Australia's arms industry
Australia's role in the global arms trade
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates the global trade in armaments to be worth $US50.593 billion in 2007. Australia is a willing participant in the export of armaments and defence-related goods to the world, and to our own region.
In the 2003/4 financial year, Australia's defence exports amounted to over $593 million. The same year saw the export of over $104 million in "dual use" goods - goods not dedicated to, but which can still be used for, military purposes. Most defence exports are destined for North Americani and European buyers, but most dual-use exports go to Africa. In 2003/4, Australia exported more than $1,000,000 of dual-use goods to Zimbabwe.
Export statistics do not include the considerable value of military aid. In the 1970s, Australia provided several thousand assault rifles to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and Constabulary (PNGDF). Since then gun crime, particularly in the Highland provinces, has escalated dramatically. Australian-made assault weapons are highly prized instruments of violence. Australian weapons were used by the PNGDF during the conflict in Bougainville - flowing to the Solomon Islands where Australian troops and police are currently deployed.
The PNGDF and PNG police remain major recipients and customers of Australian armaments. Considering the governance issues faced by these institutions, tight control over the arms industry is essential. Substantial steps have already been taken, but more is needed to further human rights and conflict resolution.
Australia's export policy
Over the last three decades, Australian weapons exports have grown as a result of deliberate government policy.
Although exports are controlled, and a list of goods banned from export exists, the defence forces of 14 countries are able to buy restricted goods from Australia. Among these are the defence forces of Indonesia, Thailand, Fiji and the Philippines, all of which have been implicated in incidents of political violence, coups d'etat or human rights violations.
Exports of restricted goods can be authorised by the Minister, and have been authorised to states not on the list mentioned above, accused of using their armed forces in violation of human rights and security, such as Pakistan, Israel, Sri Lanka and Turkey (Defence Exports July-December 2006 provided to the Senate by Senator C. Ellison).
Who owns Australia's arms industry?
The local arms industry used to be dominated by state-owned enterprises such as Australian Defence Industries (ADI), the sole purpose of which was to serve and supply the Australian armed forces. Because of the program of liberalisation, the sector is now dominated by private, often multinational, corporations. The former ADI is now owned by Thales Australia, the local branch of the French-based Thales Group.
A privatised military sector cannot be counted on to place national security, peace or human rights interests above the pursuit of profit. Ironically, a sales-driven arms industry is best served by the undermining of these very concerns.
MAPW and the arms trade
MAPW is deeply concerned with the effects of the proliferation of armaments on peace and human security. 90% of civilian casualties are inflicted by small arms and civilians account for 80% of conflict casualties worldwide (Source: Global Issues website).
The Association is opposed to this encouragement of armaments proliferation through a drive towards an export-oriented military industry and in 2008 was part of a coalition of groups who campaigned successfuly against the APDSE Arms Fair which had been planned to be held in Adelaide.
- See MAPW's fact sheets on the global weapons trade