Turnbull denounces the Prime Minister as a lying liar

LET’S acknowledge two things before coming to the essence of Malcolm Turnbull’s latest tantrum. First, Scott Morrison’s AUKUS ‘deal’ was – and is – an impetuous shambles that makes little sense. It will probably never deliver a nuclear submarine to this country. By the time a touted fleet of such boats is deployable – no earlier than the 2050s or 60s – subs may be passé.

Second, in Australia’s defence, you don’t have to be a hard-boiled devotee of Niccolò Machiavelli to appreciate that states pursuing their own national interests sometimes fib even to friends. Nor do they regard themselves as strictly bound to military accords that turn out to be inadequate to their strategic needs. This pragmatism is not exactly news to the French diplomatic corps. The master of international relations in the age of democracies is entitled to make hay at home during a dust-up but never to the extent of jeopardising a valuable alliance. That means Emmanuel Macron and Mr Morrison have taken the theatre of this debacle to the outer limit. If the author of The Prince were still around, he’d counsel them both to pull their heads in.

Oh, he’s lied to me on many occasions. Scott has always had a reputation for telling lies. When a prime minister behaves disingenuously or dissembles or is dishonest, it will reflect on his or her credibility, it will reflect on the credibility of their party and the government. But when you do that as leader of the nation, internationally, it reflects on us all.”

As for Mr Turnbull, everyone knows his motivation is personal spite. It seems longer ago but it was only from 24 August 2018 that he ceased being Prime Minister, having technically ousted himself by quitting rather than standing as a candidate in a second party-room vote. As I’ve argued before, it’s not that he’s entirely wrong about the secretly negotiated arrangement with the US and the UK that scuppered his own submarine deal with the French. The pro-AUKUS fraternity can fling out as many variations of there-there diddums as it likes; the fact remains that Australia damaged itself – in a serious sovereign sense – by not transitioning away from the older contract with more aplomb. What makes it even worse is that the sloppiness seems to have been born of a harrying demand for a lay-buy deposit: an Australian net zero declaration prior to COP26. Nobody is an innocent in this dispute – except France.

That’s where the worth of the Turnbull critique ends: his claim that French low-enriched uranium was a viable alternative – having our yellowcake and eating it too – is a concession that the Prime Minister was correct on the biggest issue of all: nuclearisation. Who the Americans prefer to build with and why is above his pay grade. Looked at as a single chapter, the story of Australia’s military and political elites trying to order the right submarines is embarrassing to everyone concerned – three Prime Ministers included. We really don’t seem ready for long pants.

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12 Responses to Turnbull denounces the Prime Minister as a lying liar

  1. Ed Case says:

    3 prime Ministers.
    Tony Abbott inked a deal with Japan for the Soryu, Turnbull reneged and signed on with Naval Group, now Scotty has reneged and is waiting for America to pull him out of the quagmire.
    Meanwhile, Biden is making noises that may indicate that Nuke Subs wasn’t part of the AUKUS Deal.
    Remembering that until 5 minutes ago, the U.S. wasn’t selling, leasing, building or sharing any Nuclear propulsion Tech with Australia.
    Scotty has been led up the garden path.

  2. Entropy says:

    I am curious how you think dealings with the French, in the context of the unannounced AUKUS promise, could have been handled differently?

    If Macron was told too soon, he would have immediately Whiteanted it in any way possible. He had to learn about it as a fait accompli, or France would have tried to kill it.

  3. Ed Case says:

    I am curious how you think dealings with the French, in the context of the unannounced AUKUS promise, could have been handled differently?

    I’ve made no comment about that aspect.
    If you’ver got an opinion on it, why not share it?

  4. C.L. says:

    I am curious how you think dealings with the French, in the context of the unannounced AUKUS promise, could have been handled differently?

    Well, that’s not hard – speaking in nation-state terms.
    First, try not ordering 12 strategically obsolete submarines in the first place.
    Second, don’t dump the contract for an even more preposterous contract.
    Third, don’t ink a deal at all with two imbeciles like Johnson and Biden.
    Fourth, don’t mistake announcing for governing.

  5. C.L. says:

    3 prime Ministers.

    Indeed!

  6. Entropy says:

    Ah, Ed I was asking CL
    I misunderstood, I thought you were talking about Morrison’s dealings with Macron and getting out of the dud contract. Morrison and Dutton did the right thing there. As for the new deal, that remains to be seen. Personally I would chose an Astute or Virginia on the grounds of which mob can deliver within two years.

  7. Texas Jack says:

    Read (or not read) the article twice, C.L. Just to avoid being banished to the naughty corner again….

    What I can’t understand is why, after having beaten the ALP into submission over waste and misallocations of the Button/Carr industry policy, the Turnbull/Morrison disaster didn’t just fly helicopters over Sturt, Boothby, and Mayo and drop bundles of $100 bills?? Has to be far cheaper than building (or not building) floating coffin-boats.

  8. C.L. says:

    You’re never banished here, Jack.

    LOL. Yes, it would be cheaper. But I think everyone knows the subs will never be built in Adelaide anyway.

  9. Texas Jack says:

    Thanks, C.L. Your posts have always kept me somewhat sane.

    Aside from Dutton, the last Defence Minister who made any sense about the sub-building program was this bloke. For his honesty, Tony Abbott sacked him, which could be described as shemozzle number 1, except that came much earlier. What I refer to here is that there’s an urban myth that when Keating insisted on launching the very first Collins Class ASC had to build a ply-wood conning tower for the occasion.

    Bottom line? I think you and Greg Sheridan are right; we’ll probably never get nuclear powered boats.

    It all just adds to my long list of reasons to donkey vote.

  10. jupes says:

    Dunno about SloMo pursuing Australia’s national interest. What seemed likely at first, cancelling obsolete boats for nuclear ones, turns out to be just part of another shonky international deal.

    Now it seems likely that the nuclear boats are decades down the track, while the quid pro quo is effective immediately. The insane Net Zero commitment.

    Australia dips out again.

  11. Not Trampis says:

    Who is lying.
    Well when Morrison says he won’t stand any sledging of Australia then we can confidently say Morrison is as we ALL know Macron definitely did not do that. He sledged Morrison big time. Macron made it clear he held Australia and Australians in high esteem.
    The nuclear generator’ so to speak comes with the sub and goes back to the yanks when the sub has finished.

    I am constantly astonished how poor some liberals are with history. Turnbull won an election that Abbott would have lost in a landslide.
    Having said that Turnbull should take his own advice. If he was only heard now and then his opinions would be heard. He is heard too often. take a note from Keating mate. Only comment when it is important.

  12. cuckoo says:

    Time yet again to trot out that quote from another Frenchman, Charles de Gaulle. Returning from an official visit to Brazil, he was asked his opinion of it. “Il n’est pas un pays serieux” – it is not a serious country. Neither has Australia been for quite some time.

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