Defence Minister Peter Dutton is deliberately stoking conflict with China in "the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history", Penny Wong says.
The Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman also believes the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been stymied by a lack of resources and clarity from its leadership.
Senator Wong told the ANU National Security College on Tuesday that Mr Dutton is making a calculated and reckless attempt to make national security a battleground at the next election.
The Labor senator ramped up her attacks on Mr Dutton's handling of Australia's national security in a speech today, accusing him of dangerously exploiting the issue for electoral gains.
"Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history," she said.
"A tactic employed by irresponsible politicians who are desperate to hang on to power at any cost."
Senator Wong reaffirmed bipartisan support for a one nation policy on Taiwan, saying Mr Dutton had amplified Beijing's "fatalistic narrative" on the island, which framed unification or war as the only possible outcomes.
Senator Wong will stress partnership-building as an under-utilised tool, but say soft power was heavily reliant on DFAT, which had been degraded under the Coalition.
She argued Australia's "many talented, skilled" diplomats were hampered by a lack of resources, and clarity on how they were expected to deliver.
"DFAT needs clearer political leadership and a sharper understanding of its role, responsibilities, and its potential in these times," she said.
France was enraged by Australia joining the AUKUS alliance, scrapping a long-standing deal with France's Naval Group to build submarines.
After Emmanuel Macron publicly accused the Prime Minister of lying, Mr Morrison escalated tensions by leaking a private text message sent by the French President.
Senator Wong argued the saga had put beyond doubt that "authenticity and trustworthiness are not qualities possessed by Mr Morrison", and had damaged the nation in the eyes of the international community.
"For generations, Australians have been advantaged across all our international endeavours by a reputation for being straight shooters who pull our weight," she said.
"That reputation has taken a hit thanks to recent behaviour by the Prime Minister, a hit the Australian people don't deserve."
READ MORE NEWS:
Pacific leaders have pleaded with Australia to take stronger action on climate change, with the region set to bear the brunt of rising sea levels.
Senator Wong took aim at the Coalition's inertia, saying it had "stubbornly ignored" opportunities to lead on the issue.