Scott Morrison has been accused of putting his personal political interests before the resolution of the diplomatic conflict between Australia and France, after the leak of an SMS from Emmanuel Macron to the Prime Minister.
The release of a text received two days before Aukus’ announcement – when the French president asked Morrison whether to expect good news or bad news on the submarine project – was “a very unconventional behavior between heads of state, ”said a prominent foreign affairs analyst.
The Morrison government also pushed back the U.S. government on Tuesday, Defense Minister Peter Dutton saying Australia’s main security ally was “kept abreast of our every move” as part of a “No surprises strategy” before the agreement. between the two countries and the United Kingdom.
The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday details of a confidential 15-page communications schedule which the article said undermined claims by US President Joe Biden that he was unaware that Australia had failed to notify the France earlier from the cancellation of the French submarine contract.
The extraordinary rift between Australia and France stems from Macron’s accusation that Morrison lied to him about plans with the US and UK to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Morrison rejected the request and said he “was not going to sled in Australia”.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review reported that Macron texted Morrison two days before Aukus’ announcement in mid-September to say, “Should I expect a good one or bad news for our common submarine ambitions?
The leaked message – shared to bolster Australia’s position that France was not caught off guard by the cancellation of the AU $ 90 billion submarine deal – also appeared to confirm that Macron wasn’t sure which direction Australia would go in shortly before Aukus’ unveiling.
It was also reported that Macron told Morrison in June: ‘I don’t like to lose’, after the Prime Minister of Australia expressed concern in Paris whether the planned 12 conventionally-powered submarines were still suitable for the Australia’s strategic needs.
Labor spokeswoman for foreign affairs Penny Wong said Morrison was “ready to trash alliances and partnerships for personal political interests, instead of just admitting it could have been better handled.”
“Mr. Morrison is to explain how selective text messages between himself and the French president, and the contents of a confidential 15-page document negotiated in secret between President Biden’s National Security Council and Australian and British officials ended up in Australian newspapers, ”Wong said. .
“Mr. Morrison must rule out that this training comes from him, his office or his government. His furious attempts to limit the damage will only make world leaders less trust him. “
Morrison’s office declined to respond to Wong’s comments on Tuesday, pointing to the Prime Minister’s comments a day earlier.
Morrison in Glasgow was asked on Monday: ‘Why did you decide to release this text message? “
The Prime Minister did not directly dispute this assertion, but said he did not intend to “please your editorial on this”.
Morrison told reporters that Macron “feared it was a phone call that would result in Australia’s decision not to continue with the contract.”
Morrison said the French defense system “kicked into action” the day after his dinner with Macron at the Elysee Palace in June to try to resolve issues with the project – including sending a French admiral to Australia “To try to save the contract”.
The French Embassy in Canberra did not comment on the broadcast of the SMS, while Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault is due to address the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Comments have also been sought from the U.S. Embassy and the White House.
Earlier, a senior White House official declined to clarify who Biden was referring to when he told Macron in Rome last week: “I felt that France had been informed long before the agreement was not reached. I, honest with God, didn’t know you weren’t.
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan – when asked Monday about Morrison’s handling of the case – replied: “We should look forward, not back. “
Hervé Lemahieu, director of research at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, said Australia had every right to decide to terminate the French contract and enter into Aukus, but communication with France “could have been handled with a little more skill and diplomacy ”. .
Lemahieu said the alleged publication of the texts was “highly unconventional behavior between heads of state” and reflected “how personalized the feud has become.”
“I think the key variable here is that President Macron and Prime Minister Morrison are two men facing elections in 2022, and they both see the crash as a blow to their prestige and personal position. and they are aimed primarily at a national audience. here, rather than to each other.
Lemahieu said he has been monitoring French news in recent days “and it’s a bigger story in Australia than it is in France”.
He said managing communications with France was “as much American mismanagement as Australian mismanagement” – because the United States is an official ally of France by treaty.
Lemahieu said Biden had “essentially decided it was worth pushing Australia under the bus in order to save” relations between the United States and France.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who announced the partnership with France for the acquisition of submarines in 2016 – said Morrison “should apologize” to Macron “because he cheated on France in a very elaborate and deceptive way ”.
Former Labor PM Kevin Rudd said the situation had become an ‘extraordinary mess’ where’ we now have heads of government, indeed, fleeing from each other to establish what happened in these informal text messages between heads of government ”.
“Mr. Morrison is now digging an even bigger hole for himself, not only compared to the French, by himself effectively accusing the French president of lying, but also (in) an extraordinary briefing on Mr. Morrison to consider US officials to properly inform the President of the United States of the nature of the cancellation of the French deal, ”Rudd told ABC.