Buying Japanese submarines will cause Australia problems: study

Australian industry opportunities will be reduced if the government buys the next generation submarines from Japan, according to a new study.

AAP reports that the study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says that, because Japan has never before exported submarines or any other type of defence equipment, it needs to start from scratch work out how to do so.

In contrast, German firm TKMS (another contender for the project) has experience and expertise as an exporter of defence equipment.

"Working on a commercial basis with a European supplier with experience in exporting submarines and submarine-building would probably be less fraught (it's unlikely to be easy, regardless) than establishing a robust through-life relationship with Japan more or less from scratch," the study said.

However, the study adds that any deal with Japan will not have a significant impact on Australia’s relations with China as some have suggested.

"We're not convinced by the arguments put forward to date. In particular, the negative implications for Australia's trade, security and relationship with China have been overstated, as has China's ability to punish Australia should it be inclined to do so," the study said.

Meanwhile, Japan’s former naval chief Yoji Koda told the Adelaide Advertiser that Japan could feasibly build and maintain submarines at the ASC facilities in Adelaide.

“If all the boats are built in Japan, it’s very difficult — we’re not so good at English,” he said.

“Building all of them in Japan is not realistic.”

The government plans to undertake a competitive evaluation process, through which Japan (and any other foreign bidders) would be expected to put forward three options – a wholly Australian build, a hybrid build and an offshore build.

As the Australian reports, earlier this week Opposition leader Bill Shorten called for a bipartisan approach to the project.

While he again said he wanted the submarines to be built locally, he added that a future Labor Government would honour any contract signed by the Abbott Government.

“This is a multi-tens-of-billions-of-dollar contract. I do not believe that the government is seriously saying that they are going to conclude $50 billion, two generations of Australians, and wrap it all up before the next election,” Shorten said.

“Let me be very straight though. If they do conclude a contractual process and if they do sign contracts, the contracts they sign we will honour.”