The prime minister used the trilateral AUKUS agreement to play politics with national security by not informing Labor until the very last minute, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says.
Top brass in the United States reportedly entrusted the Liberal prime minister to bring the Labor leader into the tent, requiring bipartisan support before proceeding with the decades-long partnership as a key pillar of the agreement, according to Nine newspapers.
Labor was subsequently informed the day before the agreement was made public in mid-September 2021.
Mr Albanese said Scott Morrison had put his personal interest ahead of the national interest by not seeking bipartisanship from Labor ahead of the announcement.
The US expected the Morrison government to brief Labor as a prerequisite to the agreement would be bipartisan support, Mr Albanese told reporters on Monday.
"Even though Labor could not have been more clear, more decisive, or more certain about our support for AUKUS, this prime minister has continued to play politics.
"The US administration, the information is out there, that they expected Labor to be briefed because this is an issue that doesn't go for a year or a term of parliament."
Mr Morrison defended his actions, saying he wasn't going to risk the AUKUS agreement by informing Labor about the negotiations too early.
He also denied the veracity of the report, saying the government "absolutely complied with all of the issues that needed to be addressed in forming that partnership".
"We understood absolutely what the requirements were and we met them 100 per cent," the prime minister told reporters on Monday.
"I find it passing strange that you think we wouldn't have maintained the absolute discretion, as we did with so many of our own cabinet."
Mr Morrison said the security pact between Australia, the US and the United Kingdom did receive bipartisan support and lauded himself for being the prime minister to secure the agreement.
"This was a process that, for 18 months, painstakingly working through incredible detail, incredibly sensitive issues, highly confidential. This wasn't something I was going to be loose with," he said.
"AUKUS is a groundbreaking agreement, the most significant defence security agreement Australia has entered into in over 70 years. And I was not going to risk that on the Labor Party."
But Mr Albanese hit back and accused Mr Morrison of breaking the trust of international partners after private text messages between the Australian prime minister and his French counterpart leaked to the media.
"I have national security briefings all the time. What this prime minister always does is put the political interests first before the national interest. It's always about the politics," Mr Albanese said.
"Labor laid the foundations for the US alliance during the Second World War when Australia turned to Labor in its darkest hour. We have been supporters of the US alliance ever since."
The procurement of nuclear-propelled submarines for Australia through AUKUS is the first time the US has agreed to share its nuclear submarine technology since bringing in Britain in 1958.
Mr Morrison said Australians needed to trust the government which had the foresight to put the agreement together in the first place.
"Previous Australian prime ministers and governments have tried and failed. I was not going to fail," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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