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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Victoria politics: Liberal MP Tim Smith insists he is not an alcoholic amid drink driving scandal

A drink-driving MP is under intense pressure to quit the Liberal Party after its leader said he did not want him to contest the next election.

A Victorian Liberal MP who crashed his car into a family home while drunk has insisted he is “not an alcoholic” while vowing to never drink alcohol again while in public life.

Tim Smith resigned from the front bench and his position as the state’s attorney-general after he crashed his car into a Hawthorn home on Saturday, returning a blood alcohol reading of 0.131.

Mr Smith on Wednesday begged for forgiveness and said he was assessing his future in politics amid speculation his career was over.

“I hadn’t eaten all day, the reading was much higher than I could ever have imagined. I was shocked and amazed by what happened with regards to the reading,” he told 9 radio.

“I have done something shameful and stupid and I’m so, so sorry for the embarrassment and the harm that I have caused.”

Police said Mr Smith crashed his car into a parked vehicle before ploughing into the wall of a family home on Saturday night.

He has lost his licence for 12 months.

The crash caused significant damage to the home’s wall, causing a crack in the interior plaster within the room where an eight year-old boy was sleeping.

He has apologised to the family and will pay the estimated $100,000 in damages.

Mr Smith denied he was an alcoholic and claimed he did not have mental health issues, describing the incident as “an appalling lapse of judgment”.

“I certainly spoke to my GP about not ever drinking again, certainly whilst in public life,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m an alcoholic but I certainly have consumed too much alcohol on too many occasions.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy this week met with the reportedly distressed MP and made it clear he “wouldn’t find his way onto the frontbench of any parliamentary Liberal Party I lead”.

An angry Mr Guy said he told Mr Smith to not recontest the next election.

“I made it clear that I didn’t want him to nominate at the next election,” Mr Guy told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think he’s exceedingly remorseful, you know, this has potentially cost him his career and you would expect anyone in that position to be not just remorseful but certainly very sorry for what has occurred.”

While Mr Smith said his actions were “the most stupid thing I’ve ever done”, he declined to commit to quitting politics altogether, instead telling the radio station he was reflecting on his future in politics.

It’s expected he will make a decision the next two weeks before preselection nominations.

Mr Smith has been meeting with Kew branch members and senior politicians and has reportedly told some he will ride out the scandal.

“The (branch members) are very disappointed, they’re very angry and I suppose the key question to them is should one horrendously poor judgment render someone’s career over immediately,” he said.

“I can’t give you a definitive answer this morning, but I’m certainly speaking to the branch members in Kew.”

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Originally published as Liberal MP Tim Smith breaks silence following drink-driving scandal

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Gladys Berejiklian at ICAC: New Premier Dominic Perrottet says he and wife joked over ICAC evidence

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says his wife and he have joked over evidence presented at the corruption inquiry involving Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has been largely silent on Gladys Berejiklian’s ICAC travails, but he admits his wife and he have joked over bombshell phone evidence provided this week.

In a tapped 2018 phone call played at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday, Ms Berejiklian could be heard discussing money requests by her then-secret boyfriend, Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

On one call, Mr Maguire told her he’d “talked to the Treasurer” and asked “how’s my hospital … am I getting my $170 million?”.

Later, Ms Berejiklian said: “I’ve already gotten you the Wagga hospital.”

“I just spoke to Dom, and I said just put the (money) in the budget. He goes ’No worries’. He just does what I ask him to do.”

Ms Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing, while Mr Perrottet has consistently avoided speaking on the events heard at the inquiry, or his predecessor, before its conclusion.

That was, until The Daily Telegraph’s Bush Summit on Friday.

Footage shows the Premier acknowledging he and his wife Helen had shared a joke over his name being mentioned in the taped conversations.

“My wife messaged me this morning and said ’why do you do what Gladys tells you to do and not what I tell you to do?” he told Daily Tele deputy editor Anna Caldwell.

Both shared a laugh, and then Mr Perrottet repeated that he would not be addressing the matter.

The counsel assisting the ICAC, Scott Robertson, on Friday said there was no suggestion Mr Perrottet had acted improperly.

“There’s no suggestion in any of the material before this commission, in this investigation of any improper conduct on the part of (Mr Perrottet), I just thought I should make that clear,” Mr Robertson said.

At a press conference on Friday Mr Perrottet said he would not be giving a running commentary.

“That would be incredibly prejudicial as public hearings are underway and the independent commission will continue to do its work,” he told reporters

“And ultimately, if there‘s anything the government needs to act on, arising out of those public inquiries, we will.“

The ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian breached the public’s trust in the course of her relationship with Mr Maguire, including whether she had a conflict of interest in handling money requests by him without disclosing their relationship.

With Anton Nilsson

Originally published as “Why do you do what Gladys says and not what I say?”: Perrottet says he and wife joked over ICAC evidence

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Qld Covid: No new cases as surf lifesavers front push to get Queenslanders vaccinated for Christmas

Queensland has called upon its iconic cohort of seaside guardians to help residents get vaccinated in time for Christmas.

We call upon them to save us in the surf, and now Queensland has turned to its clubbies to help save Christmas.

Surf clubs from Coolangatta to Cairns have been transformed into pop-up vaccination clinics this weekend as part of a last-ditch effort to get Queenslanders vaccinated in time for the December 17 reopening of the borders.

The state government is calling it ‘V-Day’ – the final weekend that residents can get their first dose of the vaccine if they want a second dose before the state begins welcoming visitors, and a likely surge in virus numbers.

Hundreds of cases a day are expected to be recorded once Queensland fully opens up to outsiders.

“It’s just a matter of weeks until the borders open, so there’s no time to waste,” emergency services Minister Mark Ryan said at a press conference at Caloundra.

There are 23 surf clubs set up as vaccination clinics this weekend for people to get vaccinated. It follows a strategy that has also used pop-up clinics at rugby league matches, Bunnings Warehouses and local high schools.

Each participating surf club will have qualified vaccination staff on hand to administer the jabs.

There were no new Covid cases reported in Queensland on Saturday – either locally acquired or in hotel quarantine – with only 13 cases currently in the state.

The state’s vaccination rate is still creeping towards the 80 per cent double-dose target set down for the reopening of borders, with 63 per cent of the population having had two jabs. About 77 per cent of Queenslanders have had one dose.

Government noted that people who are vaccinated have an 86 per cent less chance of catching the virus and passing it on, and a 90 per cent less chance of dying from the effects of the virus.

Originally published as Surf lifesavers front final push to get Queenslanders vaccinated in time for Christmas

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WA: ‘Spy plane’ used in search for missing girl Cleo Smith

The WA police commissioner has been quizzed on suggestions a ‘spy plane’ was used during the search for missing girl Cleo Smith.

Western Australia’s police commissioner has brushed off suggestions a “spy plane” has been used in the search for suspected abduction victim Cleo Smith, as officers returned to her last known location to collect campfire ashes.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister revealed the Australian Federal Police were using “very advanced capabilities” that were “leading edge” and it has since been reported by 7 News that it involves a reconnaissance spy plane.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was asked about it during a press conference on Thursday, with a reporter querying the use of a plane almost two weeks after Cleo vanished.

“Obviously it’s a big police operation and in any such operation of this scale we reach out to police forces, not only across Australia, but indeed across the world,” Mr Dawson said.

“The AFP will, like others, assist us with whatever they can. We will accept any opportunity to expand any capability.”

Mr Dawson said he would not go into the specifics about the AFP’s particular involvement.

“We welcome any assistance from any police force around the world,” he said.

Asked again directly if it was a “spy plane or something like that”, Mr Dawson replied: “I won’t go into specifics.”

The AFP refused to comment when NCA NewsWire asked about it.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Wednesday told federal parliament that the AFP and federal agencies were supporting the work of the WA Police Force.

“Our thoughts are with the family and I can assure them that the advanced capabilities of federal law enforcement are being deployed to aid local efforts to find Cleo,” she said.

“Australians can be certain we will continue to equip our law enforcement and intelligence agencies with the tools and resources they need to combat this very serious crime, especially crimes against children.”

Late on Wednesday, police returned to the Blowholes campground in Macleod, where it is suspected Cleo was taken from the family tent on October 16, to collect ash samples from former campfires.

Officers also spent Thursday morning in Carnarvon’s light industrial area obtaining CCTV footage from businesses.

It comes after a report from two people who said they saw a car turn right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Hwy, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo vanished.

Police have been seeking CCTV and dashcam footage from people since Cleo’s disappearance.

Lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde landed in Carnarvon on Thursday morning.

Asked if the case could be solved, he said: “We’re really confident.”

Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon have vehemently denied having any involvement in the young girl’s disappearance.

“No way – we love our daughter and want her home,” Ms Smith told Seven’s Flashpoint program this week.

“There is no way that either myself or Jake could’ve done anything to hurt our daughter.

“She’s been taken from our family, from somewhere she’s meant to feel safe.”

Police have also said the couple are not suspects, nor is Cleo’s father.

Forensic officers have searched the family home three times and collected evidence in bags.

Police said the family had been helpful throughout the investigation and understood it was routine practice.

In a new Instagram post on Thursday, Ms Smith wrote: “If you know anything please call the police! We want our baby home.”

Ms Smith also posted a missing poster, promoting the state government’s $1m reward for information.

Bounty hunters have reportedly joined the search for Cleo in a bid to secure the reward, prompting a warning from police for people to stay safe.

“I think people — whether it’s for the money or whether it’s just to do the right thing and help find Cleo — people are up there trying to find what happened,” Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch said on Wednesday.

“There’s still a lot of land up there to cover. I just ask that people don’t put themselves in any danger in doing so.”

A GoFundMe page to support the search efforts and Cleo’s family has raised more than $83,000.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

Originally published as WA Police refuse to confirm reports a federal ‘spy plane’ has been used in the search for Cleo Smith

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Scott Morrison’s late night climate promise

Scott Morrison has sought to alleviate concerns over his newly announced net zero target in a late night interview.

Scott Morrison has used a late-night interview to pitch his newly-released climate plan, rejecting concerns the government has broken a promise not to increase climate targets.

Mr Morrison on Tuesday outlined his plan to reach net zero ahead of his trip to a major UN climate summit in Glasgow. Under the plan, more than $20 billion will be invested in low emissions technologies including carbon capture and storage.

The Prime Minister also unveiled new projections, which if reached, could see Australia reduce emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030.

Speaking with Sky News, the Prime Minister declared “nothing has changed” and insisted the shift towards a carbon neutral future was consistent with his rhetoric at the 2019 election.

“Well in 2019 there was two plans. There was Bill Shorten’s plan which he said he wanted to reduce emissions by 2030 by 45 per cent and there was our plan to reduce it by 26 to 28 per cent, ” Mr Morrison said.

“Now that’s what we’ve gone ahead with. The 45 per cent plan was rejected.”

Seeking to assure voters, Mr Morrison insisted the government had not backflipped on previous proposals and the and the last election was decided on 2030 targets, not net zero.

“Nothing has changed at all,” he declared.

“There was no discussion of net zero by 2050 at the last election. That wasn’t the debate … It was a choice between those two 2030 plans.”

Mr Morrison said he couldn’t shield the country from climate change – or the global fallout from perceived policy inaction.

“I said I would only ever contemplate (net zero) if we had a plan that enabled us to achieve it,” he said.

“We can’t just pretend these things aren’t going to happen from overseas. These things are occurring.

“And as Prime Minister I need to protect Australia from those impacts, decisions being made in other parts of the world, gonna have an impact here.

“Our plan helps us both protect Australians from that and realise the opportunities so we can succeed as we have all along.”

Addressing the concerns of the “quiet Australians”, Mr Morrison vowed Australia would keep mining and farming.

“We‘re not asking anything to be closed down. We’re going to keep digging, we’re going to keep mining, we’re going to keep farming,” he told Sky News.

“We’re going to keep doing all of these things, and nothing in our plan is about shutting any of those things down.”

Earlier, Mr Morrison dismissed comments he had been forced to this position by the United States and the United Kingdom.

He also denied the signing of the AUKUS agreement was contingent on adopting more robust climate targets.

“We decide what our policy is here, and this is in Australia‘s interest to do this,” he told 6PR.

“That said, of course, they have some strong views on this but their plans are different to ours, they’re going down a different path.”

On nuclear power, Mr Morrison told Sky News he would not subject Australians to the debate, considering it did not have bipartisan support.

“Right now there’s a moratorium on nuclear (energy) here in Australia and the Labor Party are totally opposed. And I’m just not going to put Australia through the argument,” he said.

Originally published as Scott Morrison pitches climate plan in late night interview

Read related topics:Climate ChangeScott Morrison

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