'No way to sugar coat' eye-watering nuclear subs spend
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says there's no way to sugar coat Australia's massive spend on nuclear submarines and the government needs to come clean on any debts or cuts.
The planned acquisition of eight nuclear powered subs will cost between $268 and $368 billion over the next three decades.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said an initial four-year, $9b outlay would not impact spending projections in the budget, with the funds reallocated from a cancelled project and defence department money already set aside.
The outlay of any department added up over three decades would come with a hefty price tag attached, he added.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison, who initiated the landmark security deal while in office, said his government did not go into it without understanding the costs.
He told ABC 7.30 the former coalition government had a "very good understanding" about what the AUKUS arrangement would involve.
"We went to the last election with our budget set as we did, including what the tax levels were ... so we didn't go into (it) saying we need to put up taxes or do this to achieve (AUKUS)," he said.
"We were very wide-eyed on it."
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the significant cost would deliver "big returns" on national security and the economy.
He said the deal would deepen Australia's industrial base and create "generations" of prosperity and opportunities.
Mr Dutton welcomed the purchase of the submarines but hit back at the explanation of how they would be paid for.
"There's no way in which you can sugar coat it. There is extra money that needs to be spent," he said.
"We can't allow Labor to cannibalise the defence force to pay for AUKUS, it's not an either or option."
The coalition promised to scrutinise the spend and ensure transparency.
Mr Dutton has flagged the National Disability Insurance Scheme as one area with "difficulties around the sustainability and the cost trajectory".
But Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Service warned it would be "unconscionable" to cut any social services to pay for the deal.
The Antipoverty Centre questioned how the government could earmark such a large amount for defence while saying it couldn't afford to increase social housing or welfare payments.
Mr Dutton also said the government needed to ensure there was an allocation for an east coast submarine base, which the coalition committed to but wasn't outlined in the AUKUS announcement.
He accused Labor of withholding information on the base until after the upcoming NSW election.
Mr Marles said decisions about an east coast base were not needed for some time.