Australia can’t build submarines, says former Japanese commander

Australia doesn’t have enough skilled workers to build the Soryu class submarines and Japan is the best place to build them, a former Japanese submarine commander says.

As the ABC reports Japan, Germany and France are vying to build Australia’s next generation submarines, with Japan seen as the favourite.

However, the former commander of the Japanese submarine fleet Masao Kobayashi cast doubt on the amount of work that the ASC shipyards in Adelaide could handle.

"They don't enough skilled workers to fashion the high-tension steel; it's even hard to do in Japan," he told the ABC.

As Sky News reports, South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon called the comments "very disturbing".

“My information is that both the Germans and the French who are bidding to build submarines here in Australia say that is nonsense,” he said

“This is bad news, a bad sign, if this is typical of a broader attitude in the Japanese defence establishment and within the Japanese government.”

AAP reports that South Australian Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith backed up the claim that the two European ship builders are willing to do the work in Australia.

Hamilton-Smith, who has visited both German ship builder TKMS and French ship builder DCNS, told state parliament both companies want to expand their interests in Australia.

"Both companies have proposed plans for an in-country build for Australia's future submarines as international design partners," he said.