The federal government is prepared to lease nuclear submarines from the US while its own fleet is being built, defence minister Peter Dutton has said.
Asked on Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program whether the government would consider leasing nuclear submarines in the interim, Dutton said: “The short answer is yes”.
There is all of that discussion to take place in the next 12 to 18 months.
The talk that you can just buy a nuclear-powered submarine off the shelf, of course, is just not accurate or correct.”
AAP reports Dutton said the Chinese are pumping out submarines, frigates and aircraft carriers at a record rate and so the rest of the world has stepped up its own production.
That unfortunately is the dynamic we are operating in at the moment.”
However, Australia’s decision has caused a stir in the region, and backlash from the French.
The scrapping of the $90bn diesel submarine deal between Australia and France has prompted the European nation to recall its Australian ambassador. Dutton said he understands why the French are upset, but said the government had to act in Australia’s national interest.
Given the changing circumstances in the Indo-Pacific, not just now but over the coming years, we had to make a decision that was in our national interest, and that’s exactly what we have done.”
But he said suggestions that concerns over the French model had not been flagged by the Australian government, “just defy frankly what is on the public record and certainly what was said publicly over a long period of time”.