Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called on the government to speed up the process to acquire nuclear submarines as part of the AUKUS security pact.
Following growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, Mr Dutton said it was critical the timeline be condensed surrounding the vessels.
It comes after Defence Minister Richard Marles flagged an announcement on whether Australia would acquire US or UK-made submarines as part of AUKUS during the first quarter of 2023.
A decision would then be made on when the new vessels would become operational.
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Mr Dutton said it was important for co-operation to be sped up on the issue.
“The agreement was struck under the coalition government, we really fought hard, we negotiated a very difficult discussion,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“We got, I think, the best possible outcome and it’s laid out for the Labor Party now to implement, and hopefully they don’t get in the way of it.
“I hope that they can really condense the timelines, because the very clear sense that I’ve got out of our discussions with the (US) administration here is that things are deteriorating in relation to China.”
The comments come as Mr Dutton attended the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Washington.
The bipartisan event was also attended by Mr Marles, with AUKUS key among the topics discussed with American officials.
The opposition leader said he supported Labor on the implementation of the submarine deal, but said there were potential fears of defence spending going backwards
“There’s a lot of rhetoric which sounds OK from Labor in relation to AUKUS at the moment, but I worry there are mixed messages, the sense of them sort of crab walking back from the submarine deal,” he said.
“But let’s take them at face value and we support them on that basis.”
The first submarines Australia would acquire as part of the deal are not expected to be in the water until the late 2030s.
Concerns had been raised about Australia’s capability gaps before the new submarines, which replace the ageing Collins class boats, would be able to be used.