The Australian Defence Minister, Peter Dutton has urged France to put aside “hurt feelings” over the cancellation of the submarine contract and focus instead on the “great uncertainty with China in our region.”
France has been upset since Australia abandoned its submarine contract with it. French President Emmanuel Macron also alleged that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied about the cancellation of the contract. However, private text messages from Macron to Morrison were leaked which refuted Macron’s claim.
This triggered what the French ambassador described as a “new low,” in relations although Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce justified the leak saying that Macron calling Morrison a liar was a bigger diplomatic issue.
Defence Minister Dutton said on Thursday that it was time for France to “move on” and “recognise that we’ve made a decision that is in our country’s best interests [to cancel the contract].”
“Nobody from Scott Morrison down is going to apologise for that,” he said.
The Defence Minister also said France’s current intense reaction is “posturing” before next year’s presidential election, and with the regional instability caused by Beijing, France should focus on more important issues rather than dwelling on the past.
“The French have got an election coming up in April, you understand all of that posturing,” Dutton told 2GB radio. “The Communist Party of China has taken a particular course and we need to all work together to make sure that we have peace and stability in our region.”
“Any blip in relation to that, any concern, hurt feelings, frankly, needs to be put aside for us to concentrate on the bigger issue, which is making sure that we protect and defend our country,” he said.
Australia cancelled the submarine contract with France and signed the AUKUS agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States instead, which will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the other two countries.
On the eve of the AUKUS agreement, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned that Australia was on the front lines of strategic competition with China in an environment of increased global competition.
Frydenberg cited a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that Beijing used coercive tactics against 27 countries and the European Union 152 times between 2010 and 2020, and that the communist regime was increasing its control over domestic and foreign business sectors.