Barnaby Joyce defends leaked texts amid France and Australia’s submarines row

Barnaby Joyce has launched an extraordinary defence of the decision to leak text messages between Scott Morrison and the French president.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has leapt to defend Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the diplomatic row between Australia and France over the axed submarines deal escalates.

Text messages between the two world leaders were sensationally leaked to the media on Monday night in an attempt to discredit French President Emmanuel Macron’s position after he accused Mr Morrison of lying.

Mr Joyce on Wednesday claimed that leaking text messages from a foreign leader was “not as extraordinary” as calling another foreign leader “a liar when they’re not”.

“We had a major political leader call the Prime Minister of Australia a liar and you can’t do that, diplomatically,” he told the ABC.

“You can’t go around calling other leaders of other countries a liar.

“Not (the leader of) a great nation of France. Some tin pot nation in the middle of nowhere, well, I suppose you can say what you like.”

Mr Joyce said the government had been looking at “contingency plans” well before the $90bn submarine contract with France was scrapped in favour of a pact with the US and the UK.

Mr Macron told Australian reporters at a summit in Rome at the weekend that he “knew” Mr Morrison had lied to him over the severing of the contract.

Mr Morrison subsequently denied his account. But just hours later, the text messages emerged, which are believed to have been strategically released to outlets via his office.

French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault earlier on Wednesday accused Mr Morrison of stabbing Paris in the back.

In a major speech to the National Press Club, Mr Thebault said the relationship between the two countries had sunk to a “new low”.

“The deceit was intentional,” Mr Thebault said earlier, as he unloaded on the Prime Minister in a room full of reporters.

“The way it was handled was plainly a stab in the back.

“What, after such events, can any partner of Australia now think, is the value of Australia’s signature?”

Asked if he believed the Prime Minister was “lying about lying”, Mr Thebault replied: “Yes, he was … I have several examples”.

“Maybe there’s a difference between misleading and lying.

“But, you know, among heads of states and governments, when you mislead a friend and an ally, you lie to him.”

He added the release of the text messages signalled Australia could not be trusted.

“You don’t behave like this on personal exchanges of leaders. Doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state,” the French ambassador said.

“Beware, in Australia there will be leaks. And what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponised against you one day.”

But in a press conference following the ambassador’s speech, Mr Morrison expressed his desire to end the spat, which has dominated headlines over the past week.

“Claims had been made and those claims were refuted,” he said during a stopover in Dubai.

“I don’t think there’s any further profit for anyone in continuing down this path.”

Earlier in the week, Mr Macron raised doubts over whether the AUKUS agreement would even deliver the proposed nuclear powered submarines in a timely manner: “Good luck”.

Echoing his comments, the French ambassador accused Australia of “magical thinking”.

Mr Thebault’s address is the first time he has publicly spoken since being recalled as ambassador following the announcement of the AUKUS agreement.

While he promised France would always stand with Australia, he cautioned against the government using “cheap words and promises of love”.

“We won’t any more buy on cheap words. We won’t buy on promises of love.

“At the same time … this is a golden opportunity. We can rebuild something substantial. But we start from very far away.”

But should Mr Morrison apologise? The ambassador sidestepped the question.

“Eating one share of humble pie may sometimes be difficult. It’s up to everyone to make his own decision,” he said.

Asked if he would follow the ambassador’s advice, Mr Morrison said he would never offer an apology to France for tearing up the agreement.

“Australia made the decision not to go ahead with the contract for a submarine that was not going to do the job that Australia needed to do.

“I’ll never make any apologies for that decision.”

Originally published as ‘Tinpot nation’: Barnaby Joyce defends leaked text messages over France subs row

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Cop26, G20: Scott Morrison not a liar, former finance minister Mathias Cormann says

A former colleague of Scott Morrison has rushed to his defence amid claims he has a reputation as a liar.

Scott Morrison’s reputation has again been called into question by predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, but a former colleague has trashed claims the Prime Minister has a track record of lying.

On the sidelines of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Mr Turnbull said he had no doubt French President Emmanuel Macron had been deceived over the $90bn submarine deal.

He claimed he had experienced similar from Mr Morrison during his time in the top job.

“Oh, he’s lied to me on many occasions,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

“Scott has always had a reputation for telling lies.”

But Mathias Cormann, who served as finance minister under both Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull, has categorically rejected the latter’s stinging character assessment.

Asked if Mr Morrison had a track record of telling lies, the OECD secretary-general said: “No.”

“I had a very good working relationship with Scott Morrison. I had a good working relationship with Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott as prime minister,” Mr Cormann told ABC Radio National on Wednesday morning.

“I’ve always done my best to serve them to my best ability, and the opportunity to catch up with Scott at the G20, also at Cop26 … we had some very, very good conversations about the challenges ahead.”

The former prime minister’s comments echo those made by Mr Macron, who on Monday told reporters he “knew” he had been lied to by Mr Morrison.

Later, text messages between the two leaders that seemingly discredited Mr Macron’s versions of events were leaked to the media.

Key crossbench senator Rex Patrick told 2GB on Wednesday morning that Mr Morrison’s behaviour harmed Australia’s reputation on the world stage.

He added while Australia was right to walk away from the conventional submarine deal with France, the way it was handled left much to be desired.

“I absolutely supported the decision to withdraw from the French contract,” he said.

“But in this instance, I’m not convinced that we exited this program in a manner which was proper and in a manner which was fair to the French.

Originally published as Scott Morrison not a liar, former finance minister Mathias Cormann says

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Scott Morrison branded a gaslighter over leaked Macron texts

Scott Morrison has been accused of gaslighting a world leader as the diplomatic fallout over a cancelled submarine deal rages on.

Scott Morrison has been accused of gaslighting Emmanuel Macron, in a stinging attack from opposition leader Anthony Albanese.

Text messages between the French President and Mr Morrison on Monday were sensationally leaked on Monday evening, ratcheting up the tensions between the two leaders.

Mr Albanese said it was an “extraordinary step” for the Prime Minister to take.

“The attempted damage control by selectively leaking private text messages is quite an extraordinary step for an Australian Prime Minister to take,” Mr Albanese said.

“Leaders of countries and indeed people in their everyday life need to be able to engage in a professional way.

“And the leaking of this selected text message isn’t the first time that we’ve seen that occur from this Prime Minister.”

The strategically released messages sought to discredit Mr Macron’s version of events as the fracas over a cancelled $90bn submarine contract rages on.

Asked on Monday by Australian reporters if Mr Morrison had lied to the French President, Mr Macron said, “I don’t think. I know.”

But less than 24 hours later, private text messages between the two world leaders were made public.

In the messages, Mr Macron is reported to have asked Mr Morrison if he should expect “good or bad news for our joint submarine ambitions” ahead of the AUKUS agreement announcement.

Quizzed about the text disclosure later, Mr Morrison did not deny they were leaked.

“I am not going to indulge your editorial on it,” he said in Glasgow.

“What I will simply say is this. We were contacted when we were trying to set up the call. (The French President) made it pretty clear he was concerned that this would be a phone call that could result in a decision by Australia not to proceed.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Morrison claimed he had informed Mr Macron the conventional submarines being provided by France would not meet Australia’s national interest.

He later added he would not accept questioning of “Australia’s integrity”.

“I must say that I think the statements that were made questioning Australia’s integrity and the slurs that have been placed on Australia, not me, I’ve got broad shoulders,” Mr Morrison said.

“I can deal with that. But those slurs, I’m not going to cop sledging at Australia. I’m not going to cop that on behalf of Australians.”

His inference that France has slurred Australians in Mr Macron’s critique was a sticking point for Mr Albanese.

“Pretending also, the personal criticism of him is criticism of Australia, is using our nation as a human shield,” he added.

“Scott Morrison isn‘t the first leader to see himself as synonymous with his nation … Well, the news for Scott Morrison is he isn’t the state of Australia.”

Originally published as Scott Morrison branded a gaslighter over leaked Macron texts

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Scott Morrison meets with ‘dear friend’ Narendra Modi at Cop26

After a series of frosty encounters at the G20 summit in Rome, Scott Morrison has finally found a mate at Cop26.

Scott Morrison has been thanked for being a “dear friend” to India on the sidelines of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning took to Twitter to declare there is never “a dull moment” when he’s with his friend Mr Morrison.

It came just hours after he praised the Australian medical regulator’s decision to recognise India’s locally produced Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin.

Mr Morrison later tweeted it was “wonderful” to see his friend at Cop26.

As the G20 leaders’ summit kicked off last week, Australia and India were joined only by China to resist a global bid to phase out coal-fired power and mining.

In his address to the Cop26 summit, Mr Modi committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2070 – two decades later than the rest of the world.

The announcement falls short of a key goal of the climate summit, which is for nations to agree to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

India is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU.

It is the fifth largest export market for Australian coal, and imports into the country have risen off the back of Australian trade woes with China.

Mr Modi also promised his nation would transition to generating 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

The Indian leader made the most of his time at the UN leaders’ summit, whizzing around to meet with several of his international counterparts.

Earlier, the Indian Prime Minister was pictured with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles.

He thanked the royal for his commitment to sustainable development and climate change.

Originally published as Scott Morrison meets with ‘dear friend’ Narendra Modi at Cop26

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‘Scott no friends’: Scott Morrison mocked for G20 photo

We’ve all experienced an awkward moment before a family photo, but Scott Morrison’s was broadcast live around the world.

The Prime Minister has been mocked for being a “Scott no friends” after an awkward moment at the G20 which even saw him snubbed by an old friend.

After a frosty phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on the way to the leaders’ summit, Scott Morrison was left without a friend to chat to during the “family photo”.

West Australian MP Patrick Gorman took to Twitter on Monday to make hay of the matter at the Prime Minister’s expense.

Speaking with NCA Newswire, the Labor MP said Mr Morrison has form when it comes to political photo ops.

“It is hard to see someone go through their awkward teenage phase in the middle of the G20,” Mr Gorman said.

“In a week’s time, Scott Morrison will get a poll telling him this was funny and he will laugh at it, too.

“World leaders saw what happened last time he hugged Malcolm Turnbull, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump.”

In video from the meeting, it appeared several world leaders snubbed Mr Morrison as he approached them as they gathered in front of cameras.

Walking onto the podium, the Prime Minister was given the cold shoulder by Rwanda President Paul Kagame and South Korea President Moon Jae-In, who did not seem receptive to a three-way handshake.

Mr Morrison then approached old friend and long-time parliamentary ally Mathias Cormann, who should have been a sure bet for a chat.

But his former finance minister looked to his feet before turning away from the Prime Minister, before the two could exchange pleasantries.

The interaction was made all the more awkward because Mr Morrison strongly supported and campaigned for Mr Cormann to become secretary-general of the OECD.

To add to Mr Morrison’s woes, US President Joe Biden and Mr Macron could be seen enthusiastically chatting before the picture.

It’s not the first time Mr Morrison has had an awkward encounter on the world stage.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz, Mr Morrison was left out in the cold, looking down at his phone, while other leaders chatted happily away while getting in formation for the photo.

But there is still a chance for the Prime Minister to redeem himself with his peers, as the UN climate summit gets underway in Glasgow this week.

He’ll be hoping Australia’s net zero commitment will be enough to convince his stately colleagues he is serious about tackling climate change, but only time will tell.

Originally published as ‘Scott no friends’: ScoMo mocked for awkward G20 photo

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Corporate litigator Georgia Steele to run against Craig Kelly in Hughes

An independent candidate has thrown their hat in the ring to take on rogue MP Craig Kelly at the next federal election.

Craig Kelly is set to face a new challenger in the battle for the blue ribbon seat of Hughes when corporate litigator Georgia Steele announces her candidacy today.

The independent hopes to emulate the campaigns run by Zali Steggall in Warriangah and Helen Haines in Indi but faces an uphill battle against the cashed-up Kelly and expected Liberal candidate Melanie Gibbons.

Speaking with NCA Newswire ahead of her campaign launch, Ms Steele said she believed Hughes was wide open for the taking.

“I think that the Hughes electorate for the next election is going to be wide open for the first time in decades,” the mother of two said.

“It’s been a safe seat for about 25 years. It’s been taken for granted during that time as a lot of safe Liberal seats are.

“Craig Kelly has not achieved anything for the people of Hughes and that will definitely be a marker against the Liberal Party at the next election.”

Mr Kelly was elected as a Liberal candidate in 2010, before defecting to the crossbench earlier this year after he refused to stop promoting Covid misinformation. He later joined the Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party as its leader.

Greater action on climate change and a push for a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption is set to be the bedrock of the Sutherland locals campaign.

“I couldn’t sit by any longer and watch my children’s future and the future of Hughies everywhere be ignored by our federal government.”

On ICAC, Ms Steele said the current NSW hearings could be the driver the community needs to get behind it at a federal level.

“If it‘s good enough in New South Wales and every other state and territory in Australia, it’s more than good enough for the federal government.”

Ms Steele is backed by local political community group Hughes Deserves Better and is in early discussions with Simon Holmes a Court for support from Climate 200, a non-profit designed to support pro-climate independents.

In a statement, Simon Holmes a Court welcomed Ms Steele’s candidacy.

“Climate 200 applauds Georgia Steele‘s decision to stand in the seat of Hughes and we wish her well in her campaign,” Mr Holmes a Court said.

“Climate 200 looks forward to continuing discussions about support for her campaign. Hughes is going to be a seat to watch.”

But asked who she would support if elected in a hung parliament, Ms Steele remained coy: “It is a hypothetical situation,” she said.

“I would weigh up all the information and I would make the best decision that I could in the interest of my constituents.”

Originally published as Corporate litigator Georgia Steele to run against Craig Kelly

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President Emmanuel Macron and Scott Morrison speak after AUKUS fallout

After ignoring Scott Morrison’s pleas for weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron has finally spoken to the Prime Minister.

Scott Morrison and Emmanuel Macron have spoken for the first time since Australia abandoned a major submarine deal with the French last month.

In a readout of the call provided by the Élysée Palace, Mr Macron told Mr Morrison the decision to scrap the French contract in favour of the acquisition of nuclear submarines under the AUKUS alliance with America and the UK “broke” trust between the two nations.

“President Macron recalled that Australia’s unilateral decision to scale back the French-Australian strategic partnership by putting an end to the ocean-class submarine program in favour of another as-yet unspecified project broke the relationship of trust between our two countries,” the statement said.

“The situation of the French businesses and their subcontractors, including Australian companies, affected by this decision will be given our utmost attention.

“It is now up to the Australian Government to propose tangible actions that embody the political will of Australia’s highest authorities to redefine the basis of our bilateral relationship and continue joint action in the Indo-Pacific.

The readout also made reference to the upcoming climate summit in Scotland.

“Looking ahead to the upcoming G20 in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow, the President of the French Republic encouraged the Australian Prime Minister to adopt ambitious measures commensurate with the climate challenge,” the French said.

“In particular the ratcheting up of the nationally determined contribution, the commitment to cease production and consumption of coal at the national level and abroad, and greater Australian support to the International Solar Alliance.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has been contacted for comment.

More to come.

Originally published as Morrison and Macron speak for first time since AUKUS fallout

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Scotty departs for Scotland for major climate talks

The Prime Minister is set to face world leaders for the first time since committing Australia to carbon neutral by 2050.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flown off for key climate talks with a commitment but without finalised modelling for his plan.

Mr Morrison will meet with world leaders first at the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome before travelling to Glasgow for the much anticipated United Nations COP26 climate summit.

It is the first in-person gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies since the pandemic started.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor will accompany the Prime Minister on his VIP jet “Shark One”.

In a statement prior to his departure, Mr Morrison said the pandemic and climate would be at the top of his agenda during his time overseas.

“These important international meetings come as the world has reached a critical point in our health response and economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and our collective effort to address the challenges of climate change,” Mr Morrison said.

“COP26 will be crucial in the global effort to address the challenges of climate change.

“I look forward to supporting Prime Minister Johnson, as host of COP26, to achieve our Paris Agreement objectives and collaborate to collectively deliver net zero emissions by 2050.”

Also on Mr Morrison’s agenda will be his pitch to leaders to thwart the power of social media giants.

“We need to fully harness the benefits of digitalisation, but in doing that, making sure the rules that apply in the real world, apply in the digital world,” he told reporters earlier on Thursday.

“I will continue to press, as Australia always has, and show the leadership on this issue globally that we must hold social media platforms to account.”

After a turbulent week in parliament, the arrival of the COP26 summit will bring little relief to Mr Morrison, who is set to face calls to lift Australia’s climate targets beyond his 2050 pledge.

In the days since his policy release, Mr Morrison has copped criticism for the strategy, which lacks a solid 2030 commitment.

Instead, Mr Morrison will take projections to Glasgow, which, if reached, could reduce Australia’s emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030.

He’s also set to be reunited with former colleague Mathias Cormann, who is likely to press Australia to adopt stronger climate targets – including a carbon pricing scheme.

In a statement overnight, Mr Cormann said progress across G20 nations remained “uneven”.

“G20 economies are lifting their ambition and efforts, including through the explicit and implicit pricing of carbon emissions,” the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general said.

“However, progress remains uneven across countries and sectors, and is not well enough coordinated globally.

“We need a globally more coherent approach which enables countries to lift their ambition and effort to the level required to meet global net zero by 2050, with every country carrying an appropriate and fair share of the burden while avoiding carbon leakage and trade distortions.

“Carbon prices and equivalent measures need to become significantly more stringent and globally better coordinated to properly reflect the cost of emissions to the planet, and put us on the path to genuinely meet the Paris Agreement climate goals.

OECD analysis found Australia ranked 11th out of 18 countries for carbon pricing, which Australia imposes through fuel excise.

Australia does not have a carbon pricing scheme following the repeal of the Gillard government’s carbon tax in 2014.

Mr Cormann will also attend the G20 talks and COP26 climate summit.

The Prime Minister has previously said he will not introduce a carbon pricing scheme.

Originally published as Scott Morrison departs for Glasgow armed with a net zero commitment but without modelling

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‘Secret’ modelling underpinning Scott Morrison’s net zero policy still in spreadsheet form

Scott Morrison has been under fire for not releasing the modelling underpinning his major net zero commitment, but there’s a good reason why.

The modelling underpinning Scott Morrison’s strategy for a carbon neutral future cannot be published because the department tasked with the job has yet to finish the report.

The Prime Minister has been under pressure to release the modelling that shaped the net zero commitment he is set to take to a UN climate summit in Glasgow next week.

But officials from the Department of Science, Industry, Energy and Resources (DSIER) on Thursday revealed the report had not been finalised and work continued while Mr Morrison’s plan was deliberated in cabinet on Monday evening.

“We will make that material public within the next few weeks, and indeed, I can confirm that we are finalising the writing up of that work,” Deputy secretary Jo Evans told a Senate estimates hearing.

“You can appreciate that it’s quite a complex set of material, and as the plan was only finalised on Tuesday, we need to make sure we have written that technical work up.

“The actual modelling of course had been finalised at that point, but the write up of it, we just need to take a little bit of extra time.”

Ms Evans stressed the modelling work had been completed and the report needed additional time to ensure it was accessible to the public.

“We will publish it when we put it into a form that is suitable for putting to the public domain so that it’s understandable,” she said.

Asked what format the work was currently in, Ms Evans said: “Spreadsheets and finalised and technical reports that are designed for an audience that is more sophisticated in terms of how it will understand results.”

DSIER insisted the modelling would be released in the coming weeks in line with the promises made by Mr Morrison earlier in the week.

Asked about Ms Evans’ comments in question time, Mr Morrison stuck to his “technology, not taxes” lines.

“That document will be released in the next few weeks and it will be there, and they will be able to see it and they will be able to see that what it does through the plan that we are putting in place with technology, not taxes, with respecting people’s choices,” he said.

The nation’s chief economic forecasters on Wednesday told estimates they had provided limited advice on the impact of a net zero target but two staff had been seconded to DSIER to assist with its modelling.

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy also conceded his department hadn’t undertaken any modelling on the economic costs of climate change in the “last few years”.

“I don’t know whether it is eight years – but we haven’t done it at least for the last few years,” he said.

Under Mr Morrison’s plan to reach net zero, more than $20bnwill be invested in low emissions technologies, including carbon capture and storage.

Mr Morrison also unveiled new projections, which if reached, could reduce Australia’s emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030.

Originally published as ‘Secret’ modelling underpinning Scott Morrison’s net zero policy still in spreadsheet form

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ABC’s $184k legal blowout | Herald Sun

The ABC managing director has again been forced to defend his decision to pay the legal costs of star reporter Louise Milligan.

The ABC has been forced to defend its decision to pay legal costs for journalist Louise Milligan in a defamation case brought by backbencher Andrew Laming.

In August, Ms Milligan agreed to pay Dr Laming $79,000 plus costs for a series of tweets posted in March, which he alleged were defamatory.

Dr Laming was cleared of any criminal offence related to the allegations in April.

ABC Managing Director David Andersen told a Senate estimates committee he alone made the decision to pay the costs and the board was not consulted.

“I made that decision on the 25th of May,” Mr Anderson said on Tuesday.

“This matter did come up before the board on the ninth of June. The circumstances by which we provided an indemnity to Ms Milligan were explained.”

The managing director said the decision to pay the legal costs was made based on legal advice that the ABC could be “vicariously liable” for Ms Milligan’s tweets and the risk of being joined to proceedings.

“The potential for the agency to be joined in proceedings and the potential financial exposure to the ABC, unless we created common interest privilege to hold off those proceedings, and to be able to settle them as fast as we could,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Anderson confirmed the costs for the defamation case has totalled $184,000 so far.

He indicated further costs could be possible.

On Monday evening, Australian National Audit Office officials were quizzed about their decision not to investigate the ABC for paying Ms Milligan’s legal costs in the matter.

In a letter to Senator Eric Abetz, Auditor-General Grant Hehir said he was unable to judge the appropriateness of the decision because there was no policy or precedent for it.

Mr Hehir told the estimates hearing that since there were no documents related to the decision, the ANAO could only make a decision based on the testimony of the ABC.

The lack of documentation, the auditor-general said, was not usual.

“Normally you’d have an expectation that they would document those decisions … that’s something you’d expect to see.”

Asked if the decision was appropriate, Mr Hehir said it was “hard to say without evidence one way or the other”.

“Not being able to form an opinion is a reasonably strong statement from that perspective.”

Originally published as ABC board not consulted over decision to cover journalist’s legal costs

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