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Labor accuses Prime Minister Scott Morrison of putting politics ahead of national security on AUKUS pact

Labor has accused Scott Morrison of breaking trust with one of Australia's most important allies over AUKUS talks with Joe Biden's administration. (Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)

Federal Labor has accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of putting politics ahead of Australia's national security interests, after reports emerged that the United States had sought early assurances of bipartisan support for the new AUKUS pact.

Nine Newspapers reported on Saturday that the United States wanted certainty that the deal, which includes sharing nuclear submarine technology, would have ongoing support from both the Coalition and Labor.

However, Labor was only briefed on the pact the day before it was publicly announced. 

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has seized on the reports, pointing out the article's reference to a five-month gap between when the Biden administration asked for Australian Labor to be briefed, and when that briefing ultimately occurred.

"The Biden Administration understood that this is an upgrade of our alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, that would have implications beyond who was in government at any particular time," Mr Albanese told reporters in Darwin. 

“Not only (will the AUKUS security pact) be causing tensions with our relationship with France, an important ally, we are also causing tensions with our most important ally, the United States of America."

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said national security should be above party politics. 

“Our alliance with the United States is the bedrock of Australian security, that’s why it’s had bipartisan support for decades.

“It seems that Mr Morrison thinks this is just another political card to play."

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has conceded bipartisan support for the pact was expected, but argued the Coalition made a "judgement" Labor would support it and that was "exactly what had transpired."

He said there was a desire from all sides to ensure the major parties in each country were broadly supportive of the deal, but said an earlier briefing was not a pre-requisite for the pact to be signed.

"The United States didn't condition that, and I think Mr Albanese frankly owes the public an apology."

He argued Mr Albanese's comments were "wildly inaccurate", saying if Labor had an issue with the way the briefing was provided the party had had "ample opportunity" to raise it.

"Frankly, I think Anthony Albanese has been very loose with the truth when it comes to national security. I think his comments today are quite reckless," Mr Dutton said. 

Mr Dutton said the government had been worried that sensitive details of the pact might leak if Labor was briefed earlier. 

"Clearly, it would have leaked, the deal would have been scuttled."

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Dive Deeper:
Labor accuses Coalition of ‘playing politics’ with national security after reports of Aukus snub
Opposition claims government is whipping up fear for election votes as WA premier Mark McGowan slams Peter Dutton’s ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric
Albanese says Morrison broke faith with US by delaying Labor’s Aukus briefing
Biden administration reportedly said defence alliance needed bipartisan support, but opposition was not told until day before it was announced
Scott Morrison suggests Labor may have leaked AUKUS information had it been briefed sooner
Prime Minister denies Australia broke with the Biden administration when it decided not to consult Labor about its decision to…
China denies ‘alarmist’ warship claims
China has responded to claims from Defence Minister Peter Dutton that it was acting aggressively by keeping one of its…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Labor attack PM over AUKUS handling
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the handling of the AUKUS negotiations after reports he misled the US on the…
Scott Morrison to appeal to empty nesters at long-awaited Coalition campaign launch
Scott Morrison is expected to unveil a new scheme to encourage older Australians to sell their family homes at the…
Get all your news in one place