Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Friday that he does not believe he has lied since being elected to parliament in 2007, denying charges made by French President Emmanuel Macron and others.
This month, Macron accused Morrison of lying to him about Australia’s decision to cancel a multibillion-dollar deal with France to build Canberra’s new submarine fleet. L4N2RR0V1
Morrison’s critics became louder this week when he revealed that his government would invest A$178 million ($129.6 million) to assist electric vehicles, three years after he scoffed at the technology. L1N2RZ2Y3
But when asked on Friday, Morrison rejected allegations he had lied.
“No, I don’t believe I have, no,” Morrison told 3AW Radio. “It’s politics. People take sledges at me all the time … I’ve learned in public life over a long period of time to not have a thin skin, to not get bitter.”
Morrison can ill-afford to have his integrity called into question as he has to return to the polls by May 2022.
Widely watched polls show Morrison’s coalition government trailing the opposition Labor party, while a Guardian Essential poll published this week showed voter approval of the prime minister at its lowest level in 18 months.
The poll showed Morrison’s approval rating has fallen from a high of 65% in Febuary and now stands at 48%.
Allies too have also questioned whether they can trust Morrison, with the EU President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this year questioning whether the bloc could strike a trade deal with Australia until trust is repaired.
In solidarity with France, the European Union last month postponed the next round of talks on a free trade deal for a second time.
France has said Australia did not attempt to inform it of the cancellation until the day Canberra announced its deal with the United States and Britain. Morrison denies that, and messages he sent to Macron in the week before the announcement have since been leaked to local media.
($1 = 1.3732 Australian dollars)