Australian leader denies lying, rejects French accusation

French President Emmanuel Macron this month accused the Australian leader of outright lying to him over a multi-billion-dollar submarine contract with Australia, which was scrapped without warning in September.

FILE: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AFP

SYDNEY - Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied having ever lied in public life on Friday and said he had the thick skin needed to deal with allegations of dishonesty including from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Asked if he had ever told a lie in public life, Morrison told an interviewer on Melbourne's 3AW radio: "I don't believe I have, no, no."

Macron this month accused the Australian leader of outright lying to him over a multi-billion-dollar submarine contract with Australia, which was scrapped without warning in September.

Macron discovered at the last moment that Australia had secretly negotiated a deal to buy nuclear-powered submarines in talks with the United States and Britain.

"I don't think. I know," Macron said when asked by Australian reporters if Scott Morrison was untruthful in their private dealings.

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, a bitter rival from within the same conservative Liberal Party, added to the controversy by saying Morrison had a reputation for lying.

Morrison's truthfulness has become a major point of debate in Australian politics, and a potential point of weakness as he seeks a second term in elections expected next May.

But Morrison brushed the issue aside: "I have learned in public life over a long period of time to not have a thin skin."

Morrison said such accusations did not distract him and that he was confident he took the right decision in scrapping the French submarine deal to protect Australia's national defence.

"I was not intimidated by the fact that that might upset some people and ruffle some feathers," he said, stressing that the US nuclear submarine technology had not been shared with another nation since 1958.