Australian prime minister defends move to ditch French submarine contract as ‘the right decision’ at G20 in Rome
Scott Morrison has doubled down on Australia’s decision to ditch a multi-billion dollar French submarine contract, contradicting Joe Biden’s claims about whether Emmanuel Macron was informed about the move.
Speaking to reporters at the G20 summit in Rome on Saturday, the prime minister insisted Australia had made “the right decision” by ditching the French submarine contract, even though his management of the fracas has infuriated the French president and prompted an implicit public rebuke from Joe Biden.
Morrison insisted he had kept the Biden administration up to date “with the status of the conversations and discussions with the French government”.
But Morrison’s account contradicts an observation from Biden during a meeting with Macron ahead of the G20 summit.
The US president told Macron, with television cameras present, that he was “under the impression that France had been informed” about Australia’s intention to ditch a $90bn contract with the French Naval Group “long before” the Aukus nuclear powered submarine pact was revealed publicly.
France has declared it was “betrayed”, “stabbed in the back” and “deceived” over Australia’s decision to dump the French-backed submarine project worth up to $A90bn (£48bn).
It was unclear whether Biden’s rebuke – which included an observation that the handling of the issue had been “clumsy” – was directed at Morrison, or at his own senior staff. Australian officials suggest Biden’s staff did not keep the president in the loop.
Asked whether the US president had effectively thrown him under the bus, Morrison declared Australia had made the right decision to enter the Aukusagreement with the US and the United Kingdom and “we don’t recoil from that at all”.