‘I understand the disappointment’: No plans for Morrison to meet French president

By Jackson Graham

Wednesday September 22, 2021

Any public servant who has undertaken procurement knows there are rules about how the Australian government buys things.
Any public servant who has undertaken procurement knows there are rules about how the Australian government buys things. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Prime minister Scott Morrison says the decision to ditch a $90 billion submarine deal was expected to bring disappointment to France and he has no plans to meet the French president yet.

Morrison touched down in the United States on Tuesday morning to attend security meetings with US president Joe Biden following last week’s announcement Australia would buy nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the US and UK. 

The prime minister is in New York during the United Nations General Assembly but said there was no opportunity to meet with French president Emmanuel Macron. 

‘I’m sure that opportunity will come in time,” Morrison said.

“But right now, I understand the disappointment, and they’re working through the consultations with their ambassador who’s returned to Paris and we will be patient about that.” 

He continued to back the decision to tear up the French deal despite France recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the US over the move. 

France’s ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault called the Morrision government’s withdrawal from the deal ‘clumsy, inadequate, un-Australian’ before leaving Canberra last week. 

But Morrison said France’s disappointment was expected. 

“To suggest that somehow this decision could have been taken without causing this disappointment, I think would be very naive,” he said. 

“At the end of the day, you have to do things that are in Australia’s national interest and our security interests.” 

He said the contract for the French deal allowed Australia not to proceed. Australia has reportedly already spent about $2 billion on the French contract. 

“We chose not to go through a gate in a contract,” Morrison said. “It was a decision that we knew clearly would cause disappointment.”

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese expressed concern over reports Australia didn’t do enough to treat France with respect as the arrangements changed. 

“Common courtesy between friends requires more openness,” he said. 

“Australia’s relationship with France is an important one. And it’s important that we do repair the relationship.”


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