Suggesting Australia should waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a useless submarine deal to keep a belligerent European Union happy is simply endorsing extortion, writes Digital Editor Jack Houghton.

The media coverage surrounding the supposed backlash to the axing of the multi-billion dollar French submarine deal has proven one thing: Australia needs better foreign correspondents.

The Guardian led the pack with this insightful piece:

‘We felt fooled’: France still furious after Australia scraps $90bn submarine deal

‘Maybe we’re not friends,’ recalled ambassador says, claiming Scott Morrison ‘kept us in the dark intentionally’

Kept in the dark? Perhaps The Guardian was in the dark about the widely published issues with the submarine deal which had ballooned in cost significantly higher than $90 billion.

Try $225 billion over the course of the deal.

These financial warnings about the project were published as early as 2019 with the Australian Financial Review leading much of the coverage.

And at the ABC the narrative that the poor French were somewhat “blindsided” by the decision filtered through to analysis pieces and straight news reporting.

The ABC quoted, as evidence for its claims, a mystery letter that allegedly assured the French the project was in tip top shape on the same day the deal was axed.

You had to read ten paragraphs into the piece before they revealed this:

“The ABC asked for that correspondence but France has not provided it”.

Any good journalist would be suspicious to lead with such a volatile angle without actually seeing the letter.

Journalism is about evidence and in this case the evidence is lacking.

So the Weekend Australian actually went and found the letter which proved the French had lied.  It was written in dry bureaucratic language and did not provide any assurance the project was in good shape.

The letter mistake is bad but to make matters worse the ABC itself has reported on the very public fact Defence was looking to axe the submarine deal.

Perhaps the journalists who were reporting that everyone was “blindsided” by the decision should have watched this report by their own company.

“Defence looking at alternatives to French submarines in case $90 billion program falters”

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In this report from June 2, several months before the deal was axed, The Defence Secretary told our federal parliament that the deal might be replaced.

The report even made mention of the Morrison government passing its frustration directly on to the French Government.

However, the ABC’s more contemporary news pieces seemed to forget these key facts.

Now we get to the worst example of them all.

This article published by the ABC suggesting that Australia will be penalised for its climate change policies because it had betrayed Europe.

That’s right, the ABC’s European Correspondent Isabelle Higgins wrote from Paris this week (nice gig if you can get it) that the deal’s axing would lead to the “European Union looking at Australia with newfound suspicion and hostility”.

She reports that the EU is also now refusing to overlook Australia’s “bad” climate record.

Newfound hostility? Interestingly Ms Higgins’ evidence for the claim appeared to be comments from European Union trade committee member Kathleen Van Brempt, a radical progressive from Belgium.

“Australia is a really bad performer when it comes to climate policy,” Ms Brempt told the ABC.

“It was hard to negotiate a [free] trade agreement with Australia before, and it’s even harder now.”

The narrative the ABC painted here is an insistence that Australia is going to cop more climate flak from Europe due to the axed deal.

And Ms Brempt’s suggestion was that we, living in an independent country, should either spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a useless project that will be redundant by the time its finished, or suffer financially.

Economic extortion is hardly a proposition in line with our national interests. But in the ABC’s story, Ms Brempt, a foreign power attempting to change our domestic laws through threats, was the hero.

And this is where the ABC’s story falls apart.

Ms Brempt did not only start her tirade against Australia and our laws because of the submarine deal.

That narrative, is false.

You see, Ms Brempt has actually been campaigning against Australia for far longer than the end of the submarine deal.

In this ABC article from March, several months before the submarine deal was axed, she was threatening to block any Free Trade Agreement unless Australia changed its domestic climate policies.

Perhaps the national broadcaster missed this article, even though it was the publisher?

The headline even reads: “Australian exporters could face millions of dollars in European tariffs as EU seeks to punish polluters”.

Taxpayers deserve our money and policies to best serve us, not France, Belgium or Europe.

And rather than swanning around Paris meeting with progressives hostile to our own country, ABC journalists would be better served compiling evidence and sticking to it.