As the fallout from the scrapping of France’s submarine deal rages on, the opposition has likened Scott Morrison to Donald Trump.
Labor senator Penny Wong has likened Scott Morrison to Donald Trump after text messages between Mr Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron were leaked, signalling another shot into the struggling diplomatic relationship between Australia and France.
The Prime Minister arrived back in Australia on Thursday after a tumultuous five-day European sojourn plagued by tension over the September AUKUS announcement that led to the scrapping of a $90bn submarine deal with France.
Mr Macron has accused the Australian Prime Minister of lying, a sentiment echoed by the French Ambassador in a national address on Wednesday and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
But Mr Morrison maintains he did not lie about the deal and the implications for France. Text messages between Mr Morrison and Mr Macron, supposedly leaked by the Prime Minister’s Office, sought to strengthen Mr Morrison’s position but have been labelled a “new low” and “intentional deceit” by Jean-Pierre Thebault.
Senator Wong, who is also the opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said Mr Morrison’s leaking of the messages had all the hallmarks of Mr Trump, the former US president.
“Mr Morrison’s character has been on show and we’re seeing the consequences to Australia’s interests and international standing. His character is one of someone who is dishonest … who stubbornly refuses to say we could have handled this better,” Senator Wong told RN.
“Mr Morrison is undermining this country’s reputation. You don’t make the country more secure by showing you’re prepared to damage partnerships and alliances. We saw that in Donald Trump.
“I’m simply saying we have seen in recent times a leader prepared to damage alliances and partnerships … and that was Trump.
“We are seeing Mr Morrison prepared to damage relationships. He doesn’t want to acknowledge that he’s done anything wrong.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said, like Mr Trump, Mr Morrison had a damaging “pattern”.
“Firstly, denying that there’s a problem, then eventually, when it’s acknowledged, blaming someone else, then changing positions, and then pretending that he never held the counterposition previously for a long period of time,” he told ABC Breakfast.
“You don’t leak a private text message from the president of another nation to your private phone … it’s a real concern.
“When it comes to national security, you can’t play short-term politics.”
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie said Mr Morrison had “completely lost control” and needed to apologise immediately.
“There is no way out of this anymore for him,” she told the Today program.
“Who gives a stuff about our national security? Come out and do the right thing and apologise, big boy. There is nothing else to say.”
Speaking from Dubai on his way home on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said it was time to “just move on” when asked by a journalist if he had lied.
“That communication was necessary given the matters that were raised, but I don’t think there’s any further profit for anyone in continuing down the path,” he said.
“We made the decision we needed to make in Australia’s national interests.
“I’m very keen to ensure that now we move on.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hit back against the criticism levelled against Mr Morrison, saying the allegations had been “refuted strongly”.
“The French were aware that we were considering our options and now we are going on with the new arrangement with the US and the UK,” Mr Frydenberg told the Today program.
When questioned by host Ali Langdon as to why Mr Morrison felt the need to leak the text messages, Mr Frydenberg hit back.
“The claim was pretty extraordinary and it needed to be refuted,” he said.
“In terms of relationship … we have got some ideas that we are working on as to how we can rebuild that relationship.
“I think it will take some time, there is no doubt about that.”