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Morrison's French kiss off

Scott Morrison has hailed Australia’s military alliance and new submarine deal with the United Kingdom and United States as a landmark achievement.

Scott Morrison has hailed Australia’s military alliance and new submarine deal with the United Kingdom and United States as a landmark achievement.

But it’s already led to a global diplomatic standoff, pitting Australia against a number of European countries as well as further deepening tensions with China.

Today, columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno on the fallout from Australia’s nuclear submarine deal and why the President of France won’t return Scott Morrison’s phone calls.

 

Guest: Columnist for The Saturday Paper, Paul Bongiorno.

 
Show Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

RUBY:
From Schwartz Media I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am.

Scott Morrison has hailed Australia’s military alliance and new submarine deal with the United Kingdom and United States as a landmark achievement.

But it’s already led to a global diplomatic standoff, pitting Australia against a number of European countries as well as further deepening tensions with China.

Today, columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno, on the fallout from Australia’s nuclear submarine deal and why the President of France won’t return Scott Morrison’s phone calls.

It’s Friday September 24 

Paul, last week, Australia, along with the United Kingdom and the United States, announced a new agreement, a key part of that is this deal to build nuclear submarines. But this new deal means that our old deal with France has been scrapped. So how did the French take it?  

PAUL:
Well, Ruby Scott Morrison's new pact with the United States and the United Kingdom has become every bit as awkward as its acronym AUKUS. 

Archival Tape -- President of France Emmanuel Macron:
In French: It really is a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia. And this rrtrust was betrayed.

PAUL:
The French are furious. The day it was announced The French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said the country has been stabbed in the back. 

Archival Tape -- President of France Emmanuel Macron:
In French: And I’m angry today, with a lot of bitterness about this breach (of contract) 

PAUL:
He accused Australia of lying, duplicity and a major breach of trust and contempt.

France, then escalated the issue by withdrawing its ambassador from Australia and for the first time in 200 years from the United States. 

Archival Tape -- President of France Emmanuel Macron:
In French: This is not done between allies. Especially when there’s been two years of negotiations for this contract. 

PAUL:
The anger of France at the secretive dumping of the 90 billion dollar contract to build 12 conventionally powered submarines has forced both Scott Morrison and Joe Biden into urgent damage control. It caused a massive diplomatic crisis, and the blowback isn't just coming from the French, but countries across Europe and even Asia. 

RUBY:
So it's fairly clear that we left France out in the cold here by doing this deal with the US. How has Scott Morrison justified it?

PAUL:
Well, Morrison has defended his betrayal of France's trust and the sneaky way he did it in terms of the greater national interest of Australia. 

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
As a Prime Minister, I must make decisions that are in Australia’s national security interests. I know that France would do that same and I know ultimately that will be understood. 

PAUL:
We've been told that 18 months ago the Defence Department, after a capability review, concluded nuclear powered submarines were required for the defence of Australia rather than the conventional French ones. And after that, Peter Dutton took the bit between his teeth and went on a mission to ingratiate himself with the British and the Americans to get access to their nuclear technology at the expense of the French. 

Publicly, though, Australia was acting as if the problems with the French contract could be ironed out 

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
Mr President. Excellency, it's a great pleasure for me to be here with you in this wonderful place.

PAUL:
in June this year, the prime minister stood alongside the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace with much backslapping for the cameras and every indication all was on track.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
Affinity is the word we use to describe our partnership and affinity across so many different areas of the relationship. If you've just heard Emmanuel speak of… 

PAUL:
The French president hosted Morrisson for dinner, and French sources say that even though Morrison raised issues with the deal, there was no suggestion they were thinking of tearing it up. In fact, after their meeting, Morrison told the media they had a very positive discussion. 

Australia was clearly playing a double game here, stringing along the French while secretly negotiating with the US and the UK. 

RUBY:
It seems like a risky move, Paul, to double cross a country that we would traditionally see as a safe ally..

PAUL:
Well, Ruby, of course, diplomatic subterfuge is hardly new, but it's usually reserved for unfriendly countries. You've got to say it's shocking to see it used against a country like France, a traditional ally with whom we'd signed an enormous military deal and duplicity, embarrassed the Americans.

And on Thursday, Biden began patching things up with Macron in a phone call. And in a joint statement admitted, and I'm quoting, They agreed the situation would have benefited from open consultations amongst allies on matters of strategic interest to France and European partners. 

And Australia still can't get a call through to President Macron.

Little surprise. Then this stirred up so much international focus on what Australia has done, rwhich, of course, is what Americans experiencing during his US trip this week.

RUBY:
So Scott Morrison, in the wake of this announcement of the submarine deal, has gone to the US where he's having a series of meetings with world leaders, including with the US president. So how is it all going so far?

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
First of all, to be here in New York, the first responsibility of any prime minister, any leader of any country is their national security and to always put their national interests first. 

PAUL:
Well, Morrison was in New York for his first bilateral meeting with President Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. But its comments from one of Europe's most senior leaders that made headlines

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:
And I really greatly appreciated the many discussions that we've had and that the opportunity to speak today. Europe is so important to the importance of the Indo Pacific 

PAUL:
European Council President Charles Michel publicly rebuked the PM during a meeting at the UN.

Archival Tape -- European Council President Charles Michel
Thanks for your message, but as you know, for us, transparency and loyalty are fundamental principles to build stronger partnerships and strong...

PAUL:
Michele was polite, but he made it clear that Europe was not impressed with Australia's duplicitous negotiations. He said transparency and loyalty were fundamental to maintaining alliances, and he wasn't the only European politician to express his discomfort. The German foreign minister also spoke up, describing the Australia UK US deal as unsettling. 

But Ruby, it's not just Europe. This new military pact and the clandestine way it was arranged has angered countries much closer to home, including, of course, its target, China.

RUBY:
We’ll be back after this

MIDROLL

RUBY:
Paul, the Australia, UK, US Alliance AUKUS and the Associated Nuclear Submarine Deal have largely been viewed through the prism of the United States trying to contain China. How has China responded?

PAUL:
Well, we get a sense of this from what's been published by the state aligned tmedia in China. 

For example, the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, has warned orcas will make Australia a nuclear target. And that's something that was repeated by Professor Victor Gao from Suzhou University on ABC TV. 

Archival Tape -- Professor Victor Gao
Armed with nuclear submarines, Australia itself will be a target for possible nuclear attacks. 

Archival Tape -- Grant
Can I just stop you there? Can I just stop you there? Australia will be a target for nuclear attack. From whom? 

Archival Tape -- Professor Victor Gao
You do not need to know who it will be. But as a logic, no one wants to target any nuclear free zone, which now includes Australia...

PAUL:
Gao was a translator for former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. And he says it's logical that if Australia is nuclear armed, then it invites nuclear retaliation in the event of war.

But Ruby, if we get to that stage, we'd already be in the midst of a nuclear holocaust as America and China embark on mutually assured destruction. 

And former Prime Minister Paul Keating has accused Morrison of unnecessarily making an enemy of China. He's advised that instead of sabre rattling, we should be spending a lot more effort in diplomatic rapprochement. And it's advice he's directed at his own Labour Party as well. 

RUBY:
What exactly has Paul Keating been saying to Labour, Paul? 

PAUL:
Well, the Labour elder statesman has accused his party under both Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese of being complicit with the Liberals in selling out Australia's strategic autonomy to the United States. 

Keating says Labour has gone along with Morrison in turning its back on the 21st century for what he calls the jaded and faded Anglosphere. And of course, one of the reasons Keating pushed an Australian republic was to assure our Asian neighbours that we no longer owed our first allegiance to our colonial past. In Keating's view, Australia has backtracked a long way from that. 

And I've got to say, he nailed it when he says this latest strategy is a massive bet on the United States and its staying power in Asia. And he has evidence to back that up. America's clumsy withdrawal from Afghanistan after 21 years of bloodshed only to hand the country back to the Taliban is one compelling argument. But so, too, is the frightening instability of the American democracy itself. You know, Donald Trump and his supporters still don't accept the legitimacy of the last presidential election and continue with impunity to foster insurrection. And nobody can rule out a return of Trump or an equally disruptive and dangerous clone. 

RUBY:
And has Labour's current leader, Anthony Albanese, acknowledged any of these risks? Where does he stand on orcas? And also the question of how Australia should be placing itself between China and the US at this moment in time? 

PAUL:
Yeah, well, Albanese Ruby is well aware that the Keating view would resonate with a significant part of Labour's base. But heading into an election, he's keen to establish that he is no threat to the US alliance

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
Labor welcomes the Australia, UK, US agreement to maximise the interoperability of our defense and security arrangements. Our US alliance is our most important. And of course, the UK is our old friend. 

PAUL:
The Labour leader didn't have a murmur of dissent when he pushed back the orcas pact through shadow cabinet and his party room

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
So it makes sense in terms of efficiency and in terms of maximising the positive output, that we engage across our three nations … (fade)

PAUL:
One senior Labour figure told me that all the party's factions are committed to winning the election. No one wanted Morrison to have the luxury of framing the campaign in terms of Labour being pro China and anti America. 

RUBY:
So, Paul, despite the international criticism of this deal and the diplomatic fallout that it's caused both with our allies in Europe and also with a country like China, as well as these warnings that we've heard from experts about it being a risky and expensive enterprise, it seems like both of our major parties are backing it. So does that mean that this is what we're locking ourselves into, a multi decade partnership with the US?

PAUL:
Well, indeed, Ruby, but that's not a surprise or a problem. After all, the ends of the treaty has locked us into such an alliance for the past 70 years.

In my view, what's disturbing is the marrison government locking us into an arrangement that hands over our military and strategic sovereignty to Washington, even China hawks like former Labour government Defence Minister Kim Beazley, who was also our ambassador to Washington, says good allies always retain the right to differ in their own national interest. 

And that's something Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously did when he ran the show.

RUBY:
Paul, thank you so much for your time

PAUL:
Thank you, Ruby. Bye.

RUBY:
Bye.

[Advertisement]

 

RUBY:
Also in the news today,

 

Melbourne community health workers have been instructed not to wear their uniforms after staff in the CBD were abused by protestors this week. 

 

Due to concerns for the safety of health workers, a medical clinic and a vaccination centre in the city have been forced to close.

 

On Thursday Victoria recorded four deaths and 766 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases, 

the highest number of infections since the start of the pandemic last year.

 

**

 

And President Joe Biden has announced that the US will double its purchases of Covid-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries, bringing its pledged donations to a total of 1.1 billion Pfizer doses.

 

However some former WHO officials have criticised the US for not doing enough to help developing nations manufacture their own vaccines.
 

**

 

7am is a daily show from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It’s produced by Elle Marsh, Kara Jensen-Mackinnon, Anu Hasbold and Alex Gow. Our senior producer is Ruby Schwartz and our technical producer is Atticus Bastow.

 

Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio. 

 

I’m Ruby Jones and make sure to follow 7am on Instagram, we’re @7ampodcost. See you next week.

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