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Australia’s sub secrecy ‘childish’: France

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Australia’s claim it couldn’t consult France ahead of time about dumping a $90 billion submarine contract has been labelled “childish” by the European nation’s returning ambassador.

Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault is returning to Canberra after being recalled following the shock announcement that infuriated the French.

He is unsure whether France can trust Australia “if we were lied to on one very important aspect”.

“It’s childish to say that it was impossible to consult France. If you don’t want to take my word, okay, take the words of President (Joe) Biden, take the words of Secretary of State (Antony) Blinken,” Mr Thebault told ABC radio on Friday.

“They have officially stated things should have been done differently. There should have been consultations.”

Australia scrapped its 2016 agreement for 12 conventional vessels from the French company Naval Group in favour of access to nuclear submarine technology under the AUKUS pact with the US and UK.

The federal government has defended its lack of consultation over the switch, saying secrecy was needed for negotiations for nuclear-propulsion technology.

“If we were lied to on one very important aspect, which other aspects was there a real trust,” Mr Thebault said.

“Confidence is not something you throw away when it’s convenient, you know, trust is something you build, trust is something you create through your own action.”

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