The Prime Minister has responded to his party’s eldest statesman slamming a significant submarine deal on national television.
Anthony Albanese said he “disagrees fundamentally” with former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating’s comments at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Mr Keating, 79, was scathing in his criticism of the $368bn AUKUS nuclear submarine deal finalised earlier in the week, calling it Labor’s “worst international decision” since WWI conscription.
He also dubbed senior ministers Penny Wong and Richard Marles, who handle Foreign Affairs and Defence respectively, as “seriously unwise ministers”.
Speaking to 3AW Mornings on Thursday, Mr Albanese – back in the country after a trip to India, the US, and Fiji – conceded Mr Keating wasn’t complimentary of the three in his comments.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Mr Keating chose such strong personal statements against people,” Mr Albanese told host Neil Mitchell.
“I don’t think that does anything other than diminish him, frankly.
“But that’s his prerogative to do so. I fundamentally disagree … and I disagree with his worldview.
“Of course I’ll defend (Wong and Marles), and I’ll defend myself as well for the job that we’re doing.
“I’m not going to get into an argument with Paul. Paul is someone who has my utmost respect for what he achieved … my job is to govern Australia in 2023 based on what we see.
“China has changed its posture and position in world affairs since the 1990s, when Paul Keating was active in politics … my position on China is that we should co-operate where we can, but disagree where we must … we disagree on human rights, we disagree on the South China Sea.
“We don’t seek conflict with any nation and I have not engaged in any rhetoric aimed at increasing any tension; we want good relations.”
Paul Keating has long been a critic of the submarine deal since it was announced 18 months ago.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has since described Mr Keating‘s attack on the deal as “unhinged”.
In a statement to the National Press Club before the address, Mr Keating said “this week, Anthony Albanese screwed into place the last shackle in the long chain the United States has laid out to contain China.
“No mealy mouthed talk of ‘stabilisation’ in our China relationship or resort to softer or polite language will disguise from the Chinese the extent and intent of our commitment to the United States’ strategic hegemony in East Asia, with all its deadly portents.”
The deal means Australia will buying and build US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines over the coming decades.
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