve Lemahieu, director of the power and diplomacy program at the Lowy Institute, said the Australian government knew it had to be cautious in responding to Mr Trump’s invitation.
In the absence of bipartisan consensus in the US and agreement within the G7, Mr Lemahieu said Australia would look to downplay the significance of the invitation.
“We can’t have Australia join at the expense of Russia being allowed back into the club,” he said.
“Ultimately you don’t want to alienate the Trump administration, you want to be seen to be reciprocating to what is a friendly gesture from the White House, so the best thing to do is portray this as a one-off.”
In their phone call, Mr Morrison told Mr Trump he was pleased to take up the invitation as he had done last year when he was invited to the G7 meeting in France by Mr Macron.
Both leaders discussed the riots and unrest in the US and efforts to ensure it would be resolved peacefully, according to a readout of the phone call.
In his speech on Monday, Mr Trump threatened to deploy federal troops if state and local government leaders didn’t succeed in stamping out the acts of violence and looting, which have been sparked by protests over the police killing of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis.
As tensions between the US and China rise, the Five Eyes foreign ministers discussed plans on Tuesday morning to develop new critical technologies and supply chains for key products.
In a key departure for the intelligence sharing arrangement which usually focuses on matters of security, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the virtual meeting focused on “global challenges” including “critical tech and supply chains”.
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.