Australian PM departs for Quad meeting amid French submarine deal fallout By Reuters
By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday departed for Washington to meet with leaders of the Quad grouping amid criticism over his government’s decision to abandon a $40 billion submarine deal with France.
Australia said last week it was ending a contract with France’s Naval Group in order to build conventional submarines. It will instead construct eight submarines powered by U.S. or British technology.
France said that the US and Australia’s relationship is “in crisis” and it has sent back its diplomats.
Although Australia attempted to ease tensions and expressed its regret, Morrison’s meeting at the Quad with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as U.S. President Joe Biden, could inflame French anger.
Haydon Manning from Flinders University, South Australia, said that “the French are very unhappy and the sight Morrison, Biden, and Johnson together won’t do much to repair relations.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will also attend the leaders’ meeting of the Quad group later this week.
According to two people familiar with the program, the Quad will be discussing COVID-19 as well as climate change and regional security.
Morrison said to reporters as he boarded a plane for Washington that “this is about ensuring Australia’s sovereign interest will be put before all else.”
A number of agreements are being made to strengthen the cooperation between these four countries, however, Australia won’t announce the United States seeking stronger climate targets, according to a senior government source.
Morrison is refusing to set a net zero emission target by 2050. He will however be under increasing pressure ahead of the United Nations climate summit, which takes place in Glasgow between Oct. 31 and Nov. 12.
Morrison also faces growing pressure in the home due to Christian Porter’s resignation as minister of innovation and science. Porter accepted an anonymous donation partly funding his fees during his defamation case against Australia’s public broadcaster.
Morrison wanted to know if Porter’s donation of money – which raised concern about whether donor could have outsized influence over Morrison – would be considered a breach of ministerial rules. Porter, however, resigned Sunday.
Morrison has to return to the polls before May 2022. A widely watched poll Monday revealed that the Labor party, which is centre-left in opposition, was on track to win the election for the first time since 2013.
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