War propaganda justifies a bloody arms export dream

March 29, 2022
Left: Defence Department propaganda about 'making things'. Right: Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen. Australia exports weapons to Saudi Arabia.

You have probably seen the slick new TV advertisements by the Department of Home Affairs urging you to anonymously report suspicious activity “as our borders open up”. Soon you should notice another advertising campaign, this time from the Department of Defence (let’s call it what it is — the War Ministry) called “In our own backyard”.

The aim of this advertising is to sell the Scott Morrison government’s campaign to make Australia the 10th-biggest arms exporter in the world (it is currently 20th).

The ad posits that for generations Australians have “made stuff” in their backyards but now these skills are needed to supply “our growing defence industries”.

Even before the 2022 budget was delivered, the government was already promising the biggest expansion of the armed forces since the Vietnam War. Labor “opposition” leader Anthony Albanese has promised to deliver even more!

The ad campaigns for the bipartisan war drive might suck in some people, but you can be sure it is music to the ears of advertising companies and the arms industry.

The defence department refuses to say how much the campaign is costing the public, but investigative reporter Callum Foot found that the agency behind the ad, Universal McCann, “received almost half a billion dollars in government media contracts in 2021” — $70 million of which was from the defence department. Ker-ching!

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price boasted on March 14: “The Morrison Government is investing an unprecedented $270 billion in Defence capabilities over the next 10 years.

“The level of Government investment in our defence industries has grown significantly and as a result the number of jobs created to support this growth is increasing at a rapid rate.”

Ker-ching! Ker-ching!

Australia is not yet in the top 10 arms exporters, but it already leads the pack in refusing to place restrictions on its arms exports to bloody tyrannical regimes, including Saudi Arabia, which has been waging war against Yemen. That war remains largely ignored internationally, even though the atrocities exceed those in Ukraine.

Canadian peace research group Project Ploughshares released a detailed report in October comparing the policies of Saudi Arabia’s military suppliers, which include the United States, Britain, France and Australia.

It found that four suppliers — Australia, France, Spain and Poland — did not place any restrictions on weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia.

The report also revealed that Saudi Arabia is the world’s single largest importer of weapon and is rapidly increasing imports. Aspiring world leaders in weapons exports like Australia hope to have an edge over their competitors by ignoring human rights and peace groups.

Michelle Fahy, Australian National University-based researcher, wrote in Arena that when then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Australia’s arms export ambitions in 2018, he was warned by Andrew Feinstein, one of the world’s foremost experts on the arms trade, that Australia would “get your hands covered in blood if you want to be one of the big 10”. Now it has, Fahy wrote.

After the launch of Australia’s Defence Export Strategy in 2018, then-Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne gave a commitment that Australia would only authorise military exports to countries “like ourself who support the rules-based international order”.

But as Fahy explained: “He’d broken this commitment before he even made it. Or, to put it more plainly, he lied.”

Fahy noted that former Labor MP and international lawyer Melissa Parke, who is now one of the United Nations' group of experts on Yemen, pointed out that “Australia’s actions in approving arms exports to countries that are known to be committing serious violations of human rights, and its failure to be transparent about this, are inconsistent with its obligations under international law”.

“Having signed up to … these international laws, the Australian government can’t just cherry pick what aspects it’s going to abide by, especially when it … lectures other countries, such as China and Russia, about the importance of the international rule of law.”

Shamefully, it does.

If you are repulsed by the hypocritical war-mongering politicians and the armaments industry whose profits they are fattening, then you should join the movement for change by becoming a Green Left supporter and making a donation to our $200,000 Fighting Fund.

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