In an impromptu interview with Australian reporters at the G20 in Rome, French President Emmanuel Macron was asked if he thought Morrison had lied to him over the cancellation of a submarine contract in September. The French President’s reply was damning. He said: “I don’t think, I know.”1
This assertion that Morrison had lied was reinforced by the French Ambassador, Jean-Pierre Thébault, in his address to the National Press Club, when he likened the dumping of the submarine contract to a “stab in the back” and maintained that the “deceit was intentional”2.
Ahead of the G20, US President Joe Biden attempted to repair his and the US’s damaged relationship with Macron by acknowledging that the announcement of the AUKUS security and technology pact that blindsided France, was clumsy and handled with a lack of grace. Biden also implied that he thought Australia had already informed France of the cancellation of the submarine contract3.
So what did Morrison do to try to counter the assertion he had lied to Macron? Firstly, before Macron’s reply to the Australian reporter’s question, and while Macron was in conversation with someone else, Morrison approached him from behind, put his hand on Macron’s shoulder; Macron turned around and Morrison shook his hand. Of course, Morrison had his official photographer on hand, who busily snapped away. The photographs were sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office in the vain hope that they would give the impressions that everything was hunky dory between Macron and Morrison1. It was almost like a besuited replay of the Cobargo debacle where Morrison forced people to shake his hand4.
Secondly, while visiting a shipyard in Glasgow at the time of COP26, Morrison tried to make Macron’s assertion that he lied, as a slur against Australia in saying: “I must say that the statements that were made, questioning Australia’s integrity and the slurs that have been placed on Australia … I’m not going to cop sledging of Australia. I’m not going to cop that on behalf of other Australians.”5 Macron had made clear that he wasn’t casting aspersions against Australia, just Morrison. Macron said: “I have a lot of respect and a lot of friendship for your people. I just say when we have respect, you have to be true and you have to behave in line, and consistently, with this value.”6
Thirdly, Morrison leaked one of Macron’s private text messages from two days before the AUKUS announcement. Of course, it went to News Corp ‘newspapers’. The text message said: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?” The leaking of this was an attempt to indicate Macron knew well beforehand that the submarine deal was history. However, this text message simply indicates that Macron didn’t really know what was happening7. Ambassador Thébault referred to this leaking of the text message as an “unprecedented new low”, and wondered if “Doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state; beware, in Australia there will be leaks and what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponised against you one day”8. Indeed.
Fourthly, as a way of attempting to undermine Biden’s assertion that the handling of the communication with France was “clumsy”, Morrison has leaked a confidential 15-page document negotiated in secret between Biden’s National Security Council and Australian and British officials, to News Corp ‘newspapers’7,9.
Morrison will do anything to get back at those who criticise him, however obliquely they do so10. This extends even to breaking diplomatic conventions in leaking private text messages and leaking secret documents. So many of the stenographers in the Australian media as well as Murdoch ‘ruperters’ have leapt to Morrison’s defence. They know that Morrison is a pathological liar, as almost everyone does, but it does not make any impression on them11-14. As if to underline Morrison’s habit of blaming everyone else, Simon Birmingham has taken Morrison’s technique to a new level, in blaming the media for asking the question of Macron, which kicked off Morrison’s dummy spit15.
The fact that much of the media seem to ignore Morrison’s incompetence, his lies, his abrogation of responsibility, and his propensity to blame others for failures, does not augur well for our democracy.