Anthony Albanese has taken a swipe at Scott Morrison over his leaked texts scandal with French President Emmanuel Macron and for igniting tensions with France.
The prime minister appeared on ABC’s 7.30 report on Thursday night for the first time since he took over the office last month.
While Mr Albanese has spent the past few weeks working on fulfilling Labor’s election promises, veteran journalist Leigh Sales was eager to grill the nation’s leader on how his government plans to address the country’s most pressing issues.
During the interview, the PM was quizzed over whether wage growth will fuel inflation, Australia’s energy crisis and the country’s frosty relations with China.
But the PM saw one question – how he intends to repair the nation’s damaged relationship with France when he visits next week – as an opportunity to take a dig at his predecessor.
Anthony Albanese (pictured) sat down with Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 report on Thursday night
The once-strong bond between the two nation’s was fractured when Scott Morrison tore up a $90billion submarine contract with France to forge the AUKUS nuclear sub alliance with Britain and the US.
Mr Macron said he was not told about Australia’s plans, which Mr Morrison denied, before texts were leaked to News Corp which had intended to show the French leader did know about the deal between the three countries.
‘What we can offer is a relationship between our respective leaders that won’t be leaked in order to make an opportunistic headline in the newspaper,’ Mr Albanese told the program.
‘One of respect and honesty in the way that we deal with each other. And also, the way that we’ll deal with climate change, as obviously reset our relationship with all of our international partners.’
Mr Morrison’s office was believed to be responsible for distributing the texts and a Senate estimates committee in February heard no government departments had launched an investigation into the leaks.
Mr Albanese said he won’t ‘leak texts’ from Emmanuel Macron as he intends to improve relations with France. Scott Morrison was accused of leaking the French president’s private messages to newspapers
A secret leaked text message (pictured) appears to show that Emmanuel Macron was given warning that Australia would torpedo its $90billion submarine deal with France
Speaking to Sales, Mr Albanese confirmed he will visit Mr Macron in Paris next week to formally ‘reset’ diplomatic relations.
The trip comes after the new Labor government earlier this month agreed to pay French shipbuilder Naval Group $835 million in compensation for the cancelled deal.
‘We do need to reset. We’ve already had very constructive discussions,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘France, of course, is central to power in Europe, but it’s also a key power in the Pacific, in our own region as well.’
Sales also asked the PM whether he accepts that rising wages contribute to inflation after Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia Philip Lowe recently called on business and unions to limit wage growth to 3.5%.
But Mr Albanese said wages can still grow while bringing down inflation so long as there is economic productivity.
‘Well, what the reserve bank in fact says is that if you have just wage increases above inflation, without productivity increases that contributes to inflation,’ he said.
Mr Albanese will head to Paris next week to meet French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured with his wife Bridgette)
‘The way to grow the economy, in a way that’s sustainable, is to make sure that we have productivity growth. That’s been something that has been forgotten, left on the shelf, for too long.
‘I’m very confident that business and unions can work together and that the government indeed can have a strategy to grow the economy in way a that is sustainable, that keeps downward pressure on inflation. Because that’s important.’
Sales asked Mr Albanese whether Labor will tax high income earners in order to fulfil plans to inject funds into other services, such as the NDIS.
Mr Albanese said he intends not break any of his election promises, but admitted the government’s first budget announcement might be tough as the country grapples with economic issues.
‘We’re going to have to really put the brakes on some of the spending which is there,’ he said.
‘I’ve made it very clear, there are a range of things we would like to do that we won’t be able to do in our first budget. We will also be going through line-by-line, looking for the waste which is there already.
Leigh Sales grilled the prime minister about wage growth, soaring electricity prices and international relations
‘We’ve identified a range of measures that were made by the former government that, frankly, don’t stack up.’
The PM said Australians can expect the theme of the budget announcement in October to be establishing jobs and skills, cheaper childcare, and policies associated with cleaner and cheaper energy.
Mr Albanese, who is set to attend a NATO summit in Europe next week, has also been invited to visit Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Asked whether he has accepted the offer, Mr Albanese could not confirm for security reasons.
‘We’re getting national security advice on that,’ he said.
‘We don’t want to cause a circumstance whereby there’s risk to Australian personnel by undertaking such a visit.
‘We’ll take that advice and we’ll act accordingly.’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to visit his country