Defense Minister Richard Marles said there is “certainly work to be done with fixing the relationship with France” following the Morrison government cancellation of a $90-billion deal to purchase 12 submarines last year.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will fly to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the NATO summit in Spain.
Speaking to Today on Friday morning, Marles said the relationship with France was “critically important” because of its nearby Pacific territories such as New Caledonia.
“With so many things that we have seen over the last month where the Liberals have stuffed it, we’re busily fixing it,” he told Today.
“It’s going to be really important that Anthony is going to have the opportunity of meeting with President Macron to put a relationship with a country who is actually one of our nearest neighbors … back on track.”
Last September, Australia signed up to the AUKUS pact with the US and UK to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines, infuriating Macron who famously declared “I don’t think, I know” that former prime minister Scott Morrison had lied to him about keeping the French submarine deal.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton defended the former government’s handing of the saga, but conceded France took offense to the deal being canceled “which is understandable because it was a big contract”.
“We took a decision that was in our country’s best interests and we don’t apologise for that with AUKUS,” Dutton told Today.
“It meant we got an underpinning for the next four or five decades and it meant a tough decision in terms of terminating the contract with the French.”