Purchasing submarines from Japan could compromise Australia’s national security interests, according to opposition leader Bill Shorten.
AAP reports that Mr Shorten reacted to reports that South Australia is likely to lose out on the submarine project to Japan by saying it could "irresponsibly put our national security at risk as a maritime nation".
Despite the fact that no official decision on the project has yet been made, reports suggest the deal is all but complete and South Australian manufacturers will only contribute components to the vessels.
News.com.au reports that Shadow Assistant Defence Minister David Feeney reinforced the opposition’s position. He claimed Australia would be in a dangerous position if a foreign nation owned the “intellectual property” associated with its naval vessels.
“It is a nonsense to imagine that in a time of crisis we as a country could not build or repair or sustain our own ships and submarines,” he said.
As reported in The Australian, Mark Thomson of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a report that buying submarines from Japan “would be a move laden with geopolitical consequences”.
“The export of Japanese submarines to Australia would represent a much more rapid normalisation of Japan’s defence posture that anyone has anticipated so far,” he said.
“It would alarm China and heighten Beijing’s fears of containment by the United States and its ... allies.
“Those are serious first-order strategic considerations not to be dismissed lightly or as somehow secondary to the reasons for acquiring submarines in the first place.”
However according to News.com.au, NSW RSL President Don Rowe was less concerned by the issue. He emphasised the importance of buying high quality vessels and pointed out that Australia has purchased foreign-made military equipment in the past.
“We don’t want to see another submarine debacle so it is important that it is the best boat available,’’ he said.
“We bought German (Leopard) tanks because they were the best.”