Hiding Australia’s Complicity: Shoebridge on Wong’s Trumpian Denial of Weapons Export Probing

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
Shoebridge and Leong

An Israeli-perpetrated genocide has been underway in Gaza for the last two and a half months, which has resulted in around 18,000 Palestinians having been slaughtered. And more than 7,000 of the overwhelmingly civilian dead have been made up of children.

The Netanyahu government has blatantly disregarded international law and the rules of war since it unleashed its violence in October. And the apartheid nation, which has always been in conflict with human rights norms, has been committing ethnic cleansing in Gaza with clear genocidal intent.

Over the past months, the Albanese government has stood compliantly beside the US and declared that the Zionist Israeli regime has the right to carry out the wholesale massacre of the 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as the nation, in doing so, is actually defending itself.

This twisting of international norms by western allied leadership has not convinced huge numbers of their constituents, however, as they’ve been out on the streets on a daily basis, conveying the message that the people do not agree with their nation taking such a stance on genocide.

Indeed, since early October, the planet has witnessed Global North leadership lose control of the mainstream narrative, as it has attempted to demonise the Palestinians of Gaza, but instead it’s seen much of the populace reject this position in light of the mounting truths available online.

“Minister, why won’t you answer the question?”

For those who’ve been waving the watermelon-coloured flag of Palestine, this support for Israel has spelt complicity. And with it being a well-known fact that the US and its allies supply Tel Aviv with weapons, Senator David Shoebridge has been probing into how our nation is involved.

The Greens senator has repeatedly quizzed former keen Palestinian supporter foreign minister Penny Wong about the weapons we may or may not be supplying Israel. But rather than answer his reasonable questions, the minister has taken to chastising her fellow senator, as if he’s in the wrong.

The pair’s latest exchange on 5 December is a case in point. Shoebridge questioned the minister as to why the DFAT website states that over the 5 years to 2022, Australia exported $13 million worth of arms and ammunition to Israel and yet, she claims no such exports have taken place for five years.

And despite Shoebridge asking her to “please explain”, Wong refused and rather charged the Greens member with being “irresponsible” for “engaging in misinformation and disinformation”, during the most heated diatribe that she’s delivered in his direction, as she attempted to obscure the truth.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Greens Senator David Shoebridge about the Australian supply of weapons to Israel that we are privy to, his thoughts on the tactics being used by Wong in order to shut down truths in parliament, and the implications of our nation’s unbridled support for Israel.

On 5 December, you rose to ask foreign minister Penny Wong about RUAG Australia being the sole manufacturer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s weapon bay door locks, which the Melbourne company is supplying to Lockheed Martin to assist in the manufacture of these planes used in Gaza.

This is not the first time you’ve put questions to Senator Wong regarding matters relating to the supply of military weapons to Israel since the start of the slaughter in Gaza. And she states that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel for half a decade.

David, what do we know about how industry in this country may be complicit in the Israeli-perpetrated war crimes taking place?

We know that since 2017, Australia has agreed to some 350 weapons export permits to Israel alone.

We know that Penny Wong’s department publishes data that says arms and ammunition exports to Israel have amounted to some $13 million in the same period.

We know as well that an Australia company is essentially supplying the F-35 fighter planes that are dropping munitions and bombs on Gaza.

But despite all of that evidence, we continue to get angry aggressive denials from Penny Wong.

If it wasn’t about such a brutal and destructive conflict, you could write it off as traditional politicising, but it has got to the point now where it’s a deeply offensive refusal to engage in Australia’s complicity.

I find her manner of response and her refusal to engage with the issues some of the most disturbing political theatre that I have seen in my time in politics.

After the foreign minister raised pending legislation, you pressed her on the issue of the locally produced F-35 bay door locks. And you stated that Wong was skirting around this issue.

Why would the foreign affairs minister be reluctant in addressing this issue? And what is the point you were trying to make with your questioning?

It is a plain fact, an unmistakable fact, that every time a bomb is dropped from an Israeli Air Force F-35 onto Gaza, each time that is being made possible by Australian industry and a device made by Australia.

It is a disturbing and dreadful fact, and I can see why Penny Wong does not want it raised. But her angry personal responses do her no credit and they hide Australia’s complicity.

I am sure I am joined by millions and millions of Australians who find it deeply offensive, deeply wrong that machinery produced in Australia allows children, women and civilians in Gaza to be killed like this.

So, it is just inconvenient for her that you are raising this point in parliament?

It is worse than inconvenient in the eyes of Penny Wong. Her angry personal responses show just how utterly bankrupt Labor has become on this issue.

This silence and obfuscation in the face of this brutal conflict is more than inconvenient, it is an unmasking of Labor’s real political values.

Wong raised the recently introduced Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023, as if this piece of legislation will shore up any concerns you have with Israel getting its hands on Australian technologies.

But this legislation seems to be more focused on streamlining exports to the US and the UK, rather than protecting against illegitimate trade. So, does this bill really ensure that we stop exporting potentially lethal products to be used in war crimes?

It was either ignorance or it was a deliberate misdirection from Senator Wong to raise that legislation as an answer.

Far from putting higher ethical standards on Australia’s weapons exports, this legislation, when it is passed, means that there will be no ethical checks on the export of weapons, weapons systems or parts of weapons systems to the United States and the United Kingdom.

When it comes to a US-based weapons platform like the F-35 fighter, there won’t be any review of weapons exports for parts for the F-35 fighter going forward.

They will be delivered to a US multinational arms manufacturer somewhere and then be made available to the global supply chain, which will include Israel.

It was either ignorance or worse from Penny Wong to raise that as an answer.

Wong accused you of potentially contributing to online misinformation, as you raised the point that whilst the government denies supplying weapons to Israel, the DFAT site states that over the five years to 2022, Australia exported over $13 million worth of arms and ammunition to Israel.

The foreign minister has repeatedly acted as if you are causing problems when raising legitimate points regarding Australian arms in Israel.

So, what are your thoughts on the approach the minister is taking in regard to your questioning?

Her approach was genuinely Trumpian, as though we live in some kind of post-truth, post-fact world.

To suggest that my reliance on reports that are publicly available from her own department was engaging in political misinformation has such a level of hubris and vindictiveness to it that it was very hard to hear.

Something is broken in federal politics when the foreign minister can engage in political theatrics and refuse to answer a question from a fellow senator alleging it is based on misinformation, when in fact, it is grounded in the government’s own data.

This is a classic case of post-truth Trumpian politics delivered by Senator Penny Wong.

And lastly, David, you’ve been raising questions about Australian companies supplying weaponry to Israel, which are potentially being used on the walled-in population of the Gaza Strip.

But not only are these companies complicit in their participation but the Albanese government has been supporting Israel in this genocide all the way along.

What will this stance mean for our nation going into the future? And what does it mean for the people here right now?

Particularly for younger people, who are witnessing the horrors of the bombings and the killings in Gaza through social media, often with Palestinian journalists informing them directly of what is going on, this is a real break with traditional politics and traditional media.

Whatever Penny Wong or Anthony Albanese might want to say about Australia’s support for Israel and Israel’s military actions, young people, in particular, are seeing the truth for themselves.

They can’t believe that Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong are not calling for an urgent permanent ceasefire. They don’t accept the lies that are being said that Israel’s response is anything like legal.

This is a real generational break with the Labor party. How could it be anything other than that?

Receive all of our articles weekly


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.

Your Opinion Matters