The Australian government has agreed to pay € 550 million (A $ 830 million) in a settlement with the Naval Group over the former Morrison government’s controversial decision to scrap the French attack class’ submarine project.
The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced on Saturday that the confidential settlement would draw a limit under the canceled project of 90 billion dollars. Labor provided bipartisan support to the Aukus partnership that replaced the project – where the US and UK have offered to help Australia acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines and collaborate on other advanced technologies.
However, Albanese said on Saturday that the way it was handled by the former Morrison government “has caused enormous tension in relations between Australia and France”.
– This is a fair and just settlement that has been entered into. There are also discussions I have had with the president [Emmanuel] Macron and I thank him for these discussions and the heartfelt way we are restoring a better relationship between Australia and France, he said.
The French Minister of Defense welcomed the settlement agreement on Saturday afternoon.
“It allows us to turn a page in our bilateral relations with Australia and look to the future,” said Sebastien Lecornu.
Lecornu said on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, saying that France valued its “friendship” with Australia.
“Just because a government in the past did not keep its word does not mean we have to forget our strategic relationship,” he said.
“Australia has a new team in power, we are delighted to be able to work with them.”
The agreement was signed by the new Labor government just three weeks after the federal election. Albanians confirmed that it was not reached before the election of the previous government and kept confidential.
The total cost of the failed submarine project for Australian taxpayers is $ 3.4 billion, which is down from the $ 5.5 billion designated as the government’s total approved budget for the project. As Guardian Australia has previously reported, officials had considered this to be a maximum “envelope”.
Albanese said despite the lower costs, it was still “an extraordinary waste from a government that was always big on proclamation but not good at delivery, and from a government that will be remembered as the most wasted government in Australia’s history since the federation “.
The Prime Minister said it would allow Australia to move forward with France. Macron accused Morrison of lying to him about the deal, and Morrison later said he “would not fight Australia’s sledding”.
Part of a text message exchange between the two leaders was released to several Australian media in an apparent attempt to expose the idea that France had been completely blinded by the cancellation.
French officials condemned the leak as “an unparalleled new low”.
Macron, on the other hand, had warmly welcomed Albanese’s election last month, giving Albanese an invitation to visit Paris, which the prime minister said he had accepted.
‘The details are under construction. We have a critical relationship. Of course, France plays a critical role in the EU. “Of course, President Macron has recently been re-elected, I am newly elected and it is important that we are committed – I appreciated his message of congratulations and the fact that we both want to restore relations between our two countries,” he said.
“I see a personal meeting between myself and President Macron in France as crucial to restoring this relationship, which is important to Australia’s national interests.”
On Thursday, opposition leader Peter Dutton said he had drawn up a plan as Secretary of Defense before the election to buy two Virginia-class submarines by 2030 to fill the gap before the nuclear submarines are delivered, claiming he had “formed a verdict on the Americans would have” facilitated just that ».
Albanese said on Saturday that Dutton had led an “all-announcement, no delivery” regime.
“You are not defending your country and our national security with a media message – you are defending it with operational capacity,” he said. “My government intends to concentrate on delivering instead of the statements that Peter Dutton has made that contradict all the statements he made while he was Secretary of Defense.”
Regarding whether Australia negotiated the submarines Dutton mentioned, Albanese said he would not make “on the run comments” on national security and defense.
The Aukus announcement also forced the UK and US to damage control with France. Last year, the French defense minister canceled talks with his British counterpart after the agreement was announced, while US president Joe Biden had a 30-minute conversation with Macron to repair the relationship after France recalled its ambassador from Washington.