The Abbott government won't provide Australian industry with an open chequebook to help build the nation's next submarine fleet.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has reiterated the government's desire to acquire the best possible submarines at the lowest price and in a timely manner.
But he has declined to specify a level of Australian industry involvement in the $25 billion-plus project.
"The government is not going to give an open chequebook," Senator Cormann told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.
"The government is not just going to say whatever the capabilities, whatever the risks, whatever the costs, we are going to lock ourselves into a particular course of action."
Senator Cormann said the government had undertaken to give local industry a fair go to involve itself in the project.
But that fair go could not compromise capability and risk.
Senator Cormann said the government-owned shipbuilder ASC, which constructed the navy's six Collins class submarines, had never been excluded from a competitive evaluation process.
ASC interim managing director Stuart Whiley said the company's core business and DNA were in submarines.
"This is a great opportunity and one we will grab with both hands," he told the hearing.
Mr Whiley said ASC previously discussed the new submarine project with French submarine builder DCNS and this week had talks with German firm TKMS.
Those talks will continue.
Discussions had also been held with the Defence Materiel Organisation about the best way to approach Japan about participating in construction of the Soryu-class subs, should they be chosen.
The Soryu design is owned by the Japanese government and built by Mitsubishi and Kawasaki shipyards.