The Australian government has agreed to pay 550 million euros (A$830 million) as part of a settlement with Naval Group over the former Morrison government’s controversial decision to scrap the class submarine project. French attack.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Saturday that the confidential settlement would draw a line under the canceled $90 billion project. Labor gave bipartisan backing to the Aukus partnership which replaced the project – under which the US and UK offered to help Australia acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines and cooperate on other advanced technologies.
However, Albanese said on Saturday that the way he was handled by the former Morrison government “has caused enormous strain in relations between Australia and France”.
“It is a just and fair settlement that has been reached. This also follows on from discussions I had with the President [Emmanuel] Macron and I thank him for these discussions and the cordial way in which we are restoring a better relationship between Australia and France,” he said.
The deal was forged by the new Labor government just three weeks after the federal election. Albanese confirmed that he had not been reached before the elections by the former government and had remained confidential.
The total cost of the failed submarine project to Australian taxpayers is $3.4 billion, down from the $5.5 billion reported as the government’s total approved budget for the project. As Guardian Australia previously reported, officials had considered this to be a maximum “envelope”.
Albanese said that despite the lower cost, it was still “an extraordinary waste of money from a government that has always made lots of announcements but not good results, and a government that will be remembered. as the most wasteful government in Australia’s history since federation”.
The Prime Minister said this would allow Australia to move forward in its relationship with France. Macron accused Morrison of lying to him about the deal, and Morrison later said he was “not going to go sledding in Australia”.
Part of an exchange of text messages between the two leaders was broadcast in several Australian media in an apparent attempt to blunt the idea that France had been completely blindsided by the cancellation.
French officials denounced the leak as “a new all-time low”.
By contrast, Macron warmly welcomed Albanese’s election last month, inviting him to visit Paris, which the prime minister said he accepted.
“The details are being worked out. We have a critical relationship. France, of course, plays a vital role in the European Union. And President Macron, of course, was recently re-elected, I’m newly elected and it’s important that we are committed – I appreciated his congratulatory message and the fact that we both want to reset the relationship between our two countries,” he said.
“I consider a personal meeting between me and President Macron in France to be absolutely vital to resetting this relationship, which is important to Australia’s national interests.”
On Thursday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he had devised a plan as defense minister ahead of the election to buy two Virginia-class submarines by 2030 to fill the void before the delivery of the nuclear submarines, saying he had “formed a judgment the Americans would have facilitated exactly that”.
Albanese said on Saturday that Dutton presided over an “all announcements, no delivery” regime.
“You don’t defend your country and our national security with a press release – you defend it with operational capability,” he said. “My government intends to focus on delivery rather than statements by Peter Dutton which contradict all statements he made when he was defense minister.”
As to whether Australia was negotiating for the submarines mentioned by Dutton, Albanese said he would not make “over the top comments” on national security and defence.
Aukus’ announcement also forced the UK and US into damage control with France. Last year, France’s defense minister called off talks with his British counterpart after the deal was announced, while US President Joe Biden held a 30-minute call with Macron to mend relations after France recalled its ambassador from Washington.