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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

Read related topics:Scott Morrison




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World Cup; Australia won’t shy away from big selection calls after axing Ashton Agar



Changing conditions on wickets set to take a pounding at the T20 World Cup could make for some big selection calls.

Changing conditions at the T20 World Cup could demand significant team changes and the prospect every member of Australia’s 15-man squad could get a game.

Coach Justin Langer declared it was “extremely tough” to leave out spinner Ashton Agar, Australia’s highest-ranked T20 bowler in the world, for the opening win over South Africa.

Captain Aaron Finch said it was “brutally tough”.

It was a conditions and match-ups-based decision that came after Agar had played seven straight games, plus the two warm-up matches, bowling in tandem with fellow spinner Adam Zampa.

Game one hero Marcus Stoinis said there was “an argument for everyone to be in the team“ and fully expected that as wickets became tired across the three venues being used, change could be a must.

”There’s no easy answers and we’ll probably just see what happens as the tournament goes on. I think everyone’s going to get used in this tournament,” he said.

“With these conditions, we’ve got to adapt as we go. He (Agar) has got such a good record, has been so good for us, so I wouldn’t be counting anything out.”

Langer said Australia had to be flexible in selections depending on conditions, opposition and match-ups, which could give Kane Richardson, Mitchell Swepson and Josh Inglis game time through the remaining four pool games and potentially in the finals.

Australia used Glenn Maxwell as its second spinner, ahead of Agar, and while the fast bowlers took five wickets in the opening win over South Africa, spin could be huge in the back end of the tournament.

“They’re all tough (selection) decisions. There’s no doubt about that,” Langer said.

“We’ve said from day one to the players and we did it in the last World Cup and to a degree in the last Ashes in England, we’ll just look at the conditions, we’ll look at the opposition, we’ll look at the match-ups, and we’ll make the call that we think is right for the team.

“It doesn’t always work out that way, but with all the information we’ve got we’ll work through that.”

Langer said leaving out Agar was especially tough.

“I can’t emphasise enough how tough it was on Ashton Agar, his numbers are literally outstanding,” he said. “And really tough on Kane Richardson.

“It’s nice to have those selection headaches, but it worked OK yesterday (Sunday).”

Australia plays its next game against Sri Lanka on Thursday night in Dubai.

Originally published as Australia could use every member of its T20 squad at the World Cup after opening game selection shock




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