PM 'respects' Turnbull after AUKUS attack

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he still has great respect for his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, despite the former leader's criticism over the handling of the new AUKUS security pact.

Mr Turnbull used an address at the National Press Club to hit out at the prime minister's decision to scrap a $90 billion French submarine deal in favour of new nuclear-powered submarines developed with the help of the US and the UK.

While Mr Turnbull used the speech to say the AUKUS deal would lead to Australia walking into a dangerous form of propulsion without civil nuclear expertise, the prime minister defended the deal.

"That is not the advice I have had from our defence officials and the engagement we've had with the US and the UK," Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.

"The idea that Australia has to have a civil nuclear energy industry is not a requirement for us to go through the submarine program.

"We'll be drawing on the great experience of ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) and Australia's existing scientific capability in the nuclear field."

Mr Turnbull said the federal government had betrayed France over its handling of the AUKUS deal.

"This is an appalling episode in Australia's international affairs and the consequences of it will endure to our disadvantage for a very long time," he said on Wednesday.

However, the prime minister did not criticise the former leader during his first public comments on the matter since Wednesday's speech.

"We perhaps may be speaking at cross-purposes, but my policy has always been to show great respect to my predecessor, thank them for their great service to our country," he said.

While the prime minister has not been able to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron since the fallout of the submarine deal, Mr Turnbull said he had spoken to the European leader.

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