Ex-PM’s stinging attack on Penny Wong

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Paul Keating has lashed two of the government’s most senior ministers for what he believes is a major failure in foreign policy.

Speaking at the National Press Club, the former prime minister singled out Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles in his attack.

“What’s happened is that the military have overtaken the foreign policy, as a consequence, we’re not using diplomacy,’ he said.

“Let me just make this point: Running around the Pacific Islands with a lei around your neck handing out money, which is what Penny does, is not foreign policy. It’s a consular task.

Paul Keating blasted Penny Wong in an address to the National Press Club. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin OllmanPaul Keating blasted Penny Wong in an address to the National Press Club. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“Foreign policy is what you do with the great powers. What you do with China. What you do with the United States. This government, the Albanese government, does not employ foreign policy.”

Mr Keating’s stinging criticism comes a day after the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled the $368bn plan to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The former prime minister has been a vocal critic of the AUKUS agreement since it was announced in 2021 by the former Morrison government. He has repeatedly claimed the deal would undermine Australia’s sovereignty.

In a nine-page statement prepared ahead of his appearance, he called the advice from Mr Marles and Senator Wong “seriously unwise” and Labor minister’s would “wince” at the deal conceived by Scott Morrison but taken up by Mr Albanese with “unprecedented gusto”.

In agreeing to the “kabuki show in San Diego”, Mr Albanese had made the “worst international decision by an Australian Labor government since the former Labor leader, Billy Hughes, sought to introduce conscription to augment Australian forces in World War One”.

“History will be the judge of this project in the end. But I want my name clearly recorded among those who say it is a mistake,” he said.

Mr Keating has on a number occasions sought to meet with Mr Albanese to share his concerns and be briefed on the AUKUS program.

“The message was delivered but I heard nothing from the Prime Minister,” he said in the statement.

More to come.

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