Aukus pact: Australia pays $830m penalty for ditching non-nuclear French submarines | Aukus

The Australian government has agreed to pay €550m (A$830m) in a settlement with Naval Group over the former Morrison government’s controversial decision to scrap the French attack class submarine project.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, announced on Saturday the confidential settlement would draw a line under the canceled $9bn contract. Labor gave bipartisan support to the Aukus partnership that replaced the project – under which the US and the UK have offered to help Australia to acquire at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines and cooperate on other advanced technologies.

However, Albanese said on Saturday the way the former Morrison government handled it “has caused enormous tension in the relationship between Australia and France”.

“This is a fair and equitable settlement that has been reached. It follows, as well, discussions that I’ve had with President [Emmanuel] Macron, and I thank him for those discussions and the friendly way in which we are re-establishing a better relationship between Australia and France,” he said.

The new Labor government forged the agreement just three weeks after the federal election. Albanese confirmed it was not reached before the election by the former government and kept confidential.

The total cost of the failed submarine project for Australian taxpayers is $3.4bn, down from the $5.5bn touted as the government’s total approved budget. As Guardian Australia has previously reported, officials considered this a maximum “envelope”.

Albanese said despite the lower cost, it was still “an extraordinary waste from a government that was always big on the announcement but not good on delivery, and from a government that will be remembered as the most wasteful government in Australia’s history since federation”.

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The prime minister said it would allow Australia to advance its relationship with France. Macron accused Morrison of lying to him about the deal, and Morrison later said he was “not going to cop sledding of Australia”.

Part of a text message exchange between the two leaders was released to several Australian media outlets in an apparent attempt to blunt the idea the cancellation had completely blindsided France.

French officials denounced the leaking as “an unprecedented new low”.

Aukus pact

By contrast, Macron had warmly welcomed Albanese’s election to office last month, extending an invitation for Albanese to visit Paris, which the prime minister said he had accepted.

“Details are being worked through. We have a critical relationship. France, of course, plays a critical role in the European Union. And President Macron, of course, has recently been re-elected, I am newly elected, and it is important that we have engaged – I appreciated his message of congratulations and the fact that both of us want to reset the relationship between our two countries,” he said.

“I see a personal meeting between myself and President Macron in France as being vital to resetting that relationship, which is important for Australia’s national interests.”

On Thursday, the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said he had devised a plan as defense minister before the election to buy two Virginia-class submarines by 2030 to fill the gap before the nuclear submarines are delivered, claiming he had “formed a judgment the Americans would have facilitated exactly that”.

Albanese said on Saturday that Dutton had presided over an “all-announcement, no-delivery” regime.

“You don’t defend your country and our national security with a media release – you defend it with operational capability,” he said. “My government intends to concentrate on delivering rather than the statements that Peter Dutton has made that contradict all of the statements he made while he was defense minister.”

Regarding whether Australia was negotiating for the submarines Dutton mentioned, Albanese said he would not be making “on-the-run comments” about national security and defense.

The Aukus announcement also forced the UK and the US into damage control with France. The French defense minister last year canceled talks with her UK counterpart after the deal was announced. At the same time, the US president, Joe Biden, had a 30-minute call with Macron to mend relations after France recalled its ambassador from Washington.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.