Australian minister says Trump phenomenon ‘terrifying’

SYDNEY - A senior Australian government minister on Thursday called Donald Trump's campaign for the US presidency "terrifying" and warned it risked casting the Republican Party into the wilderness if he wins nomination.

Australian government ministers rarely make critical comments about elections in other countries, especially stalwart allies like the United States, which Australia relies on heavily for military backing in the Asia-Pacific.

Australian Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, a cabinet member of the ruling conservative Liberal-National coalition, criticised the violence at recent Trump rallies and said that his rise was casting a pall over American democracy. "Now, democracy should be robust but it certainly shouldn't be violent," Pyne said in an interview on Australia's Channel Seven television network. "And I think the Donald Trump phenomenon is a real problem for the United States, making their democracy look kind of weird," he said.

Republican front-runner Trump warned on Wednesday of riots if he is denied the party's presidential nomination, only days after Trump supporters and protesters clashed at a rally for the Republican in Chicago that was later scrapped.

Republican Party leaders are appalled at Trump's incendiary rhetoric and reject policies such as his vow to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, temporarily ban Muslims from the United States and build a wall along the Mexican border.

The party tried to play down Trump's riot comments, which have raised the temperature even more in a heated White House race.