Thursday, September 30, 2021

Nasty back-stabbing but so typical of Scott Morrison

Guardian (Aus):

‘Someone lied’: French foreign minister accuses Australia of submarine betrayal in latest broadside

Jean-Yves Le Drian says Australia reassured France everything was fine right up to the day the Aukus pact was announced

Jean-Yves Le Drian has told a French parliamentary hearing that Australia never expressed doubts about the submarine deal before breaking the contract. Photograph: Reuters

France has accused Australia of lying shortly before Canberra cancelled a major submarine contract, with the French foreign minister declaring “someone lied”.

With no sign of any imminent easing of tensions between the two countries, Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing that Australia had never expressed doubts about the €56bn (A$90bn) submarine contract or the strategic Indo-Pacific pact before breaking the contract.

“Everything I have told you is confirmed by the letter I received on 15 September from the Australian ministry of defence that said everything is OK let’s continue,” Le Drian said.

The French foreign minister said this suggested “someone lied”. He added: “Something doesn’t add up and we don’t know what.”

France cool on efforts by Australia to repair Aukus rift damage

Le Drian reiterated that French contractor Naval Group had received a letter on the same day the contract was broken saying Australia was “satisfied” with the strategic review of the submarines and was ready for the “rapid signature for the second phase of the programme”.

As a result, the decision to break the multibillion submarine contract was met with “stupor” in France, he said.

The letter in question has not been publicly released. The Guardian has contacted the Australian government for comment, but it has previously played down the letter’s significance.

Last week a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Defence told the Guardian: “On 15 September 2021, Naval Group was advised that the formal exit of a system review had been achieved as required under the contractual arrangements in place at the time.”

The spokesperson added: “This correspondence did not refer to or authorise commencement of the next phase of the program, which remained subject to the announcement of decisions by the Australian government.”

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has repeatedly defended the fallout from his joining with the UK and the US for a new defence cooperation arrangement to deliver nuclear-propelled submarines.

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