Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to Paris to ‘reset’ Australia-France relations

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will visit French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris next week to formally ‘reset’ diplomatic relations, which were thrown into the freezer after the Morrison government canceled a massive construction deal of 12 submarines.

In a 7.30am interview with the ABC, Mr. Albanese said he had been invited to France by Mr. Macron and expected to receive a warm welcome.

“We have to reset. We have already had very constructive discussions,” added the Prime Minister.

Earlier this month, the new Labor government announced it had agreed to pay French shipbuilder Naval Group $835 million in compensation for the canceled deal.

A total of $3.4 billion has been spent on the program, a figure Mr. Albanese called an “extraordinary waste” of taxpayers’ money.

“France, of course, is at the center of power in Europe, but it is also a key power in the Pacific, in our own region as well,” Mr Albanese told Leigh Sales.

“What we can offer is a relationship between our respective leaders that will not be disclosed in order to make an opportunistic headline in the newspaper, a relationship of respect and honesty in how we deal with each other .”

Macron Morisson
Anthony Albanese says relationship between Australia and France needs to be reset after failed submarine deal.(Provided: Prime Minister’s Office, Adam Taylor)

The submarine deal with France came at a time when Mr Macron was talking about the country’s future as an “Indo-Pacific power” fully committed to the region.

During a visit to Sydney in 2018, the president said the submarines were just the “very beginning” of a closer relationship with Australia that would be developed for “the next 50 years”.

France is seen as a key partner in efforts to limit China’s expansion of power and influence in the Pacific.

Albanian ready to attend NATO summit and also invited to visit Ukraine

Mr Albanese will be in Europe next week for a larger than normal NATO summit, where the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be the main item on the agenda.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Canberra, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, hopes the prime minister will use the trip to offer more military assistance to his war-torn country.

“We need more heavy weapons,” Mr Myroshnychenko said, adding that he hoped Australia would send more Bushmasters, a Bendigo-built troop carrier.

A Bushmaster with Ukrainian flags stands in front of a Globemaster plane on the tarmac
The Ukrainian ambassador in Canberra hopes that more military assistance can be offered to Ukraine.(Ministry of Defense: LACW Emma Schwenke)

“We have 40 Bushmasters… it would be great to have another 20,” he said.

“I think it’s coming that we’ll have a young [Ukrainian] boy called Bushmaster.

“I think it comes because Bushmaster is probably the most recognizable Australian brand in Ukraine right now, because if you mention Australia the next thing you hear is ‘Bushmasters’.”

Mr. Albanese was also invited to visit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. However, as is usually the case with travel near conflict zones, he declined to confirm whether he would accept the offer.

A man in a khaki t-shirt talks to the soldiers.
Mr. Albanese says he is receiving national security advice on his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.(Reuters: Ukrainian Presidential News Service)

“We are getting national security advice on this,” Mr. Albanese said.

“We do not want to create a circumstance where there is a risk to Australian personnel by undertaking such a visit.

Even though much of the talk at NATO will focus on invading Russia, some defense and intelligence experts are urging the PM to use his trip to remind allies of China’s growing aims for our region. .

Albanese gives a thumbs up from the tarmac in front of a plane
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to Europe next week for the NATO summit.(PA: Lukas Coch)

“They’re trying to push us around and constrain us in our region of immediate strategic interest,” said Paul Dibb, a highly regarded analyst.

Mr Dibb had a long career in Australian intelligence and defense and was the principal author of the 1987 Defense White Paper.

“Our Prime Minister, our Foreign Minister and our Defense Minister must keep at the center of their minds, deeply etched, their first priority is the defense of this country and ensuring that our immediate region is not dominated by an aggressive expansionist power,” he said.

“That must be their first priority and it must not be eroded by enthusiasm, if I may say so, for Europe and NATO.”

The government will put a ‘brake’ on spending in the October budget

Facing a number of international and domestic challenges, the new government has also inherited a budget that is expected to run into more than $1 trillion in debt within a few years.

With inflation and interest rates on the rise, the Prime Minister has said some things he would like to do in the government’s first budget in October will have to wait.

“We’re going to have to really rein in some of the spending that’s there,” Mr Albanese said.

“I made it very clear that there are a series of things that we would like to do that we will not be able to do in our first budget.

“We will also go through, line by line, the search for waste.”

Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher walk through a courtyard of Parliament
Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher said they would go through the budget line by line to look for waste and rorts.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

A number of economists predict the government will have to start a difficult conversation about how the nation pays for the services Australians expect.

“I expect the October budget to be just about delivering on the promises they made in the election,” said Danielle Wood of the Grattan Institute.

“I think by next May these tax challenges are really going to start to bite.”

Labor’s election pledge was not to raise taxes or create new ones – except on multinationals – although, in the longer term, broader reform might be needed.

“I think taxation needs to be on the agenda,” Ms Wood said.

“Perhaps this is just arguing for changes the government could make in the next election.”

Watch the interview at 7:30 p.m. tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview.

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