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Episode 87: Truth and Trust in Diplomacy (Morrison vs Macron)

09 Nov 2021
By Dr Darren Lim and Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA
Parliament House, Canberra. Source: JJ Harrison

In this episode, Allan and Darren discuss the role of honesty and integrity in international diplomacy.



Allan and Darren cannot resist focusing on the escalated and seemingly personal spat between Australian PM Scott Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron over Australia’s cancellation of the French submarine contract, then followed by the launch of AUKUS. During Morrison’s recent international trip, Macron called him a liar, to which the Australian side responded by leaking details of private text messages the French president had sent the PM just days prior to the announcement. In Morrison’s words: “claims were made, claims were refuted”.

Who is in the right/wrong here? Stepping back, what is the role of honesty and integrity, or truth and trust, in international diplomacy? How much does it matter?

Along the way, Darren finds the temptation to develop a potted academic theory of a “Morrison doctrine” too strong to pass up. Let the debate begin!

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Cameron Stewart, “How Biden threw PM under the bus”, The Australian, 2 November 2021:

Samantha Maiden, “Who is really lying in Scott Morrison, Emmanuel Macron’s French submarine feud”, Daily Telegraph, 2 November 2021:

Phillip Coorey, “‘I don’t like losing’: Macron ‘knew’ the subs contract was in peril”, Australian Financial Review, 1 November 2021:

Stephen Dziedzic and Georgia Hitch “French ambassador says leaking of text messages between Scott Morrison and Emmanuel Macron ‘unprecedented new low’”, ABC News, 3 November 2021:

Jake Evans, “Scott Morrison refuses to apologise to President Emmanuel Macron after claims PM lied about submarine deal”, ABC News, 3 November 2021:

Diplomacy by Harold Nicolson (Goodreads page):

Marise Payne “Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations”, 30 August 2021:

Daniel Hurst, “Scrapping submarines deal broke trust, Macron tells Australian PM”, The Guardian, 28 October 2021:

Andrew Tillett, “Defence admits it is looking at back-up plan for French subs deal”, Australian Financial Review, 2 June 2021:

Paul Kelly, “Morrison had to hurt France to get AUKUS subs deal”, The Australian, 3 November 2021:

Andrew Probyn, “Scott Morrison rejects French President’s criticism over handling of scrapped submarine project”, ABC News, 1 November 2021:

Ben Herscovitch, “Beijing to Canberra and Back” (newsletter):

Adam Tooze, “Chartbook” (newsletter):

Heather Cox Richardson, “Letters from an American” (newsletter):

Bill Bishop, “Sinocism” (newsletter):

Andrew Daily “The Weekly Dish” (newsletter):

American Purpose (newsletter):

Rohit, “Why do we dislike rules so much”, Strange Loop Cannon (newsletter), 7 September 2021: