Scott Morrison's tense exchange with reporter after 'lying' allegation

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·News Reporter
·3-min read
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had a tense exchange with journalists over accusations he lied to French President Emmanuel Macron over a $90 billion submarine deal.

Mr Macron told the ABC: “I don’t think, I know”, when he was pressed if he believed Mr Morrison had been untruthful to him.

The French president was referring to Australia’s strained relationship with France after the Morrison government ended a lucrative deal for submarines and signed a groundbreaking pact with the US and the UK, which included a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Mr Morrison and Mr Macron are among world leaders meeting at the G20 summit in Rome.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to reporters at the G20 summit in Rome.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison denies he lied to French President Emmanuel Macron. Source: ABC

Morrison denies lying to Macron

The PM was asked by a reporter if he ever considered “exercising the gates” to get out of the contracts, to which he replied he was “very clear” the submarines did not meet Australia’s “strategic interests”.

The reporter, ABC’s Bevan Shields, pointed out that was not the question.

“But that’s my answer,” Mr Morrison said.

The PM was then asked about the “extraordinary allegation” made by the French president accusing him of “being a liar”.

“And I don’t accept it,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he has begun working on fixing Australia’s relationship with France.

France's President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he addresses media representatives at a press conference in Rome, Italy.
Mr Macron speaks at the G20 summit. Source: AAP

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was asked about the accusation on Nine's Today show on Monday morning.

Mr Frydenberg reinforced the claim Mr Morrison did not lie.

"Of course, there's disappointment on the French side. This was a major defence contract that they wanted to see through to completion, but of course it wasn't compatible with the new AUKUS arrangement that we entered into," he told the program.

US president Joe Biden on the weekend described the way the decision by the AUKUS partners was handled as "clumsy".

"I think what happened was – to use an English phrase – what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace," Mr Biden said during a meeting with Mr Macron in Rome.

"I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn't happened."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives for the welcome ceremony on the first day of the Rome G20 summit.
Mr Morrison arrives for the G20 welcome ceremony in Rome on Saturday. Source: Getty Images

Australia criticised over relations with China and France

On Twitter, people were concerned Mr Morrison had exacerbated the situation.

“This is getting worse,” one man tweeted.

Another man tweeted that the exchange between the journalist and the PM reminded them of a Clarke and Dawes skit.

Others called Mr Morrison’s answers “embarrassing” and “grotesque”.

Regardless of the accusations, the ordeal is another blow to Australia’s international relations which remain at a low point with both France and China.

The submarine deal has not gone unnoticed by Beijing which last month warned, through the state-run Global Times newspaper, the lives of Australian soldiers will be lost if Australia continues on its current trajectory.

Relations between Australia and China have been tense for months since the PM called for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

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