Defence Minister Richard Marles has hinted Australia’s nuclear submarines will be manufactured onshore.
Mr Marles told parliament on Monday the Albanese government was on track to make an announcement early next year about the submarines, which he said would be one of the country’s “great national endeavours”.
“There is a power of work under way right now with our partners in the United Kingdom and the United States about what will be the optimal pathway for Australia’s future nuclear powered submarines,” he said in response to a Dorothy Dixer in question time.
“We are on track to be able to make that announcement in the first part of next year. And building a nuclear submarine in this country will be one of Australia’s great national endeavours.
“It will transform our strategic posture. It will build our sovereignty and it will empower Australia as a nation.”
The federal government last year said it would pursue the acquisition of nuclear-powered vessels under the AUKUS agreement with the US and UK to replace Australia’s ageing Collins Class submarines.
Mr Marles had already said the federal government would unveil the type of nuclear submarines Australia will acquire under the AUKUS security pact by March 2023.
He had also said he’d like to see the new submarines constructed in Australia as part of a broader strengthening of its domestic defence manufacturing capability.
The government is expected to decide in March whether Australia will need interim, conventionally powered submarines before the AUKUS vessels are ready, which may not be for another 20 years.
Mr Marles has said one of his top priorities is plugging the gap between the retirement of Australia’s Collins Class fleet and the arrival of the nuclear-powered submarines.
He has blamed the potential capability gap between the two fleets on the Morrison government’s Defence “procurement failures”.
Anthony Albanese earlier this month shut down fresh criticism of the AUKUS deal made by French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I am confident that the AUKUS arrangements that we’re dealing with … with our allies in the United States and the UK will serve the interests of our three nations, but also serve the interests of global security and peace as well,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Albanese had patched up relations with Mr Macron after former prime minister Scott Morrison tore up Australia’s $90bn contract for French-designed conventional submarines in order to pursue nuclear-powered subs under the AUKUS deal.
But Mr Macron launched another attack on the AUKUS partnership on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Bangkok, warning Australia’s nuclear submarine deal with the US and UK “will not deliver”.
Mr Macron also claimed Mr Morrison had threatened a “nuclear confrontation” with China by signing up to AUKUS.