Despite the Evidence on the DFAT Site, Wong Still Denies Recent Weapons Exports to Israel

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Australia complicit in genocide

“We know that Australia is not just silent when it comes to the genocide, but Australia is deeply complicit,” said Greens Senator David Shoebridge at the 25 February Palestine Action Group rally in Gadigal-Sydney’s Hyde Park.

This was the 20th such rally calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to stop the genocide since October.

“Australian manufacturers, about 50 Australian companies, are key parts of the global supply chain for the F-35 fighter jets,” the senator, who’s been digging into these matters since our government started siding with the perpetrator of the most heinous colonial crime of the 21st century.

Not only has the Albanese government’s decision to support the Netanyahu government as it perpetrates a mass slaughter upon the Palestinians in Gaza, and then label this as Israel exercising its right to self-defence, but the entire political climate in this country has shifted in this direction.

These days, criticism of what the International Court of Justice ruled a plausible genocide is being equated with antisemitism, or prejudice towards Jewish people.

So, acts like Shoebridge speaking out on arms to Israel are unofficially forbidden. Indeed, protesting for Palestine is being framed as antisemitic.

And before the masses of Sunday protesters, who are now in no way considering voting for either major at the 2025 ballot, Shoebridge added that the public is aware arms and components have been exported to Israel as foreign minister Penny Wong’s own department has the details online.

Greens Senator David Shoebridge addresses the 25 February Gadigal-Sydney Gaza ceasefire rally the 20th rally straight
Greens Senator David Shoebridge addresses the 25 February Gadigal-Sydney Gaza ceasefire rally the 20th rally straight

The evidence is posted

“Penny Wong’s own department says in their published data that we have sent more than $10 million in arms and ammunition to Israel in the last five years,” Shoebridge detailed to the rally for Palestine, which has seen thousands every week show up in an unprecedented manner.

“Then when we ask her in the Senate why she will not stop Australia’s arms exports to Israel, she stares you in the face, and says that Australia has not sent any arms or ammunition to Israel in the last five years,” the Greens justice spokesperson added.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers downloaded the DFAT country and commodity pivot spreadsheet on Tuesday, which contains the figures relating to exports to Israel, and these include specific statistics relating to arms and ammunition exports to that nation.

So, despite the foreign minister’s denials that these exist, it’s that easy to access these figures.

The file contains a spreadsheet for all sorts of exports and provides monthly figures relating to AU$1,000 sums. The last arms and ammunition export listed was in October last year, which involved goods to the sum of AU$124,000.

Since 2007, Australian has shipped $38 million worth of arms and ammunition to Israel, and, during his time in office, PM Anthony Albanese has overseen $1.75 million worth of arms to the genocidal nation of Israel.

Misinformation, my foot

Shoebridge quizzed Wong over the Department of Foreign Affairs website in parliament on 5 December, yet she claimed no arms and ammunition exports to Israel over the past five years, while the spreadsheet specified there had been at the time, just as it does now.

Wong continued to claim that the information doesn’t exist, stating, “I know there’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation circulating… I would encourage the senator to make sure that he does not contribute to that.”

The Greens senator presented a legitimate question to the foreign minister and she, instead of answering it, avoided having to address the issue and rather accused her chamber colleague of dispersing “disinformation and misinformation”.

An elected politician dodging the truth that is readily available online on their own department’s site by charging another elected official as spreading mis- and disinformation isn’t what the constituency would expect, especially as these two terms are now quite damning. But voters are learning fast.

Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi was served up the same sort of aggressive manoeuvre on 6 February, after she asked Wong why she cut funding to the main aid channel into Gaza, UNRWA, on the day after the ICJ ordered Israel to immediately restore aid into the mass starvation site.

Wong dismissed the charge of anything being out of the ordinary on having cut funding to an Israeli-made famine, or that this was done on unsubstantiated claims, or that she’s neglected to condemn Israel, with the simple assertion that “so much in that statement… is false”.

Shoebridge was served a second helping on 8 February, when he again raised the DFAT site with Wong and pointed to then just released figures reflecting that $124,000 worth of arms and ammunition was shipped to Israel in October. And Wong again charged mis- and disinformation.

The Ministry of Truth 

During a 15 February Senate estimates hearing, Shoebridge raised the arms and ammunition figures with DFAT chief economist David Woods, who outlined that these came to the department via the Australian Border Force and then the ABS, which he seemed to imply made them questionable.

“Surely that is the most credible data we have about arms and ammunition sales to the state of Israel then,” said Shoebridge.

The chief economist responded that Defence figures might be better, and the senator then pointed out that Defence doesn’t publish figures and neither does that agency speaks to the Australian Border Force.

“You pointing to Defence is like pointing to a red herring or a fish,” Shoebridge underscored, as he was again met with some distorted replies emanating from DFAT officials. “It has no connection with this chain of data,” he added.

“DFAT has no quality control over the data, neither does ABS or the ABF, except to the extent that we have exporters putting the data in,” Woods said, as he tried to discredit the data, which he is in charge of overseeing and, therefore, providing to the public as legitimate data.

Woods continued to further discredit his own figures, until Shoebridge concluded with, “Just to be clear, Mr Woods, I asked you earlier if there had ever been a suggestion that this data was not credible or a challenge to this data before the most recent conflict commenced.”

“I would say there has been no question or challenge to the credibility of any of the data that we publish, not just this,” Woods ended.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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