Prime Minister Turnbull recently announced a $3.8 billion defence export plan. ‘Gunrunners’ is Defence Force slang for makers and purveyors of arms and related equipment. Perhaps the government has earned that epithet as well. Overall, Australia plans to spend some $200 billion on military equipment over the next ten years.
Two relevant articles today are both from the non-mainstream media. First, Lissa Johnson in New Matilda gets beyond squabbles about which state deserved a $5.2 billion contract to acquire tanks and instead examines who might be the real winners and losers. She also looks closely at the links between arms manufacturers, government, and media boosters.
At the time of writing, no reports that I can find have referred back to Australia’s current “push to sell military hardware in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia”. Nor have they mentioned Christopher Pyne’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia “in a bid to increase Australia’s arms exports to the Middle East regime, which is one of the world’s biggest arms buyers”.
Perhaps the PRP [public relations and propaganda] teams preferred to steer clear of that backdrop, in case anyone remembered that Saudi Arabia is a world leader in theocracy, gender apartheid, religious persecution, enslavement, beheadings and the exporting of terrorism.
In short, no hard questions are being seriously asked about this weapons deal in the Australian mainstream media. Not one out of a gamut of possibilities.
Then, former diplomat and Federal Labor MP, Melissa Parke, in Pearls and Irritations (reprinted from The Interpreter) writes that the arms export initiative threatens Australia’s status as a good international citizen.
A properly independent foreign policy would support an outward-looking Australia that is consistent with our own view of ourselves as a clever, tolerant and generous country; a country that uses its considerable resources and skills to promote sustainable development, clean energy, access to health and education for all, equality and human rights; a middle power that participates positively in the challenges that go beyond national borders, exercising its good offices to prevent conflict and achieve a more peaceful, nuclear-weapons-free world. Being one of the world’s biggest arms exporters has no place in that vision.
19 March 2018