Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reiterated the need to “move on” from the submarine controversy, as senior ministers attempt to smooth relations.
The prime minister refused to be drawn on the fallout over the AUKUS pact following his submarine stoush with French President Emmanuel Macron.
As senior ministers attempt to smooth international relations following Australia’s decision to scrap a $90 billion submarine contract with France, Scott Morrison reiterated the need to look past the controversy.
“We’ve moved on from that,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has insisted the deal was necessary, despite the French being upset by the decision to look at nuclear-powered submarines using British and US technology.
“It’s not about how feelings would be hurt this day, this month or this year, but on how Australia would best be protected and national security secured for decades to come,” Mr Birmingham told Sky News.
“We want to make sure we move on with international relations and focus on long-term defence capabilities for the nation.”
Senator Birmingham said the dispute with France over the submarine deal did not overshadow the purpose of the trip, which was to attend the Glasgow climate summit.
Earlier on Friday, he questioned whether it was wise Australian journalists questioned the French president about the submarine deal.
“Scott Morrison spent most of the time in Glasgow talking about our commitment to net zero,” he said.
“He only [spoke about the submarines] when he fronted press conferences.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the leaking of private text messages between Scott Morrison and the French president was unbecoming of the prime minister.
“There isn’t a world leader code of ethics, but there doesn’t need to be [for the prime minister] to know that releasing private text messages damages relationships,” Mr Albanese said.
“It’s not the way that diplomacy is conducted.”
It comes as Foreign Minister Marise Payne heads to Southeast Asia in a bid to soothe tensions over the deal.
She will go to Malaysia for a six-day visit to meet with counterparts from Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Indonesia and Malaysia are concerned Australia could breach non-proliferation obligations in its decision to look at acquiring nuclear-powered submarine technology.