Scott Morrison says Macron’s accusation of him being a liar is a slur against Australia, not against him personally.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attacked the credibility of French President Emmanuel Macron, pointing out that he made clear to the French president at their dinner in June that French conventional submarines would not meet Australia’s evolving strategic needs.
Morrison made the comments to Australian reporters who had accompanied him in a recent trip to Glasgow, Scotland, for a UN climate conference.
He was responding to Macron, who earlier this week, accused Morrison of lying to him at a Paris dinner about the fate of a 5-year-old contract with majority French state-owned Naval Group to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
Australia canceled that deal when it formed an alliance with US and Britain to acquire a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines built with US technology.
Morrison attempted to phone Macron with the news, but the French leader texted back saying he was not available to take a call, The Australian newspaper reported.
“Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?” Macron asked, The Australian reported on Tuesday.
The Australian PM also described Macron’s accusation of lying as a slur against Australia and not against him personally.
Macron’s leaked message uproar
Morrison avoided to answer a question from one of the journalists who accompanied him to Glasgow about the government’s apparent leaking of Macron’s text message to the Australian newspaper.
Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned that the apparent leaking would escalate bilateral tensions and could damage international trust in Australia.
“The French president has an election coming up. There are all sorts of pressures on him and I think for us to lower the tone by leaking private text messages — really?” said Bishop, who was foreign minister and Morrison’s Cabinet colleague from 2013 until 2018.
“I’m concerned that the rest of the world will look at Australia and say: Nah. Can Australia be trusted on contracts not to leak private messages?” she added.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese, who aims to replace Morrison as prime minister at elections due by May, echoed Bishop’s criticism of the leaked text.
“The leaking of this text message is a considerable escalation of the conflict,” Albanese said.