Defence Minister Richard Marles has scoffed at suggestions that the Coalition was anywhere near agreeing to a compensation package with France after Australia abandoned its submarine contract last year.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed Australia will pay French company Naval Group about $830 million to settle the scrapped $90 billion defence contract.
Instead, Australia is now pursuing a nuclear-powered submarine agreement with the US and UK under the AUKUS partnership, which had caused a diplomatic stoush and saw France recall ambassadors from Canberra and Washington.
New opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie has questioned the size of the compensation being paid to France, saying the outgoing Morrison government had been aiming for a significantly lower figure.
“That’s just not true,” Mr Marles, who is also deputy prime minister, told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“What we are seeing from the Coalition weeks into their time in opposition is that they are just making stuff up now.”
Speaking from Singapore where he is attending the Shangri-La Dialogue – a gathering of global defence ministers – he said the arrangement with France is a good deal, presenting less money than Australia was facing just a few weeks ago.
He believes Australia’s relationship with France can now move forward.
“The speed with which we have moved to settle this matter, put a line underneath it, and to move forward was very much welcomed by the French minister (for defence Sebastien Lecornu),” Mr Marles said after meeting with Mr Lecornu in Singapore.
“France and Australia have so much in common,” he added, noting France’s presence in the Pacific region.