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Friday 20 July 2018

Australia plans to become leading arms exporter

Australia should rank higher than 20th among arms-exporting countries, the Prime Minister said.

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, talks to Thales CEO Chris Jenkins (Daniel Munoz/AAP/AP)
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, talks to Thales CEO Chris Jenkins (Daniel Munoz/AAP/AP)

By Rod McGuirk, Associated Press

Australia has laid out plans to become one of the top 10 exporters of arms within a decade through sales to liked-minded nations while also keeping those weapons from rogue regimes.

The country will create a 3.8 billion Australian dollars (£2.1 billion) fund to lend to exporters that banks are reluctant to finance, a central defence export office and expand the roles of defence attaches in Australian embassies around the world.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that with 200 billion dollars (£114 billion) budgeted to increase Australian defence capabilities in the next decade, Australia should rank higher than 20th among arms-exporting countries. The planned Australian military build-up was the largest in its peace-time history, he said.

“Given the size of our defence budget, we should be a lot higher up the scale than that. So the goal is to get into the top 10,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said Australia would focus on growing sales to its biggest markets including the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, which already import Australian-made equipment including the Bushmaster armoured vehicle and the Nulka missile decoy.

The five nations belong to an intelligence-sharing network known as the Five Eyes.

“We want to support the United States, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, our European friends and allies, Japan, South Korea, etcetera, in what is a building up of the global military capability of countries like ourselves who support the rules-based international order,” Mr Pyne said.

“The defence export strategy is not designed to get into markets where we do not want to be. It’s designed to maximise the markets where we perhaps have not been making the most of our opportunities,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said the strategy was about creating hi-tech Australian jobs and not a response to any national threat, such as increasing tensions and the Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea over competing territorial claims.

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walks in front of military trucks during a visit to Thales Underwater Systems in Sydney (Daniel Munoz/AAP/AP)

“Apart from North Korea, there is no country in the region that shows any hostile intent toward Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We don’t see threats from our neighbours in the region, but, nonetheless, every country must always plan ahead and you need to build the capabilities to defend yourself, not just today, but in 10 years or 20 years hence.”

The push to increase Australian defence manufacturing jobs came after General Motors Co. in October became the last automaker to quit building Australian cars.

Most of the new Australian defence spending is on submarines and frigates that will be largely built in Australia.

Australian law prohibits military exports that are inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations or national interests.

Prospective exports are assessed in areas including impacts on human rights, regional security and Australian foreign policy.

“We’ve got strict controls and those controls make sure we only supply defence assets in the future to like-minded countries that have a strong human rights record and have protections in place.” Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told Nine Network television.

Press Association

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