Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Defence Industry

8:05 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in the Australian Senate tonight to put on record the Greens' opposition to this government's plans to turn Australia into one of the top 10 weapons manufacturers and arms exporters in the world. I rise in this chamber tonight to state the Greens' opposition to moves over the last two years by this government to turn Australia's economy into an economy based on war and not on peace, innovation, medical technology and renewable energy.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms this government's plans to loan nearly $4 billion to weapons and arms manufacturers in this country. We've recently taken billions of dollars away from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that would have gone into investment in innovation in clean jobs and a clean economy. The $4 billion we are loaning to arms manufacturers and exporters is more than this country's total aid budget, which Mr Tim Costello from World Vision recently pointed out is absolutely essential to building peace in our region. We've also suffered $11 billion in cuts in foreign aid to our region since 2014.

The only plan I have seen from the government is to spend money on building new weapons industries and arms manufacturers. We call on this government to cease its plans to turn Australia into a mercenary nation of arms dealers, which contribute to the dangerous and destructive effects that the global arms trade has in fuelling conflicts around this planet. I want to put on the record tonight that there's no clearer difference between the Greens party and the Labor Party than in Labor's support for this plan that the government has put forward for this nation. Last week I moved a motion in this Senate and Labor got up in this chamber and tried to out chomp the government on its plans to put more money into weapons manufacturing and arms deals.

In the last budget this government made the single biggest increase in defence spending in this country since the Second World War. This plan to turn Australia into a nation of arms dealers comes on top of a record increase in defence spending—hundreds of billions of dollars going into procurement in defence around this country. When there is no visible threat in our region, according to our own white paper, one has to ask: why? Is this because we've signed away the ability for governments to provide assistance to industry, to help subsidise industry and to invest in local industry, because of the countless free trade deals this government signed us up to—free trade deals that conveniently carve out for all the partners of these trade deals the ability of the government to invest in defence technologies and defence industries? Is that why we're being forced to go down this path?

I remind the chamber and fellow senators of the words of Mr Tim Costello. He said that, if Australia goes down this path—this increased militarisation of not only our government departments, like Operation Sovereign Borders, but also now our economy—we will be 'exporting death' and 'profiting from bloodshed', and Mr Costello is a man who has seen plenty of that in the work that he's done around the planet.

This is not the Australia that I want to be part of. This is not what the Australian people want. Let me say very clearly here tonight: if it takes only the Greens to oppose this and build a campaign against this move to militarise our economy, we will. There's so much more that this country could do to create jobs and create prosperity. Where's the spending this government promised on the infrastructure we need around this country? Where's the money going into medical technology, agricultural technology and clean energy? They're the jobs of the future. Creating weapons and arms will contribute only to instability, more refugees and profiting from blood, violence and war.