The French have continued to attack AUKUS, casting doubt over the delivery timeline for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.
French President Emmanuel Macron has again bemoaned Australia’s decision to scrap Naval Group’s Attack Class contract in favour of a new trilateral security arrangement with the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS).
President Macron said the AUKUS deal — which will see at least eight nuclear-powered submarines built in South Australia — is “very bad news” for Australia’s credibility, adding it undermines the trust of allies.
"I think this is detrimental to the reputation of your country and your Prime Minister,” he told media at the G20 Summit in Rome.
President Macron was asked if he thought Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied about his commitment to the French deal, to which he responded: “I don’t think, I know.”
The French president stressed that the fractured relationship was not beyond repair, but said it was up to Prime Minister Morrison to rebuild trust.
“You can have disagreements, I do respect sovereign choices but you have to respect allies and partners, and it was not the case with this deal,” President Macron added.
“…It is now his decision to see how he will move.”
Prime Minister Morrison rejected suggestions he was dishonest, reiterating that nuclear-powered submarines would best meet Australia’s capability requirements.
“I’ll always stand up for Australia’s interest,” he said.
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President Macron went on to cast doubt over the delivery time for the Royal Australian Navy’s next-generation submarines, claiming the former SEA 1000 contract offered greater certainty.
"With the French deal, negotiated by Malcolm Turnbull, Australia had definitely an option to produce in Australia, to have submarines, conventional submarines, and to get the submarines with a clear and reliable period of time," he said.
"Now you have 18 months before a report. Good luck."
The Commonwealth government has established a Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force, responsible for working with US and UK stakeholders over the next 18 months to determine a procurement pathway for Australia.
The group’s considerations are expected to include requirements for design, construction, maintenance, infrastructure, industry capacity, nuclear safety, environmental protection, crewing and training.
The Task Force will also advise on building timeframes, costs and supply needs.
[Related: Dutton dismisses subs obsolescence claims]
News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.