Scott Morrison throws cold water on France’s ‘technological secrets’ claim
On Saturday, Mr Morrison told SBS News in an exclusive interview that he “would have been remiss” of him to pursue a contract which “was not going to meet” Australia’s needs.
Scott Morrison says election will be held next year
He said it was important for relations with Paris “to normalize”, a week after the European country recalled its ambassador to Australia and the United States.
While there are signs that relations between France and the United States are improving following a telephone meeting between the leaders of the two countries, it appears that is not the case with Australia.
“What is important for me is that we return to a normal relationship with France and that we continue the work we were doing before – because the submarine contract was only part of our relationship”, Mr Morrison said.
“France is a great partner in the Pacific. France is a great partner among liberal democracies. We share values, we share a vision and we want to be partners of France.”
The comments come after France’s Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault told SBS French the decision to cancel the deal goes beyond a breach of contract, calling it “treason in the making. “.
Mr. Thébault added that the nature of the contract went beyond a simple commercial transaction, to one where there was an exchange of “technological secrets”.
“It was (really) a real relationship of partnership, a real relationship of trust, of trust between two large countries of the Indo-Pacific.
“So it was something of a completely different nature from an ordinary contract.”
Mr. Morrison dismissed any suggestion that his government exploited military and intelligence secrets during the deal as “nonsense.”
“We were working in good faith in a contract, working together, paying our bills too, for that matter. And in the course of paying our invoices in this contract and working, many of our employees have developed great skills. It’s great for Australia.
The Prime Minister reiterated that if Australia continued with the submarine contract, “it would have been terribly against Australia’s interests”.
“Of course, I couldn’t go on with that. And of course, when you make a tough decision like that, it won’t be welcomed by the other party to the contract. I understand that.
“But we’re just going to have to persevere, engage more. And I think we’ll get there because at the end of the day we share the same principles, we share the same beliefs, and we share the same goals.”
On Thursday, the CEO of French defense firm Naval Group said he would bill Australia “in the coming weeks” following the cancellation of the deal.
In response, Mr Morrison said the two sides would “resolve these issues” in accordance with the contract.
“We have been very clear in our understanding of our obligations here and we are acting in accordance with them.
“Let me be very clear, the suggestion some seem to be making, that Australia should have gone ahead with a contract costing Australian taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build a boat that was wrong. not meet our needs, would have been negligent.
“So I had to make a difficult decision and I understood that by doing this, it was going to cause anger and disappointment in our friend and partner, France.”
The comments come as Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he was hopeful that an “open invitation” would be accepted when he visited Paris in October, after confirming that his French counterpart had turned down an offer to meet.
Mr. Tehan will travel to the French capital for a meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He said on Saturday that he wanted to meet with French Trade Minister Franck Riester to “explain” Australia’s decision.
“I hope we can sit down and discuss this issue,” he said.
“There is an open invitation for me to sit down with my French counterpart and be able to explain the decision – a decision that was made in our national interest which was aimed at protecting our sovereignty, our security – and I could sit down. and work on that with my counterpart. “
However, an official in Mr Riester’s office said on Friday the offer was rejected.
“We will not follow up on the Australian minister’s request for a meeting,” the official said. “We can’t go on like it’s business as usual.”
Mr Tehan said he still hopes the couple can discuss the matter.
“When I saw this report, what I did was I spoke to our ambassador in Paris and I just said, ‘Please just send this invitation – it’s is an open invitation. I would be more than willing to sit down and talk to our counterpart and solve this problem ”.