Australia-France Spat Takes Ugly Turn With Leaked Text Messages, Warning to World Leaders

NEWSWEEK – BY ERIN BRADY ON 11/3/21 AT 1:24 PM EDT

France is accusing Australia of leaking text messages belonging to French President Emmanuel Macron to the media in what is being called a “new low” by authorities, the Associated Press reported.

A text message conversation between Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was recently leaked to Australian media. One message sent by Macron asks: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?”

The feud between the two countries is continuing, with Jean-Pierre Thebault, French ambassador to Australia, slamming the capital of Canberra for its decision to end a 90-billion Australian dollar contract with France. The contract was to build a large fleet of 12 submarines that ran on diesel and electric power. The deal was canceled because Australia allied itself with the U.S. and Britain to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines.

“This is an unprecedented new low, in terms of how to proceed and also in terms of truth and trust,” Thebault said during the address at Australia’s National Press Club.

He also added that the leak could also affect international governments.

“Beware,” Thebault added, “in Australia there will be leaks and what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponized against you.”

While visiting the United Arab Emirates, Morrison responded to the allegations, saying, “I don’t think there’s any profit for anyone in continuing down this path.”

The extraordinarily bitter bilateral spat is heightened by both national leaders seeking reelection early next year. Doubts are growing about how the relationship can be effectively reset if both Marcon and Morrison remain in charge.

France is undermining international confidence in Australia as its government tries to finalize a free trade deal with the European Union.

Morrison used it as proof that Macron knew the deal was in doubt after Macron accused the Australian leader of lying during a Paris dinner in June. Macron said Morrison gave him no indication the deal would not go ahead.

France has condemned the leak as a further breach of trust.

Rather than proof that Morrison hadn’t lied to Marcon, the message suggested Australia had left France in the dark.

“It completely demonstrates that until the last minute, we didn’t know where things were heading to,” Thebault said. “It completely demonstrates that nothing has ever been told to us.”

Morrison maintains that he did not lie to the French leader and had been clear that conventional submarines would not meet Australia’s evolving strategic needs.

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