The Abbott government has vowed at least 500 new jobs in Australia will be created under a $50 billion submarine program in which local industry can partner with shipbuilders from Japan, Germany or France.
After more than a week of uncertainty since the government flagged a "competitive evaluation process", the government on Friday began fleshing out how the process will work, but has refused to make any guarantees on how much of the construction work will actually be done locally.
Rather, firms such as the Adelaide-based ASC, which is currently maintaining the Collins class submarines, will be able to explore working in partnership with overseas shipbuilders. The competitive evaluation process will take until the end of the year.
Speaking to reporters in Adelaide shortly after the announcement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the process was aimed at getting: "the best possible sub at the best possible price with maximal Australian involvement in the production and maintenance"
"Under any possible scenario there are going to be more submarine jobs in Adelaide," Mr Abbott said.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said maximising Australian content will be a factor – although not the most critical – in the bids to build the submarine.
Mr Andrews said whatever decision is taken, there will be significant work done in Australia including system integration, design assurance and land-based testing. This will create at least 500 jobs, mostly in South Australia.
The process has been a troubled one for the government. By backing away from a firm commitment to build the boats in Adelaide, the government is breaking a promise made on the eve of the last election by then defence spokesman David Johnston.