Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks after reviewing the People's Liberation Army Navy fleet in the South China Sea (Image: Li Gang/Xinhua via AP, File)

The Australian navy is getting some very expensive new toys. Thanks to a new defence pact with the United States and United Kingdom, Australia's next submarine fleet will be nuclear-powered.

The deal marks the start of AUKUS, a new partnership with two of our oldest allies. It also brings plenty of firsts for Australia: we will be the first country without a domestic nuclear program to have a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. And aside from the United Kingdom, we're the only country which will have access to the United States' nuclear submarine technology.

But while it will take 18 months to deliver that technology to Australia, this morning's press conference, teased at with breathless excitement last night, is intended to send a more immediate message -- that Australia is deepening its ties with historic allies in the face of a new adversary in China.