‘TREASON’: French ambassador’s stern words to Scott Morrison amid bitter spat

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·News Reporter
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The French ambassador has offered some stern words for the Australian government as relations between the two countries continue to wither over the cancellation of a submarine contract.

Jean-Pierre Thébault spoke to the National Press Club on Wednesday amid the bitter spat claiming the Australian government’s “deceit was intentional”.

“Because there was far more at stake than providing submarines, because it was a common agreement on sovereignty, sealed with the transmission of highly classified datas, the way it was handled was plainly a stab in the back,” he said.

France's Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault delivers his address to the National Press Club in Canberra.
France's Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault has offered some scathing words for the Australian government. Source: AAP

Mr Thébault is referring to the AUKUS agreement Australia made with the UK and the US. The Morrison government earlier this year ended a lucrative deal for submarines with the French government and signed a groundbreaking pact with the US and the UK, which included a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The French ambassador said other governments can now question Australia’s commitment to agreements. He added the decision was made unilaterally by Australia and the French were not consulted despite "countless opportunities".

"Without having shared (information) frankly and openly, or having looked for alternatives with France, is just out of this world,” he said.

Mr Thébault thanked reporters for uncovering "treason in the making".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Canberra, Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied lying to French President Emmanuel Macron. Source: Getty Images

‘Unprecedented new low’ after text leak

Relations continue to sour. On Monday, The Daily Telegraph published a leaked text message from French President Emmanuel Macron to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?" the text from Mr Macron reads.

It is not clear who leaked the text.

Mr Thébault said the text leak represented “an unprecedented new low in terms of how to proceed and also in terms of truth and trust”.

“You don't behave like this on personal exchanges of leaders,” he said.

"Doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state; beware, in Australia there will be leaks and what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponised against you one day."

A close adviser to the French president told Le Parisien “confidence has been completely shattered”.

“Disclosing a text message exchange between heads of state or government is a pretty crude and unconventional tactic,” they told the publication.

PM stands firm amid claims he lied

Scott Morrison answered questions about the text message leaks in a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday on his way home from the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The prime minister was asked if the leak came from his office. He did not deny it came from his office.

"Claims were made and claims were refuted, what is needed now is for us to move on," Mr Morrison said in Dubai.

"That is what is important to the Australian people, the United States and UK, to get on with the historic agreement we came to deliver an incredibly important capability to Australia to keep us safe and defend and protect Australia."

Mr Morrison told the ABC earlier this week during a meeting with world leaders at the G20 summit in Rome the submarines did not meet Australia’s “strategic interests”.

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

with AAP

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