‘Trust me’: Albanese says relations with France set to be restored

Anthony Albanese hasn’t ruled out formally apologising to French President Emmanuel Macron over a submarine furore, saying “everyone should be able to trust me”.

Jul 01, 2022, updated Jul 01, 2022
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.  (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The prime minister will have a one-on-one meeting with Macron over lunch at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Friday when he will seek to repair the relationship, which was damaged after Australia dumped a $90 billion submarine contract with a French shipbuilder.

Albanese on Thursday met with former coalition finance minister and current OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, with the pair warmly shaking hands in front of flags representing its member nations.

He then addressed the OECD council and was asked questions by members, including the US, about Australia’s action on climate change, Lithuania, Australia’s aid to Ukraine, Japan and international law in the Indo-Pacific.

Later at a press conference, Albanese didn’t directly answer when asked if he would say sorry to France over the cancelled contract.

“I look forward to having a constructive relationship with President Macron,” he said.

“I’ve made it very clear what my position is about the way in which Australia engaged at a leadership level with friends.

“What I want to do though is to make sure that we can move forward … It should be a relationship where we can rely upon each other … in which we can trust each other and mutually benefit.”

When asked if French businesses could trust him after the “betrayal” and “deception” over the submarine contract under the previous coalition government, Albanese said “absolutely”.

“Everyone should be able to trust me, that’s the way I deal with people … that’s how I got to be prime minister,” he said.

The Morrison government decided to scrap the contract with Naval Group last year in favour of nuclear-powered submarines, under the AUKUS partnership with the UK and US.

Macron later told Australian journalists “I don’t think, I know” when asked if he thought former prime minister Scott Morrison had lied to him in his handling of the issue.

In his first phone call with his new Australian Labor counterpart after the May federal election, Macron reminded Albanese of what Paris described as a “severe breach of trust”.

Albanese said it was time for the relationship between Paris and Canberra to “enter a new dawn” after a “breakdown”.

The prime minister said he would also discuss a free trade deal with Europe during his meeting with Macron and that the leaders would have “more to say” afterwards.

“President Macron wants to have a good relationship with Australia, and Australia wants to have a good relationship with him,” he said.

The fractured relations between the two nations are one of two reasons negotiations for the trade deal have stalled, the other being a lack of climate change action by Australia.

Albanese also met with France’s peak business body and its largest employer federation, Mouvement des Entreprises de France, to discuss investment opportunities in Australia.

Meanwhile, Albanese is still awaiting security advice on whether he can safely visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, after an invitation by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

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