Malcolm Turnbull slams ‘belligerent’ Peter Dutton over his role in scrapping French submarine deal


Malcolm Turnbull unleashes on ‘belligerent’ old nemesis Peter Dutton with an extraordinary spray four years after he was knifed as PM

  • Former prime minister slammed Mr Dutton for ‘wrecking’ a submarine contract
  • He slammed his old rival as ‘belligerent’ for his role in cancelling deal with France
  • Scott Morrison ditched French-built submarines as part of AUKUS agreement 
  • Decision to scrap the deal sparked a falling out between Australia and France
  • Anthony Albanese announced $830million settlement with French subs builder
  • New PM said Australia’s troubled relationship with France will now be ‘re-set’ 

Malcolm Turnbull has unleashed on ‘belligerent’ Peter Dutton for his role in scrapping a multi-billion dollar submarine deal.

The former Prime Minister slammed Mr Dutton for cancelling a contract with France to supply the Australian navy with nuclear-powered submarines. 

The agreement was axed in favour of a deal with the United Kingdom and the United States to supply the boats as part of a three-way defence alliance called AUKUS. 

Mr Dutton last week revealed in an opinion piece for The Australian that he had planned to buy two American Virginia-Class subs over the UK’s Astute Class rival.  

Mr Turnbull on Monday claimed the former defence minister had ‘wrecked the deal’ with France and threatened Australia’s national security in the process. 

Mr Dutton (pictured on June 5) last week revealed in an opinion piece for The Australian that he had planned to buy two American Virginia- Class subs over the UK's Astute Class rival

Mr Dutton (pictured on June 5) last week revealed in an opinion piece for The Australian that he had planned to buy two American Virginia- Class subs over the UK’s Astute Class rival

Mr Dutton wrote in the opinion piece that the UK's Astute design had faults and would likely run over budget (pictured, the HMS Astute in Perth last year)

Mr Dutton wrote in the opinion piece that the UK’s Astute design had faults and would likely run over budget (pictured, the HMS Astute in Perth last year)

‘It was just more blustering from Dutton,’ Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio. 

‘He’s a belligerent blusterer who wrecked a submarine contract.’

Mr Turnbull has previously criticised the cancellation of the deal and said the blame could be shared by former prime minister Scott Morrison.

‘We’re now in a position where we don’t have any submarine program at all,’ the former prime minister said.

‘Between Morrison and Dutton they did enormous damage to Australia’s national security.’

In the piece, Dutton said he had planned to buy two Virginia-class submarines from the United States by 2030 and build another eight to bring the total fleet to 10. 

He said it became ‘obvious’ to him as defence minister that the US submarines were a better choice as they were capable of launching missiles vertically and were based on a ‘mature design’. 

Mr Turnbull (pictured in January) on Monday claimed the former defence minister had 'wrecked the deal' with France and threatened Australia's national security in the process

Mr Turnbull (pictured in January) on Monday claimed the former defence minister had ‘wrecked the deal’ with France and threatened Australia’s national security in the process

Mr Dutton added that the Astute design had faults and would likely run over budget. 

Richard Marles, the new defence minister and deputy prime minister, said Mr Dutton’s comments were ‘loose and undermine the AUKUS agreement’. 

‘The government has made no decision on the preferred submarine. All options are on the table,’ he said in a statement. 

Australia is conducting an 18-month study of its nuclear-powered submarine options as part of the AUKUS deal.

The multibillion-dollar project is the centrepiece of Australian efforts to toughen its defences in the face of a more belligerent China under President Xi Jinping. 

Mr Dutton said nuclear-powered submarines are needed to compete with China because they are stealthier than Australia’s diesel-electric vessels, with no need to surface to recharge batteries.

It sparked a serious falling out between France and Australia, with President Macron famously saying that then-prime minister Scott Morrison had lied to him during an aside to a reporter at the G20 summit in Rome last November (pictured, the leaders meet in October, 2021)

It sparked a serious falling out between France and Australia, with President Macron famously saying that then-prime minister Scott Morrison had lied to him during an aside to a reporter at the G20 summit in Rome last November (pictured, the leaders meet in October, 2021)

To avoid a gap in replacing an ageing fleet of six Collins-class submarines, Dutton said he had planned to directly buy two of the US submarines ‘this decade’.

Under the plan, another eight of the US submarines would be built in South Australia, the former defence minister said, to avoid waiting until 2038 for the first US-designed submarines to be built in Australia. 

Australia’s decision last year to buy US or British nuclear-powered submarines led to the scrapping of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France. 

It sparked a serious falling out between France and Australia, with President Macron famously saying that then-prime minister Scott Morrison had lied to him during an aside to a reporter at the G20 summit in Rome last November. 

Mr Dutton (pictured in October) said at the time that the French Naval Group's Attack-class submarines were no longer suited to Australia's operational needs

Mr Dutton (pictured in October) said at the time that the French Naval Group’s Attack-class submarines were no longer suited to Australia’s operational needs 

The French Attack-class submarines were intended to replace Australia's aging Collins class submarines (pictured) before the deal was junked by the Morrison government in September

The French Attack-class submarines were intended to replace Australia’s aging Collins class submarines (pictured) before the deal was junked by the Morrison government in September

Jean-Yves Le Drian, one of France’s most senior politicians, said Mr Morrison’s decision to scrap the deal was a clear sign of ‘brutality and cynicism’.

‘I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence,’ he said. 

Mr Dutton said at the time that the Naval Group’s Attack-class submarines were no longer suited to Australia’s operational needs and that the Morrison government had been ‘upfront, open and honest’ about the decision to break the contract.

On Saturday, new prime minister Anthony Albanese announced a $830million settlement between the government and the French company whose contract to supply our navy with nuclear submarines was cancelled. 

Mr Albanese said the total cost of the cancellation will cost taxpayers $3.4billion but will ‘rule a line under the contracts’ with Naval Group.

Anthony Albanese (pictured on Saturday) announced a $830million settlement between the government and the French company whose contract to supply the submarines was cancelled

Anthony Albanese (pictured on Saturday) announced a $830million settlement between the government and the French company whose contract to supply the submarines was cancelled

‘This is a fair and an equitable settlement which has been reached,’ Mr Albanese said at a press conference in Sydney. 

‘It follows discussions that I’ve had with [French] President Macron and I thank him for those discussions and the cordial way in which we are re-establishing a better relationship between Australia and France.’

Mr Albanese claimed the settlement represented ‘a saving’ from the $5.5 billion that it was estimated cancellation of the program would originally cost.

‘But it still represents an extraordinary waste from a government that was always big on announcement but not good on delivery,’ he said.

The new leader also reaffirmed his government’s commitment to AUKUS, a three-way defence alliance that was sealed last September.

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