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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

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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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Malcolm Turnbull says Scott Morrison’s ‘duplicity’ was ‘shameful’ over French subs deal



Malcolm Turnbull says his successor should have had an ‘honest and open’ conversation about Australia’s nuclear future before breaking decades of diplomatic trust.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has slammed Scott Morrison for his “sneaky, “shameful” and “duplicitous” behaviour that has strained Australia’s diplomatic relationship with France.

Speaking from the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison “should apologise” for “double dealing” the French over the submarine deal.

Mr Turnbull’s comments come after a day of back-and-forth between Mr Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron, who accused Mr Morrison of lying about dumping their $90bn submarine contract in favour of a nuclear powered pact with the US and the UK.

Less than 24 hours after the public accusation, private text messages, presumably leaked from the Prime Minister’s Office, emerged, essentially undermining Mr Macron’s statement.

Speaking from Glasgow, Mr Morrison said he “would not cop a sledging” from Mr Macron and he had tried to set up a call with him before the AUKUS announcement in September that led to the diplomatic fallout.

“(Mr Macron) 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,” Mr Morrison said from Glasgow.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison should cease hitting back and apologise.

“Firstly, because he did very elaborately and duplicitously deceive France,” he said.

“We had a relationship of the deepest trust and confidence with France – the French shared with us some of their most secret technology on submarines. It was a partnership between two nations as a cornerstone of France-Indo-Pacific strategy and to be double dealing with them the way Morrison did was shameful.

“I mean (US President) Joe Biden has acknowledged that.

“Morrison’s conduct has done enormous damage.”

Mr Morrison told reporters in Glasgow that during dinner in June with Mr Macron he had clearly told the French President that conventional submarines would no longer meet Australia’s strategic interests and any decision to transition to nuclear-powered ships would be in Australia’s national interests.

“The (French) submarine contract was a significant investment decision taken five years ago. At that point … the attack class submarine was the right decision,” Mr Morrison said from Glasgow.

“But there have been significant changes which have completely changed the game.”

Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison should have dealt with Mr Macron “honestly” instead of “dropping hints”.

“What we should have done, and nuclear propulsion for submarines has always been an option for us … but what we should have done was had an honest and open conversation,” Mr Turnbull said.

“An honest person would have sat down with France, brought in the Americans … and said ‘look, we think we should move to nuclear propulsion’.

“The French submarine that we were working on was actually designed as a nuclear submarine and it was Australia’s request that it had conventional diesel electric propulsion.

“All Scott needed to do was to be honest and open, and that’s exactly what Biden has criticised him for because there wasn’t consultation.

“ If we had had an honest and open conversation, we wouldn’t have any of these problems. This is all the product of Scott’s duplicity.”

Originally published as Malcolm Turnbull says Scott Morrison’s ‘duplicity’ was ‘shameful’ over French subs deal

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