The Morrison government has quietly shelved a plan to build a new ship in Australia, and will instead purchase it next year.
The Pacific Support Vessel, originally flagged in 2018, will be deployed in the south Pacific and used to aid natural disaster recovery.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the government had chosen to buy the new ship instead of building it so it could be deployed more quickly.
It is hoped the ship can be ready for use in the Pacific next year.
Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong questioned why the revised decision was not announced publicly.
"What people see in this government is that you are happy to make flashy announcements, but you are not happy to make announcements on decisions when they mean taxpayer work is being funded offshore," Senator Wong told an estimates hearing on Wednesday.
Senator Payne rejected Senator Wong's assertion the government had reneged on its commitment to build the ship in Australia, saying circumstances had changed.
"If you think the government should ignore changed circumstances, senator, then you and I are going to disagree," Senator Payne said.
Defence department secretary Greg Moriarty said the decision to scrap the build was made by cabinet, and West Australian shipbuilders were notified of the changes.
The ship was removed from a list of West Australian projects on September 16, the same day the government announced it was scrapping its $90 billion submarine deal with French defence contractor Naval Group.
The ship will go to tender early next year, with invitations to register already sent out.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.