Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took a sly dig at Scott Morrison as he vowed to fix Australia’s relationship with France in the wake of his predecessor’s leaked texts scandal.
Mr Albanese confirmed on ABC’s 7:30 on Thursday night that he would visit French President Emmanuel Macron, promising to strengthen relations after they were soured by the Morrison government’s scrapped submarine deal.
The former Liberal government canned a $90bn contract to build 12 submarines following advice from the Australian Defence Force, infuriating Mr Macron and prompting the president to declare he had been lied to.
Leaked texts between Mr Macron and Mr Morrison then sought to discredit the French leader’s version of events.
Mr Albanese revealed he would be meeting Mr Macron in a European trip that also includes a NATO summit in Spain.
The new PM said repairing relations with France would be at the top of his agenda.
“We do need to reset, we’ve already had very constructive discussions,” Mr Albanese told 7:30.
“What we can offer is a relationship between our respective leaders that won’t be leaked in order to make an opportunistic headline in the newspaper. One of respect and honesty in the way that we deal with each other.”
The Albanese government earlier this month announced it would compensate French shipbuilder Naval Group to the tune of $835m for the botched deal.
Resetting relations with France is made more important by the European power’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, Mr Albanese added.
France lays claim to 11.7m square kilometres of territory in the South Indian and Pacific oceans, giving it considerable naval and economic influence while the threat of China expands.
“France, of course, is central to power in Europe. But it’s also a key power in the Pacific, in our own region as well,” he explained.
“It’s just one of the reasons why this needs to be a relationship that’s nurtured, not damaged. We’re undertaking to do that. And next week’s visit is a very concrete sign of the repair that’s been done already.”
A fruitful partnership with France is crucial to curbing China’s expanding influence in the pacific, Mr Albanese implied, with the PM conceding bitterness with Beijing was likely to be prolonged.
“China, already there have been some improvements, but it’s a long way to go,” he said.
“It will be a problematic relationship.
“They’re damaging the Australian economy and jobs, but they’re also causing damage to the Chinese economy, so common sense tells us that you need to have dialogue between countries.
“They’re our largest trading partner. It’s a good thing that the defence ministers had dialogue just a week ago. I look forward to having further dialogue between ministers of our respective governments.”
Mr Albanese again called on China to remove the series of trade sanctions it continues to impose on Australia.