Richard Marles clashes with Peter Dutton after Coalition ‘stuffed’ Australia’s relationship with France over AUKUS deal

Richard Marles clashes with Peter Dutton after Coalition ‘stuffed’ Australia’s relationship with France over AUKUS deal

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has declared Labor has been traveling around the world to fix international relationships which were “stuffed” by Peter Dutton and the previous government.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has claimed the former Coalition government “stuffed” Australia’s bilateral relationship with France as he clashed with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton amid Labor’s attempts to repair international relations.

Mr Dutton refused to apologise for fracturing ties with President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of former prime minister Scott Morrison’s decision to withdraw from a $90 billion submarine deal with France.

President Macron claimed Mr Morrison had lied about Australia’s intention to join AUKUS, a security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom which would see Australia acquire nuclear submarines, with the deal resulting in a communication freeze between the two leaders.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet with President Macron to “reset” the relationship during his travels to Europe for a NATO summit this month.

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Mr Marles told Today on Friday morning his government had spent the first weeks in office diffusing tensions with France and other nations put off by the Coalition.

“With so many things that we have seen over the last month where the Liberals have stuffed it. We’re busily fixing it,” he said from Rwanda, where he will meet with other Commonwealth leaders.

“And that goes to our relationship with France which is a critically important relationship for the country.”

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed Mr Albanese’s meeting with President Macron would be “really important”.

Despite the damage the canceled submarine deal caused, Mr Dutton defended the decision saying it was in Australia’s “best interests and we don’t apologise for that with AUKUS”.

“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, they took offense to that, which is understandable because it was a big contract,” the Opposition Leader said.

The former defense minister at the time of the AUKUS deal said he expected his successor Mr Marles to take the same Australia-first approach.

“I certainly expect Richard to do the same in relation to any decisions he’s got to make,” he said.

“I’m employed by the Australian people and my job is to keep our country safe and to make sure that we make the right decisions that are going to protect us into the future.”

The newly-elected government has been busy strengthening international relationships with Mr Marles recently traveling to India before meeting with Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda.

Mr Albanese immediately attended a Quad Leaders meeting in Japan and has since visited Indonesia and also met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Australia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has also traveled around the Pacific to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand to reaffirm the new government’s priorities with its Pacific partners.

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