Following last night’s annual Defence Industry Awards, Save the Children is renewing its call for the Australian Government to lift the shield of secrecy over the sale and export of Australian-made military assets.
The black-tie event in Canberra comes off the back of Australian military assets, like the R400 remote weapons station, having been exported to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countries accused by the UN of carrying out war crimes in Yemen.
The awards night recognised Australian businesses supporting the defence supply chain. Australian weapons manufacturer Electro Optics Systems (EOS), which has built arms and other military supplies sent to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, took out the award for Export Business of the Year.
Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said he remained extremely concerned that Australia’s defence exports could inadvertently be contributing to the deadly Yemen war, which has seen more than 85,000 children die from the indirect effects of conflict such as starvation.
“I’m sure most Australians would be deeply troubled to learn that Australia is celebrating businesses making weapons which may be fuelling the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” Mr Ronalds said.
“It is unfathomable that Australia could be seeking to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while turning a blind eye to the devastating impact those weapons could be having in Yemen.
“These awards highlight the alarming lack of transparency around Australia’s military exports.
“The Australian people have a right to know how many defence export licenses the Minister for Defence has approved for countries accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.”
Countries including the UK, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Austria have already suspended their defence exports to Saudi Arabia due to concerns over the war in Yemen.
“If Australia intends to carry out its ambition to be a top ten global defence exporter, there must be proper scrutiny and accountability measures put in place,” Mr Ronalds said.
“We must be absolutely certain there is no way Australia could be complicit in human rights violations or war crimes committed in conflicts around the world.
“It’s time for Australia to lift the shield of secrecy and be transparent about its military exports.
“Every member of the Australian Parliament has a responsibility to ensure Australian taxpayers are not subsidising weapons destined for the war in Yemen.”
At least $36 million in taxpayer funded assistance has been provided to EOS to help them market their product to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.*
The Australian Government has made a commitment to spend $20 million per year on research, development, manufacturing and export of weapons until 2028.
Throughout 2019, it’s Centenary year, Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to do more to Stop the War on Children, including by ending the export of Australian made military assets to key combatants to the war in Yemen. To find out more go to www.stopthewaronchildren.org.au
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*Senate Estimates, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Hansard Page 23-29