Honest History has kept track of the internationally recognised figures on arms sales, as put out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The SIPRI figures have been particularly useful in reminding us how the Australian War Memorial seeks and receives donations from some of the world’s largest arms companies.
We noted a while ago also that Australia was keen to increase its share of the world’s arms sales. The then minister, Christopher Pyne, liked to be photographed in tanks or in conversation with cashed up Middle Eastern arms buyers.
Minister Pyne checks out some kit (Fairfax/Corporal Max Bree)
Latest figures from SIPRI, however, for the year 2018, as reported on the ABC, show that Australia has slipped down the table of national arms sellers though, as commentators pointed out, this may have been because everyone else has been selling more. Disturbingly, though Australia has gone up from fourth to second in the table of arms buyers. Imagine that, second only to Saudi Arabia, though again there may have been effects from changes in overall purchase values. (Link to SIPRI tables.)
Meanwhile, President Trump made a point of saying (in Prime Minister Morrison’s hearing recently) how pleased he was at how much defence kit Australia bought from the US. (‘And actually, Scott and Australia, they’ve purchased a lot of great stuff from the United States, some of the best military equipment that you have.’)
*’gunrunners’: a term used some years ago in a conversation between the author of this note and a former very senior officer in the RAAF. His term, widely used in the Australian Defence Force, apparently indicates the ambivalent relationship between service people and their suppliers: can’t do without the stuff but don’t really have much time for the folks who flog it.
30 September 2019 updated