Defense Minister Peter Dutton has suggested that the reason France remains “frustrated” by Australia’s abandonment of the $ 90 billion bilateral submarine deal is because of an election imminent.
President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called Prime Minister Scott Morrison, more than a month after Australia announced it would explore the capabilities of nuclear submarines under a new partnership with the UK and the United States, canceling an agreement with the French and leading to major diplomatic fallout.
In a reading released after the phone call, the Elysee Palace said Mr Macron told Mr Morrison the decision “shattered” trust between the two nations.
“It is now up to the Australian government to propose concrete actions which embody the will of the highest Australian authorities to redefine the bases of our bilateral relations”, indicates the text.
In contrast, a spokesperson for Mr. Morrison described the phone call as having been a “frank discussion”.
Speaking on Friday morning, Mr Dutton reiterated Mr Morrison’s sentiments, calling the phone call “productive” and suggested there was an electoral size reason why the French continued to express their anger .
“I think the Prime Minister was keen for the phone call to take place,” Dutton told Today.
“(But) listen, don’t forget that France has elections in April next year either.
“So politicians and elections are always an interesting mix.
“So I think once we get through that next year, hopefully we can continue the steps to normalize the relationship, but that’s the situation right now.”
Mr Dutton said Australia “understood” France’s frustration, but that ultimately the decision on the submarine was made in the national interest.
“We believe that nuclear powered submarines will provide our country with security and protection over the next decades, and we make no apologies,” he said.
Australia’s decision to rescind the deal, reached in 2015, in favor of the future purchase of nuclear submarines made available through AUKUS sparked fury, prompting France to immediately withdraw its ambassador from Australia.
But he returned this week and Foreign Secretary Marise Payne told Senate estimates on Thursday that she would meet with him next week to start restoring the relationship.
“I certainly regret the deep disappointment that France feels,” she said.
Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said earlier this month he was “happy to be back” but the relationship still needed work.
The phone call came just before Mr Morrison boarded a flight to Rome for a meeting of G20 leaders, then Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference, where Mr Macron will also be present.
It will be the first time the leaders have come face to face since they were in New York last month for the United Nations General Assembly, where Mr. Macron shook Mr. Morrison’s back.
Mr Morrison then wrote a letter to Mr Macron requesting a phone call.
In Thursday’s eventual appeal, Mr Morrison took the opportunity to “brief the president on Australia’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”
But the French reading suggested that Mr Macron had encouraged Mr Morrison to adopt “ambitious measures commensurate with the climate challenge”, including the elimination of the production and consumption of coal.
Mr Dutton said on Friday that the government’s net zero plan, which Mr Morrison is bringing to Glasgow, would ensure that no industry is “crushed”.
“We don’t want to lose jobs, we don’t want to shut down these regional cities, we want our economy to be doing well,” Mr. Dutton told Today.
“We want to take care of the economy. The Prime Minister has a plan to be able to do this. “