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Scott Morrison put national security at risk, former PM Turnbull says

“I am not getting any lectures on patriotism from Scott Morrison … I defended the national security of this country and its national interest and I know the way that he has behaved is putting that at risk.”

Mr Turnbull confirmed he had spoken to Mr Macron since the submarines announcement, saying he was a “friend, and I have stayed in touch with him since I left office”.

“He is one of the great leaders of our times – enormously important figure in global politics, and of course particularly in Europe,” he said. “I am not going to quote him, but what you’ve heard from the French government – those are views held right across the board.”

The former prime minister said Mr Morrison “both by his own character, is not inclined to apologise or admit fault or flaw”.

“The fact that there was no discussion [with the French], and this extraordinary subterfuge and deceit, that was practised, it has left us with so many unresolved questions,” he said.

“And anyone who questions it, such as those unfortunate members of the Labor Party who question it, are essentially accused of being unpatriotic.”

Mr Turnbull didn’t rule out not voting for the Liberal Party at the next federal election, saying “it has been a long habit but it is also a secret ballot. That will be a matter between me and the ballot box”.

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Liberal senator Eric Abetz said Mr Turnbull “would never have had the privilege of being prime minister but for the Liberal Party and it is disappointing he is not willing to support his own Liberal member”.

“Having been the architect of the French submarine deal with Christopher Pyne, it is understandable that Malcolm Turnbull is disappointed with the government’s decision, but there were some of us who were of the view that the deal should have never been done in the first place,” Senator Abetz said.

“Scott Morrison and [Defence Minister] Peter Dutton have made the right call in all the circumstances.

“It cannot be easy to see your decision-making be repudiated and replaced, and that is a normal human reaction, but at the end of the day this is not about an individual’s sensitivities; it is about national security being paramount and that’s what Morrison and Dutton have rightly focused on.”

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Marcus Hellyer, a senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Mr Turnbull was correct in saying that Australia’s proposed fleet of nuclear-powered submarines would need some kind of nuclear industry to support it.

“We may not need civil nuclear power plants, or facilities that can enrich uranium to fuel the submarine’s reactor, but we’ll still need to perform maintenance and repairs on the submarines, including the reactor,” Dr Hellyer said in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“You can’t have an effective military capability if you need to return it to the US any time there is a defect.”

In his first public comments about the submarine deal cancellation, Mr Macron said Europeans must stop being so “naive” and stand on their own two feet in the Pacific.

“We should not give in to escalation, it’s simply about having ourselves respected,” he said.

“The Australian decision does not change France’s Indo-Pacific strategy.”

France took the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the US, with its top diplomat in Canberra, Jean-Pierre Thebault, accusing Australia of “lies and treason” hours before boarding a flight to Paris.

Mr Macron also confirmed the French ambassador to the United States would return to his posting in Washington on Wednesday, but he did not say when Mr Thebault would return to Canberra.

Reuters reports Russia plans to send questions to the US, UK and Australia about the AUKUS deal.

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