• Rikki Lambert

Kevin Rudd is a weird dude

Former PM Rudd addressing the National Press Club in March 2021

There is something very strange about Kevin Rudd. He tells people “My name is Kevin and I am here to help you” and then does the opposite.

Earlier this week he wrote an opinion piece in the French daily Le Monde, which he opened by telling the readers that it was unusual for a former prime minister to write opinion pieces in foreign newspapers but that he wanted to save Australian French relations which were very important. He then did everything possible to destroy those relations and to damage the prospects for negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe.

He said that the way France was treated by the Morrison government was a diplomatic disaster and did not represent the views of the majority of Australians, for instance:

“There may be important strategic or technical reasons to change course with the type of submarines that Australia now needs to build. But none of these justify the treatment of France in this way.”
“These are major matters of state. And they will be deliberated on by the Australian people soberly during our upcoming national elections.”

Really! Hopefully, they will be done and dealt with by then, unless Mr Rudd wants to turn them into a festering sore at the expense of Australian interests.

The former prime minister believes that the French should have been given the opportunity to save face by being allowed to tender for the provision of nuclear-powered submarines. At the same time, he told Fran Kelly on ABC RN breakfast that he supported the Labor opposition’s conditions on the acquisition of submarines, namely that there should be no civil nuclear industry.

The French nuclear technology is entirely dependent on there being a civil nuclear industry in Australia. Something which is currently banned by legislation.

Mr Rudd also claims that Mr Morrison ambushed the French and repeats the allegation that they were stabbed in the back, writing:

“Morrison ... failed to adhere to basic diplomatic protocols in not officially notifying the French government of its unilateral decision prior to the public announcement of the cancellation of the contract.”
“And finally, there is Canberra’s failure to comprehend the repercussions of this decision for France itself – and for broader international solidarity in framing a co-ordinated response to China’s rise.”

As Phil Coorey points out in Thursday's AFR, Mr Morrison outlined his concerns with the French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting in Paris in June. Morrison says the French were well aware of concerns Australia had with the subs in terms of their suitability, cost and timing blowouts.

He has explained that when the subs deal was signed in 2016, the US was unprepared to share its nuclear technology with Australia. Since then, the strategic threat in the region had escalated, the French subs would not be fit for purpose and the US had changed its mind.

The French subs Australia ordered were nuclear subs retrofitted with diesel-electric engines. Mr Morrison says Australia was unable to change the order to revert them to nuclear subs because the French reactors would need to be serviced and refuelled during the lifetime of the sub, violating Australia’s moratorium on a civil nuclear industry.

On Thursday (AEST) Mr Morrison revealed in Washington that he had initiated a phone call with President Macron but the French leader had said it was too early yet. In the circumstances, Mr Morrison said, Australia had to be patient.

In the meantime, Kevin is always available to help.