The Guardian • Issue #1985


Australia keen to be major defence exporter as sales to Africa revealed

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1985

Australia is commonly referred to as “America’s deputy sheriff” because of the support role it plays for US imperialism. This doesn’t diminish Australia’s involvement, but it clarifies whose ruling class interests we are predominately serving. This role has become even clearer since the advent of the AUKUS pact.

However, this does not mean that Australia’s meddling in foreign affairs is always at the behest of the US – sometimes it strikes out on its own.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show the Australian government has approved military sales to at least eighteen countries in Africa since 2015. These documents revealed that Australian companies are selling munitions and military technology to African countries under a Defence Department plan.

Given Australia’s high-profile military contracts in recent years – first with France, then with the US – one could easily mistake Australia as a buyer in the military equipment market. However, Australia’s contributions as a seller in this market are not insignificant. Defence officials reported an estimated $5 billion worth of military equipment sales in 2019-20, equalling more than the usual yearly export value of Australian wine, wool, or wheat.

In fact, these sales are only part of a larger strategy for a Coalition government that has made no bones in recent years about its desire to be a top ten “defence” exporter, as former Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne stated: “We expect that in the next nine years because of the investments of this government we’ll move to be in the top ten defence exporters in the world, and so we should be.”

The sale of military equipment and munitions to African countries has, of course, raised a lot of ethical questions. Sales have been made to Burkina Faso, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea – all countries undergoing political upheaval.

The news of this information has caused an international outcry.

Former UN lawyer and federal Labor Minister Melissa Parke stated that she found “[…] it hard to believe that, rather than seeing ourselves on the international stage as a good global citizen, that instead we would seek to increase the manufacture and sale of weapons that cause death, injury and destruction to people who’ve done us no harm,” further qualifying the Coalition’s ambitions as a major defence exporter as “simply grotesque.”

Grotesque is a completely fitting adjective to describe Australia’s actions and perspective. Instead of treating war as a serious political and humanitarian issue, it treats conflict like all capitalist economies do: an opportunity to make a buck. This is most evident in the Australian government’s Defence Export Strategy which outlines how military sales will be expanded and lists the Middle East as a “priority market.” It should appal everyone that Australia views war so coldly and opportunistically in this way, but it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Capitalism will always try to maximise profit out of every opportunity no matter how heinous or benign, regardless of ethical and moral implications. We must fight for an independent Australia, and we must fight for peace.

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