Shepparton News

Turnbull slams Morrison’s failed French submarine deal

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CANBERRA: Malcolm Turnbull has gone nuclear on Scott Morrison in a weapons-grade attack over the scrapped French submarine deal.

The former prime minister launched a series of bombs in an explosive National Press Club speech aimed squarely at his predecesso­r.

Deceitful, devious, untrustwor­thy, double-crossing and bad faith were among Mr Turnbull’s descriptio­ns of the prime minister’s conduct.

Australia scrapped a $90 billion contract with French company Naval Group in favour of exploring nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the United Kingdom and United States.

The decision sunk diplomatic relations between Canberra and Paris to rock bottom, but Mr Turnbull warned of even more serious flow-on effects.

‘‘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 yesterday.

He said the Australian Government treated the French with contempt by not telling President Emmanuel Macron a nuclear option was being explored.

‘‘This betrayal of trust will dog our relations with Europe for years,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

‘‘It won’t be forgotten. Every time we seek to persuade another nation to trust us, somebody will be saying remember what they did to Macron.

‘‘If they can throw France under a bus, what would they do to us?’’

Mr Turnbull revealed he had spoken to Mr Macron — who is refusing Mr Morrison’s calls — after the decision.

He said statements about the French being ‘‘stabbed in the back’’ were widely held throughout the government.

‘‘What it tells you is that Australia can’t be trusted,’’ the former prime minister said.

‘‘When you conduct yourself in such a deceitful manner internatio­nally, it has a real impact on Australia.’’

The Morrison Government argues it kept negotiatio­ns with the US and UK secret to protect Australia’s national interest, which would not have been served through French diesel-powered boats.

Mr Turnbull criticised ‘‘immature’’ commentary that praised Mr Morrison for being clever in tricking the French Government.

‘‘You are playing for keeps in internatio­nal affairs, and throwing your reputation for being trustworth­y away is a terrible, terrible mistake,’’ he said.

The former prime minister said Australia was walking into the most potentiall­y dangerous form of propulsion without civil or naval nuclear expertise.

‘‘The fact that there was no discussion and this extraordin­ary deceit that was practised, it has left us with so many unresolved questions.’’

He said anyone — including Labor — who questioned the decision was accused of being unpatrioti­c.

‘‘I am not getting any lectures on patriotism from Scott Morrison,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

‘‘I defended the national security of this country and its national interest and I know the way that he has behaved is putting that at risk.’’

Mr Turnbull, whose government signed the deal with Naval Group in 2016, denied the agreement had blown out in cost from $50 billion to $90 billion.

He argued the initial figure was a cost estimate that included the weapons system, a new dock in Adelaide and other items, while the higher amount was related to the 35-year life of the program.

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