ABC host's damning ScoMo question : 'Have you seen worse?'

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A veteran ABC journalist has called into question Scott Morrison's recent trip overseas for the G20 and COP26 summits, which was dogged by the fallout from the abandoned French submarine deal.

Mr Morrison was forced to answer for his decision to scrap the $90 billion French submarine contract and respond to French President Emmanuel Macron accusing him of lying.

Australia in September announced it would spend 18 months looking at the feasibility of acquiring nuclear-propelled submarine technology from the US and UK under the AUKUS agreement, and would end its existing contract with France .

On ABC New Breakfast on Friday, host Michael Rowland pressed Trade Minister Dan Tehan about the trip and the fallout with the French.

ABC News Breakfast host Michael Rowland pressed Trade Minister Dan Tehan about Scott Morrison's recent overseas trip and the leaked text messages. Soource: ABC
ABC News Breakfast host Michael Rowland pressed Trade Minister Dan Tehan about Scott Morrison's recent overseas trip and the leaked text messages. Soource: ABC

"Have you seen a worse prime ministerial trip overseas in recent memory?" Mr Rowland asked Mr Tehan.

The trade minister responded by saying when a country makes a "tough decision" regarding national and security interests, "they can be really tough, and they can cause diplomatic issues".

"But the most important thing is that you've got the courage to make those decisions and that's what the government did," he said, adding the AUKUS deal was about protecting Australia's national interest.

"Now, we knew France would be disappointed with that decision, but we had to make a tough decision.

"We did it and in the end country will be more secure as a result."

Tehan questioned on leaked text message strategy

Mr Tehan was also optimistic Australia and France will be able to mend its diplomatic relationship.

During the prime minister's trip, text messages between him and President Macron were leaked. The source of the leak is understood to be the prime minister's office. 

Mr Rowland asked Mr Tehan whether either Mr Morrison or someone in his office leaking the messages was the right decision.

"I think the PM said it very well when he said 'Let's not rake over the hot coals'," Mr Tehan began before Mr Rowland interjected and tried a more direct question.

"Would you for instance, leak a private text message from a trade minister somewhere else in the world?" he asked.

"I'm not going to rake over the hot coals —," Mr Tehan responded, then the ABC host interjected again, trying to get an answer from the minister.

For Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the G20 and COP26 summits in Europe, were plagued with questions about the scrapped French sub deal Source: AAP
For Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the G20 and COP26 summits in Europe, were plagued with questions about the scrapped French sub deal Source: AAP

Despite Mr Rowland's insistence, he did not get an answer as to whether Mr Tehan would leak text messages between him and an overseas counterpart.

"Mike, I'm not gonna rake over the coals, the most important thing is that we move on, we focus on those values, the importance of the of the relationship, the importance of the economic relationship," Mr Tehan said.

"These are the things that we need to focus on to get the relationship back on an even keel, that's what I'll be doing next."

'Vandalism': labor slams text message leak

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong condemned the leaking of text messages between Mr Morrison and President Macron about the deal.

"You don't make a country more secure by demonstrating that you're prepared to damage at any cost, damage partnerships and alliances," she told ABC radio on Thursday.

"This is the vandalism, it is vandalism.

"The way in which this has been dealt with by the government is with a wanton disregard for our international reputation."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson centre gestures as he stands with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, Austalia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison background and French President Emmanuel Macron, right, during an event for the G20 summit in Rome.
The G20 summit in Rome was plagued by questions about the French deal and whether Scott Morrison lied to the French president Emmanuel Macron. Source: AP

French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault labelled the dumping of the 2016 contract for Attack Class vessels from Naval Group "a stab in the back".

Mr Thebault said the leaking of private texts to Australian media after Mr Macron accused Mr Morrison of lying to him was "an unprecedented new low".

"Doing so also sends a very worrying signal. For all heads of state — be aware, in Australia, there will be leaks," Mr Thebault told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

with AAP

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