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Lies, Lies and Nuclear Submarines

It looked like something of an ambush, but a coterie of Australian journalists had their man where they wanted him. Between sessions at the G20 Summit in Rome, and French President Emmanuel Macron found himself blunter than usual. The sundering of the relationship between Australia and France over the new trilateral security relationship between Canberra, Washington and London, and, more importantly, the rescinding of the submarine contract with Australia, was playing on his mind. Did he think, came the question, whether he had been lied to by the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, about the intended scrapping of the Franco-Australian submarine deal with the creation of AUKUS? “I don’t think, I know,” came the definitive answer.

The response from Morrison was one of shameless dissembling. Making sure that Australian audiences and the news waves would only pick up select gobbets, he told the press that the French president had attacked, or “sledged” Australia and its good burghers. He expressed concern about “the statements that were made questioning Australia’s integrity and the slurs that have been placed on Australia.” He was “not going to cop sledging at Australia.”

A full reading of Macron’s words in the brief encounter suggests nothing of the sort. Australia and France were bound up in history and blood enriched ties going back to two world wars. “Your country was shoulder to shoulder with us during the wars. You had fighters with us when our freedom was at stake. We have, we do have the same values.” He respected “sovereign choices” but it was also vital to “respect allies and partners.” It was the conduct of the Australian government he had issue with, something that Macron thought “detrimental to the reputation of your country and your Prime Minister.”

Morrison’s defence proved shoddy, confusing the issue of having difficulties with the contractual relationship with France to build twelve diesel electric submarines with the issue of announcing an intended divorce. As with lovers who read off different relationship scripts, the Australian Prime Minister is convinced that Macron must have known when they met in June that something had soured. He had “made it very clear that a conventional diesel-powered submarine was not going to meet Australia’s strategic requirements. We discussed that candidly.” He did, however, say that alternatives were not discussed, they being “in confidence.”

The strategic environment, claimed Morrison with tediousness, had changed. There were also issues specific to the contract with the French defence firm Naval, including “following through with commitments on Australian industry content.” There were issues with delays; issues with cost. “These were matters that we raised quite regularly and indeed I raised with President Macron at each opportunity when we either spoke over the phone or we had our bilateral meetings going on for a number of years.”

Morrison’s mendacity is also pronounced in how he justifies pursuing the nuclear submarine option with the United States. Wishing to cuckold France, the Australian prime minister began to look around, with eyes firmly fastened on Washington’s formidable hardware. But, using the reasoning of any adulterer who is found out, it wasn’t a true relationship at that point; Washington and Canberra were dealing with “the nuclear stewardship issues”. “At the same time, we were working through in good faith with Naval to address the problems that we had in the contract.” Such a marriage; such a commitment.

In the Scotty from Advertising appraisal of the world, dissatisfaction can be retooled and packaged as separation and nullification. What Macron thought he heard or understood is less relevant than what Morrison thought he said. He might even believe it.

The Biden administration has also done its fair share of dissimulative manoeuvring in this affair. In his meeting with Macron at the Villa Bonaparte in Rome on October 29, President Joe Biden was fluffy and buttery. France, he assured the French President, was “the reason, in part, why we became an independent country.” Asked on whether the relationship between France and the US had been “repaired”, Biden was apologetic: “Well, the answer is: I think what happened [over the announcement of the submarines] – to use an English phrase, what we did was ‘clumsy’. It was not done with a lot of grace.”

This gave Biden the cue to place Morrison before an oncoming truck. “I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened.” To clarify, he was “under the impression that France had been informed long before that the [French-Australian submarine] deal was not going through. I, honest to God, did not know you had not been.”

What, then, had Morrison told Biden he was doing about the French and ending the conventional submarine affair? The Australian, equipped with a confidential document detailing a communications timeline on the new submarine nuclear announcement, suggests that Biden’s full grasp of the verity should also be questioned. The 15-page document, approved by officials of Biden’s National Security Council, makes the point that France would only be informed of the new arrangements on September 16.

Time was also spent in the Eisenhower Executive Office building pondering how Australia might best calm an indignant France. There was also concern expressed on how other powers might react. Little consideration was given to the fact that any anger might be directed against the US, least of all from France. Perhaps, suggests Greg Sheridan of the same newspaper with some charity, Biden has reached a point in his life where he can’t remember what he can’t remember.

The Morrison government has also taken to the distasteful practice of selective leaking in bolstering its quicksand position, a tactic which further suggests a diminution of an already less than impressive political office. A prodding text from Macron to Morrison, sent two days prior to the AUKUS announcement and the cancellation of the contract, involved a query as to whether good or bad news could be expected about the French submarines. The vulgar insinuation here is that Macron supposedly had an inkling that something was afoot from the Australian side, which hardly counts as fully informed awareness. Naturally, Morrison’s response is not noted. The Elysée further denies suggestions that Canberra made several warning efforts regarding the AUKUS announcement.

An Elysée official expressed bafflement at the tactic. “Disclosing a text message exchange between heads of state or government is a pretty crude and unconventional tactic.” It may be crude, and it may be unconventional, but this furnishes an apt summation of the Australian Prime Minister’s view of diplomacy.


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  1. Margaret McCann

    Macron did not sledge Australia or Australians. He sledged Morrison personally and now Morrison is trying to stir up anti-French feelings in the Australian community in order to distract from HIS woeful behaviour. Scott “I can do no wrong, EVER!” Morrison is trying to create outrage against France, when actually, the outrage should be directed to HIS public treatment of an old ally. Isn’t there a name for that?

  2. Phil Pryor

    Our leader, Mr. Skinful- O’Dogshit, is incapable of foresight, reflection, any intellectual approach to honesty, logic, reason, decency, analysis, assessment. We have had foisted on us a shell, a horrible black hole of contrived ignorance. It must end, as soon as is possible, together with the primitives and bivalve-brained bushies that know they can exploit Morrison for our money. it STINKS, and has to end.

  3. Max Gross

    I have never been so ashamed to be an Aussie. And I say that having survived the ordure of Howard, Abbott and that useless windbagTurnbull.

  4. Kerri

    Not to mention that the text message from Macron to Morrison clearly shows Macron was attempting communication not avoiding it as has been one of Morrison’s many excuses.
    I tried to call but I ignored his texts??
    So who is the liar?

  5. Henry Rodrigues

    If anyone here listened to the address by the French Ambassador at the press club today, the message was loud clear and unequivocal, as far as France is concerned, Scummo, (and not Australia or Australians), is a piece of shit. It was a classic French diplomatic kick in the arse for a miserable lying bastard.
    If you can, watch a transcript on ABC Iview..

  6. Ross

    Its doubtful Morrison can whip up much hatred for the French and monsieur le president Macron.
    Rupert’s mainstream media will give it a go but we are not the English and regard for France would generally be very high out in voter land. Not many votes to be gained from that exercise.
    Plus France is not some tin pot backward third world country that Morrison can piss off any time he likes. There will be consequences of that you can be quite certain.
    Once upon a time an Australian passport was guaranteed to speed you through French customs and immigration with nary a glance. When travel resumes Australian visitors should expect to be treated like the passport holders of some tin pot backward third world country.
    If the LNP are re-elected it won’t be long before that is exactly what Australia will become.

  7. BB

    It was the lies and conduct Macron thought was “Detrimental to the reputation of Australia and the Prime Minister.”
    An apt summation of the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s lack of diplomacy… Quelle surprise!

  8. Florence

    Are we going to allow the PM “just” to move on?

  9. Terence Mills

    Yes, Henry I heard the French Ambassador at the National Press Club and he didn’t hold back on Morrison, in a very diplomatic way, of course.

    Morrison has compounded his lies and deception by leaking to Newscorp confidential communications between President Macron and himself ; as the Ambassador noted, other world leaders would think twice about their dealings with this prime minister if they thought that he would play fast and loose with confidential communications.

    For Greg Sheridan at The Australian to suggest that ‘Biden has reached a point in his life where he can’t remember what he can’t remember’ shows just how biased Newscorp are in their hatred of Biden and their love of Trump – it comes from the top !

  10. Marc

    I wish they would all grow up. I remember Operation Satanique. Macron? maybe he can get friendly with the locals in Paris and attend the next protest against some pyschopaths attempt to wreck society with a fascist ‘Health Pass’.

  11. Henry Rodrigues

    Terence Mills…, Greg Sheridan is a great disciple of little johnny too. It rankles that Biden has achieved the ultimate power position in the world, while Sheridan’s achievement : he’s still licking Murdoch’s boots.

  12. Michael Taylor

    Morrison said today he wants us to move on.

    I’m sure that the mainstream media will oblige.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Just looking at the front page of news . com it’s obvious that the Murdoch media have moved on. On this, at least.

  14. Jon Chesterson

    Morrison you are a liar liar liar. Every Australian knows it, now it is known everywhere else overseas and you can hide it no longer! Put that in your godless pipe and smoke it and stop dragging Australians and Australia down and into your pitiful malicious lies, personal defence and shield.

  15. GL

    His utter arrogance, overblown ego, narcissism, along with a very healthy dose of Dunning-Kruger makes him our version of The Donald. The only difference between the two is that one used religion as part of a game and the other is a religious nutcase…fanatic is a better term.

  16. Pagnol

    Morrison ment comme un cochon dans la merde

  17. Harry Lime

    Strap yourselves in folks,with a looming election,and the Liar trailing badly,the lies and theft of public money will reach new,unheard of heights.Nothing must stand in his way,after all, he’s on a mission from God.The padded cell beckons.And a serious reckoning with a stern ICAC.

  18. Terence Mills

    Morrison wants us all to move on ! OK I’ll go along with that as long as he doesn’t come with us.

    Time for the Liberal Party – and the Nationals for that matter – to acknowledge that they have elected duds as their parliamentary leaders and they need to go into opposition for a few terms until they can breed up some better quality shrubs.

  19. totaram

    Terence Mills: Really? Breed up? Are you serious? They will need gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9 before anything like that can happen. 🙂

  20. ajogrady

    Being a bludger and a laggard is Morrisons way not the Australian way.
    Being deceitful, dishonest and divisive are Morrisons values not Australian values.
    In such a short time the Morrison L/NP government has angered our number one trading partner China and angered a regional strategic ally France and allied Australia with Russia, China and Iran at COP26. Plus they have upset Indonesia and Malaysia with the nuclear subs deal. Failed Pacific Island Nations, the US and Britain at COP26 and in general disappointed the world there. Seriously trashing Australias good international reputation is the only thing that the Morrison L/NP government have managed to accomplish.
    This is why the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal is a failure for Australian taxpayers.


  21. guest

    In 1808 Sir Walter Scott said: “Oh what a tangle web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” He lived not that far from Glasgow. But of course the ‘tangled web’ was conceived elsewhere.

    On 2/11/2021 Paul Kelly wrote his take on lies and submarines: “Morrison had to hurt France to get AUKUS sub deal.” And Greg Sheridan wrote: “Morrison leak justified to show he’s no liar to Macron.”

    I am not going to look at the details of these two articles, but some things are worth looking at. First, why France had to ‘hurt’. Because Morrison wanted nuclear? Then why did he not revise the submarine order and ask for original French nuclear submarines which have already been drawn up and can readily be built – in Adelaide? Do we know? Will any of the AUKUS submarines be built in Adelaide or anywhere in Australia? or at all?

    Then there is the matter of Morrison’s leak. I had the impression that there were numerous leaks, but the only one I have seen published is Macron’s question two days before AUKUS was announced: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?”
    According to Reuters (2/11/2021) Morrison’s reply was not leaked.

    On that date Morrison would not have been allowed to reply with any mention of AUKUS becuse AUKUS was not to be mentioned until September 16: that is, two days before the AUKUS announcement was to be made.

    But Morrison claims that he had already told Macron earlier that there were problems with the diesel version; certainly, he had not told Macron that the deal was off. That is why Macron was asking and is question certainly does not show that he knew already that the deal was off. But Morrison knew it was off because of the secret deals he had made with Biden and Johnson.

    Certainly, the leaked Macron word message in no way vindicates Morrison from charges of lying, which is Macron’s claim – “Not I know, I think, I know”.

    Sheridan’s claim is that it is Macron’s error because he should not have claimed Morrison to be a liar even if he is. Sheridan says: “The breach of protocol here lies with the vindictive and foolish French President not with the Prime Minister…” The Murdoch claim: Macron was misled – Morrison had every reason not to inform him.” AUKUS is a matter of high security and not to be spoken about before September 16.

    The abc (“After leaking the French President’s messages, the price of peace will be very expensive”, 1/11/2021) says this: “it displays a vindictive and short-term shallowness…at a time when Australia needed to show the opposite…this was a time to act in a way that reflected the professional high-minded pursuit of national interest.”

    Remember that Biden had spoken with Macron about AUKUS and what a “clumsy” action it had been. he Murdoch claim is: “Biden apologised to Macron. He is the real danger.”

    Remember that Biden had forgotten Morrison’s name. And here he was supporting Macron. But there are close ties between France and the USA, across the Atlantic, in Europe watching Russia, and in the Indo-Pacific area against China’s expansion.

    “Morrison,” says Sheridan,” had the insight which pulled off the deal…[He] had long since decided any nuclear deal has to be with either the UK or US.” Certainly Morrison sees himself and Australia as allies against China, but it is surprising that he thus separates us even further from our very important trading partner who has been burning our coal – and blaming China for it – and using its industry to make things for us with cheaper labour.

    Can we afford to disband China?

    Finally, a thought about the French from one of the Murdoch writers: “The French, despite their pretensions, are actually quite coarse and unsophisticated in their ultra- nationalism.”

    That is not what I saw in the French Ambassador. It is not what I see in Macron.

    Someone is getting it wrong.

    It is interesting that Morrison is said to have pulled off the deal. Why that deal and not a deal with the French? Is it in part a matter of disappearing Turnbull’s deal with the French? Turnbull is in the bad books more and more: (Libs lash ‘turncoat Turnbull’ over lies”, 4/11/2021)

  22. Harry Lime

    Two things we know for certain guest..Morrison lies like a pig in shit, and Murdoch’s garbage amplifies it.No one in their right mind would believe anything that is disgorged by these sewer outlets.

  23. guest

    Apologies for misquoting Macron in my post – incipient dementia or raging anger. “I don’t think, I know.”

    He was unlikely to follow the kind of protocol Sheridan demanded when a submarine contract worth $90bn was cancelled with a secret deal.

    Sheridan made some claims from his newspaper article when he spoke on QandA last night – but soon found himself alone and contradicted.

    Last night I was reading a bookseller’s catalogue and came upon references to a couple of books: “The Game – A Portrait of Scott Morrison” by Sean Kelly (Black Inc). The bookseller’s comment: “Morrison’s game playing has become a liability to us all.”

    The other book is Judith Brett’s “Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life” (Text Publishing). The comment is: “Probing the psychology of our prime minister” and other topics.

  24. Russell

    Quelle espece repugnante que ce bizarre Morrison – comme il manque entierement de principes, comme il degoute le monde diplomatique entier avec son style personnel immonde. Et qui n’a aucun souci en donnant tres mauvaise reputation a son propre pays. Un traitre, un menteur, que beaucoup d’autres chefs d’etat doivent considerer connard, enfin.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Russell, (thanks to my French-speaking wife) I agree. He is an arsehole.

  26. Michael Taylor

    PS: Russell, they are very revolutionary words. 😁

  27. Mark Needham

    Yes, those French submarines were a great deal. Such a shame that it is not to be.

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