The Hon. Marise Payne,
Minister for Defence,
P.O. Box 6100,
Dear Ms Payne,
As we approach, this year, the centenary of the cease fire of the war to end all wars it is disturbing to say the least that our government wants to remember the loss of sixty thousand lives with a massive programme for Australia to be a major armaments merchant. We believe that more taxpayer dollars should not be committed to the manufacture of weapons used in war. The $3.8 billion Defence Export Facility to assist arms industry companies wanting to find overseas markets serves only the forces that in fact brought us World War One.
In the spirit of the voices of over hundred years ago that called for world peace, Australia should be an independent voice seeking diplomatic and peaceful resolution of conflicts, not a country boosting the arms race and the profits of arms manufacturers who rely on the existence of conflicts. The doubling of military exports from Australia between 2013 and 2015 and a further 50% in 2015 and now the talk of further increases, is clearly not in the spirit of the mentioned forebears.
As you know the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty came into force in December 2014, and has 130 signatories, and 89 ratifications, including Australia’s. As you know many Australians who have demonstrated on many occasions their opposition to arms trade fairs we hope you can acknowledge that they don’t want to go down the path of militarisation of society. Australia has a history of positive actions for peace internationally and whilst in recent decades this admirable record has been reversed we would ask that you join in dialogue with Australian peace groups, such as ours, to reassert Australia as a nation genuinely championing peace.
We would assert that it is not strong defence exports that will safeguard Australia against conflict, but strong and respectful relationships between Australia and countries in and outside our region.
Your Government’s assertion that arms exports will only be to countries where there are strict controls in place, is not borne out by current practice, for example where Australian firms have received contracts to supply Saudi Arabia with military equipment, despite the appalling human rights record in that country and its ongoing war on Yemen.
In this time of growing inequality in both the world and Australia our tax dollars would be better invested in areas such as health, education, transport, and import replacement initiatives that serve and develop local opportunities for the diverse regions of Australia.
The AABC along with other local peace groups believes our Government’s foreign policy should be focused on dialogue with and support for other countries to address the causes of war and offer resources to help create the conditions of peace - not actively promote measures which perpetuate war.