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Australia unveils plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters

Australia unveils plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters

CANBERRA: Australia is set to become one of the world’s largest arms exporters under a controversial Turnbull government plan. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has unveiled a new “defence export strategy” setting out the policy and strategy to make Australia one of the world’s top 10 weapons exporters within the next decade. Hailing it a job-creating plan for local manufacturers, the Coalition says Australia only sells about $1.5bn to $2.5bn in “defence exports” a year and it wants the value of those exports to increase significantly. It will set up a new Defence Export Office to work hand in hand with Austrade and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability to coordinate the commonwealth’s whole-of-government export efforts and provide a focal point for more arms exports. A new Australian Defence Export Advocate position, set up to support the Australian Defence Export Office, will provide industry with the constant high-level advocacy needed to promote Australian-made weapons overseas. “It is an ambitious, positive plan to boost Australian industry, increase investment, and create more jobs for Australian businesses,” Turnbull said. A strong, exporting defence industry in Australia will provide greater certainty of investment, support high-end manufacturing jobs and support the capability of the Australian defence force.”

The controversial plan has been anticipated since mid-2017 when Christopher Pyne, the defence industry minister, said he wanted to start selling far more Australian-made weapons overseas. At the time, Tim Costello, the World Vision Australia chief advocate, attacked the plan, saying the government had cut humanitarian aid which saved lives while simultaneously discussing the merits of becoming a major weapons manufacturer and exporter. The Australian government should live up to the commitments it has made in its foreign policy white paper to be a nation that is committed to promoting peace and stability in our region and beyond,” the Save the Children Australia chief executive, Paul Ronalds, said. Australia is known as a stable, peaceful, democracy. We should be exporting those values to build a more peaceful world, rather than potentially fuelling insecurity and instability.”