Federal government won't be rushed on subs

By Tim Dornin
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Subs a core defence capability: Payne

Defence Minister Marise Payne says submarines will remain a core defence capability for Australia.

Australia's next fleet of submarines will be agile, potent, affordable and sustainable but the federal government is in no hurry to make a decision on who will build them, a defence conference has been told.

With both the submarines and the wider Defence White Paper, the government will take the time to ensure it adopts the right strategy for a modern Australia, Defence Minister Marise Payne says.

"To meet our future challenges the government will deliver an Australian Defence Force with the highest levels of military capability and technological sophistication," Senator Payne told the Submarine Institute of Australia conference in Adelaide.

Within that context, she says submarines remain a core strategic capability.

"We don't see the submarine as an option but a necessity," the minister said.

"Submarines are a vital element of our defence strategy today and will be so into the second half of this century."

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, said if Australia wanted to play a role in deterring conflict and contributing to peace and security around the world it must have a defence force sufficiently lethal to sanction anyone who might use armed force.

"This is where the submarine features in Australia's strategic reckoning," he said.

"Our submarines deliver our government with the requisite lethality to achieve these outcomes.

"Such is the destructive power of submarines."

The comments came after an industry spokesman said the defence portfolio had suffered from "decision paralysis" with three ministers over the past two years.

Australian Made Defence spokesman Chris Burns said the defence sector was looking to Ms Payne for a fresh outlook on defence acquisition.

"For years governments have failed to lead the nation towards a continuous shipbuilding strategy, as a result the Australian shipbuilding industry is being forced to lay off workers," Mr Burns said.

"This is not just about the defence businesses, it's about national security, sovereignty, skills and Australian taxpayer dollars."

Tuesday's conference also brought together the three groups from France, Germany and Japan bidding to build Australia's next fleet of submarines.

If successful, the French plan to build a submarine called the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, which has been designed specifically for the Australian Navy.

The Japanese have proposed building a sub based on the Soryu Class currently in service and Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems has proposed an 89-metre submarine known as the Type 216.

All three groups must have their final bids before the federal government by November 30.