Federal Defence Minister David Johnston has said there are time constraints involved in building the next generation of submarines.
In so doing, he reinforced the view that they will not be made locally.
Senator Johnston told Sky News that Australia needs to avoid a “capability gap” and cannot afford a long wait for the submarines.
According to The Australian Financial Review, the Abbott government is likely to source the submarines from Japan to avoid the likely delays that would occur if they were built in Australia. This is because it wants to keep up with an Asia-Pacific arms race.
There would be significant difference between the finishing dates for an Australian build and an offshore build. The Navy could have new submarines that were built offshore ready for use by 2025-2026. Locally built vessels would probably not be ready until 2033-35.
According to the ABC, Senator Johnston pointed at the previous Labor Government and said that, when the Coalition won power, there were no design plans in place.
"We've wasted six years. We have to come up with a solution that solves the time-schedule problem," he said.
"When I got into Government, when I said, 'tell me about [the] C1000 [submarine building program], tell me how far along the track we are,' [I was told] 'we're not far at all – there's not a contract, there's not an obligation, there's not a design'."
According to the Financial Review, there is likely to be an international competition to decide who wins the work. Apart from Japan, there is also interest from France, Germany and Sweden.