Scott Morrison has been accused of vandalising Australia's international reputation over the handling of the decision to scrap a $90 billion French submarine contract.
Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong condemned the leaking of text messages between the prime minister and French President Emmanuel Macron about the deal.
"You don't make a country more secure by demonstrating that you're prepared to damage at any cost, damage partnerships and alliances," she told ABC radio on Thursday.
"This is the vandalism, it is vandalism.
"The way in which this has been dealt with by the government is with a wanton disregard for our international reputation."
French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault labelled the dumping of the 2016 contract for Attack Class vessels from Naval Group "a stab in the back".
Instead, Australia in September announced it would spend 18 months looking at the feasibility of acquiring nuclear-propelled submarine technology from the US and UK under the AUKUS agreement.
Mr Thebault said the leaking of private texts to Australian media after Mr Macron accused Mr Morrison of lying to him was "an unprecedented new low".
"Doing so also sends a very worrying signal. For all heads of state - be aware, in Australia, there will be leaks," Mr Thebault told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
He also questioned whether any of Australia's global partners could now trust "Australia's signature and commitment".
Mr Morrison denied misleading the French government and insisted concerns about the submarine project had been raised for some time.
Asked whether his office leaked the text messages with Mr Macron, Mr Morrison responded: "Claims had been made and those claims were refuted."
"We had made very clear that there were very significant issues about us moving forward with this contract," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the prime minister was justified in defending his honesty.
The Nationals leader also insisted media reports earlier this year and evidence put to Senate committee hearings should have been enough to alert France the contract was on the rocks.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne stressed AUKUS was about more than submarines and involved cooperation on broader undersea capability as well as quantum computing, and cyber and artificial intelligence.
"We would miss the point completely if we ignored the fact that the premise of the decision that Australia made was our agreement to participate in an extremely important trilateral partnership with the United Kingdom and the United States," she told Sky News.
Australian Associated Press
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