Malcolm Turnbull accuses Scott Morrison of double-crossing the French with AUKUS subs deal

Former prime minster Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Rohan Thomson
Former prime minster Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Rohan Thomson

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Scott Morrison of executing an extraordinary "big double-cross" with France by abandoning the $90 billion French submarines deal in favour of the AUKUS security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom.

During a virtual address to the National Press Club, Mr Turnbull described the Prime Minister's conduct surrounding the new Indo-Pacific security alliance, which would provide Australia with a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, as deliberate deceit and "an appalling episode in Australia's international affairs", adding its consequences would "endure to our disadvantage for a very long time".

In a series of scorching comments, Mr Turnbull revealed he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron - while Mr Morrison had been snubbed - and would not say whether he would vote for the Liberal Party at the next election, despite being a former Liberal leader.

He also vowed to attend the COP26 Glasgow climate change summit in November in comments that will ratchet up pressure on the Prime Minister to attend with other world leaders.

"Mr Morrison has not acted in good faith. He deliberately deceived France," Mr Turnbull said on Wednesday.

"He makes no defence of his conduct other than to say it was in Australia's national interest. So is that Mr Morrison's ethical standard with which Australia is now tagged?"

Malcolm Turnbull was scathing of the federal government's submarine deal with the US and UK.

Malcolm Turnbull was scathing of the federal government's submarine deal with the US and UK.

"Australia will act honestly, unless it's judged in our national interest to deceive.

"So what Morrison has done, and you know he can blather and people can try to spin it as much as they like, the fact is that this was a big double cross. This was deceitful conduct on any view. Acting in bad faith. So that's a real problem for us."

President Macron is yet to take Mr Morrison's phone call in the wake of the move on September 16 to cancel the French deal to make the next generation of Australian subs. The Australian leader only tried to inform Mr Macron the night before by electronic message.

The French government, backed by the European Union, have condemned the ending of the deal and the French Ambassador to Australia is yet to return to his Canberra post.

Mr Turnbull says trust in the international space is gone.

"You hear a lot from politicians about values," he said.

"I tell you, trust, telling the truth, being consistent and reliable - those are important values, vital values and a reputation for being trustworthy has been a great national asset for Australia. Part of our national security armoury."

While Mr Morrison has tried but is yet to speak to Mr Macron, Mr Turnbull says he has.

"I have spoken to Emmanuel Macron. He is a friend and I have stayed in touch with him since I left office," he said.

It is an appearance being seized on by the Labor Party, particularly Mr Turnbull's description that the government's COVID-19 vaccine procurement was "the biggest failure of public administration" he had ever witnessed.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the online National Press Club address on Wednesday.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the online National Press Club address on Wednesday.

The Canberra Times sought a response to Mr Turnbull's address. The Prime Minister's office declined the opportunity.

Mr Turnbull has been increasingly critical of his former Coalition government since leaving politics in 2018.

He has been outspoken on a variety of issues, including climate change and international affairs, and he is now particularly strident in his criticism of the current leadership of Scott Morrison.

"I can say this to you, I am not getting any lectures on patriotism from Scott Morrison," Mr Turnbull said.

"I defended the national security of this country and its national interest and I know the way that he has behaved is putting that at risk."

The Prime Minister is yet to decide whether he will attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow amid internal government ructions on settling on an Australian deal to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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"Well, popular history is made by those who turn up," Mr Turnbull said. "So, if Mr Morrison decides not to go to Glasgow, he's, you know, he's, he said he's sending a message, his absence will send a pretty strong message about his priorities."

He also questioned what can be delivered in the new submarines deal with the US and UK, saying Australia would need a civil nuclear industry to complement the subs order, which is not on the agenda.

"Australia will be the first country without any civil nuclear industry to operate a nuclear submarine and the first non-nuclear weapons state to use highly enriched uranium in a naval reactor," Mr Turnbull said.

"So, if we are not going to develop nuclear facilities of our own, as Mr Morrison has promised, then we will be no more sharing nuclear technology with the United States than the owner of an iPhone is sharing smartphone technology with Apple."

In the meantime, the former prime minister argues Australia now has no new submarine program.

"Nothing has been agreed. There is no design, no costing. no contract. The only certainty is that we will have no new submarines for 20 years," he said.

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This story Turnbull accuses PM of deliberate deceit over subs deal first appeared on The Canberra Times.