New Defence Export Strategy Slammed by Australia’s Aid Organisations
29 January 2018 at 5:35 pm
The world does not need Australian weapons “adding fuel to the fire” according to CEOs of Australia’s leading humanitarian agencies, who have slammed the federal government’s new defence export strategy.
On Monday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled a new global defence strategy aimed at moving Australia into the ranks of the world’s top 10 arms exporters within the next decade.
Under the plan, the government will establish a $3.8 billion loan scheme for defence companies seeking finance to sell weapons and equipment to other countries.
Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne, hailed it as “an unprecedented day in [the] Australian defence industry and really Australian defence history”.
“We have invested $200 billion over the next 10 years [to build] up our military capability. It is a logical extension to that investment, the largest in our peacetime history, to see how beyond our domestic requirements, we can supply our friends and our allies with military platforms and equipment that will also transform their military capabilities and create the jobs and the growth here in Australia,” Pyne said.
“We expect that in the next nine years, because of the investments of this government, we’ll move to being in the top 10 defence exporters in the world and so we should be.”
However the move has sparked severe backlash from not-for-profit leaders, who have argued Australia should be helping to build peace and stability with its allies, “not working our way up the arms dealers’ top 100”.
World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello said the government’s decision to become a major weapons manufacturer sent a “shocking message about Australian values”.
“Of all the products Australia could export to the world, I can’t think of anything worse than a weapon,” Costello said.
“If we were exporting renewable energy, or breaking new ground in biotechnology, that would be something we could take pride in. How can we take pride in a weapon?
“Millions of people across the world are running from violence and our answer to that is to produce more weapons.
“Whatever money we make from this dirty business will be blood money.”
Speaking on behalf of members of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), CEO Marc Purcell said Australians would be questioning why their tax dollars were being “used to fuel bloodshed”.
“Increasing military investment takes us on a trajectory to war, not peace,” Purcell said.
“In war-torn Yemen, 9,000 people have lost their lives, 50,000 have been injured and 18 million need some form of humanitarian assistance. Much of this damage was inflicted using weapons from the world’s biggest arms-exporting countries. The world does not need Australian weapons adding fuel to the fire.”
Purcell criticised the government’s strategy as being “full of stark contradictions”.
“Australia played a major global role in land-mine removal, but now we could be selling new mines for countries to lay. Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has prioritised women’s empowerment in our aid program. Yet increasing the number of arms, increases violence and it is women and girls who fare worst,” he said.
“We have cut Australia’s aid – which helps reduce conflict – to historically low-levels while defence spending continues to escalate. The $3.8 billion loan the government is putting up for arms manufacturers is the same amount Australia spent on our entire aid program last year.
“Rather than fuel conflict, Australian aid has helped millions of people get an education, receive better healthcare and has increased peace and security. We need to refocus on reducing the drivers of conflict – helping people with the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.”
Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds called on the government to live up to the commitments it made in its Foreign Policy White Paper.
“In the wake of the horrific attack on our office in Afghanistan, Save the Children fully understands the diverse security risks the world is facing, such as the rise of terrorism. But as an organisation working on the front-lines in conflict zones, we also know that an increase in the supply of arms and munitions is not the answer to addressing the greatest threats to security of our times,” Ronalds said.
“We firmly believe the Australian government should live up to the commitments it has made in its Foreign Policy White Paper to be a nation that is committed to promoting peace and stability in our region and beyond.
“A commitment to increasing defence exports is not consistent with that ambition. Australia is known as a stable, peaceful, democracy. We should be exporting those values to build a more peaceful world, rather than potentially fuelling insecurity and instability.”