The ABC reported on Thursday that defence industry insiders are reporting that the Albanese government has applied something of a go-slow on the processing of weapons and military equipment, adding that it’s considered that foreign minister Penny Wong is partly responsible.
Federal Labor has been tight-lipped on whether we export weapons or parts used in the manufacture of military devices and machines.
Yet, overnight, the Jerusalem Post confirmed that despite stating Australia has not supplied Israel with weapons for the last five years, it’s a little more complicated than that.
“Australia is not a major exporter of weapons to Israel,” Jerusalem Post staff reported, “but Australian companies do produce raw materials used by some arms manufacturers in Israel, and, in the other direction, Australia does import military materials from Israel.”
The Post further notes that Greens Senator David Shoebridge has been on the case, calling for transparency regarding arms and components exports to Israel. And whilst tangible evidence of how this is all occurring is scarce, the Greens justice spokesperson has uncovered another essential piece.
Shoebridge announced on Wednesday that Australian steel producer Bisalloy has been supplying Israeli companies with BISALLOY® Armour steel, which is being used in the manufacture of tanks and military transport vehicles that are utilised in assaults upon Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Supporting Israeli aggression
“It’s extraordinary that the information we find about Australia’s weapons exports to Israel does not come from the government,” said Shoebridge. “Indeed, the government is doing everything it can to hide the truth. It comes from commercial disclosures made by corporate entities.”
“In this case, Bisalloy, which is a steel manufacturer in the Illawarra in NSW, has, prior to the conflict commencing, made repeated public announcements about its engagement with Israeli weapons manufacturers,” the Greens Senator told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.
Shoebridge explained that the information he located regarding Bisalloy reveals multiple public statements relating to the supply of tempered armour steel to Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafeal Advanced Defence Systems, which are used in fighting vehicles deployed to Gaza and the West Bank.
These commercial announcements also outline that Bisalloy’s steel is too supplied to Israeli vehicle manufacturer Plasan, which it uses in its manufacturer of armoured cars and small fighting vehicles used by the Israeli military, Israeli police and even Israeli West Bank settler militias.
“Many in Australia would be deeply disturbed by the idea that Australian companies are assisting in the appalling human rights abuses we are seeing in the war on Gaza, as well as assisting, in this case, Israeli militia in their ongoing oppression of Palestinians on the West Bank,” Shoebridge remarked.
The Bisalloy details follow November revelations reported by human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter in Declassified Australia that RUAG Australia supplies a component that facilitates the opening of the doors on the F-35 fighter planes to release the bombs that are currently being dropped on Gaza.
Over 27,000 people, who were part of the 2.3 million Indigenous Palestinian residents living within the walled-in Gaza Strip, have been slaughtered since early October. And the overwhelming majority of the slain have been civilian women and children.
Post truth politicking
Shoebridge also located information detailed on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website, outlining that over the five years to 2022, Australia entered into to 350 weapons export agreements with Israeli entities, which consisted of $13 million worth arms and ammunition.
Yet, despite this, Senator Wong had been repeatedly stating that Australia has not supplied Israel with any weapons for the late five years.
When the Greens Senator raised this with the foreign minister in the Senate chamber on 5 December, she accussed him of being “irresponsible” and “engaging in misinformation and disinformation”.
“The foreign minister, Penny Wong, is being about as transparent as George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,” Shoebridge stressed. “The bald facts are these: Australia has issued hundreds and hundreds of weapons export permits in relation to Israel.”
According to the senator, disclosures from Australian corporations reveal that steel is being exported to Israeli weapons manufactures, that drones have been supplied to Tel Aviv and local components are essential to the process of dropping bombs on the children of Gaza from F-35 warplanes.
“Meanwhile, we get this blanket denial from the minister that there are weapons being supplied, when confronted with her department’s records,” said Shoebridge, adding that DFAT continues to publish disclosures, with the last being $125,000 worth of arms and ammunition to Israel in October.
“But we have the foreign minister saying we are the ones spreading mis- and disinformation. This is perverse. It is embarrassing on the part of foreign minister Wong,” Shoebridge made clear. “And I don’t think Australians believe it.”
Complicity and criminality
The 1 February ABC report notes that an industry insider outlined that the reason for the go-slow on Israeli weapons imports and exports is due to federal Labor not wanting to approve such deals or deny them. And it added that Defence maintains there have been no exports for five years now.
“If we had a principled government, they would first of all tell the truth and secondly, place a blanket ban on supplying any kind of Australian weapons and raw materials to the Israeli military or in any way to assist in the ongoing violence on the people of Palestine,” Shoebridge continued.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of clear moral leadership: we have Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong.”
Concerns around Australia supplying Israel with any materials used in the catastrophe that it is now being inflicted upon the Palestinians of Gaza has been heightened, as the International Court of Justice ruled on 26 January that the South African genocide case against the Zionist state is plausible.
The ICJ ordered Israel to stop acts that appear at face value could be genocidal and to prosecute and punish any further incitement to commit genocide. And this ruling further reinforces that nations, like Australia, are obligated under the Genocide Convention to actively prevent such atrocities.
“Public decisionmakers and corporate entities should be mindful of the legal obligations in relation to the appalling crime that is genocide,” the senator explained. “The obligation is not only not to participate in or assist or aid and abet genocide, but there is also a positive obligation to prevent it.”
The different offences relating to genocide, including by killing, genocide by causing serious harm, by inflicting destructive life conditions, by the prevention of births and genocide by forcibly transferring children, all appear in Australian federal domestic law, and they all carry life imprisonment.
Advocating genocide is also a domestic offence, which can include acts like encouraging genocide, and it carries a maximum penalty of up to seven years.
“The Australian government is so far from exercising its positive obligation to prevent genocide,” Shoebridge said in conclusion.
“I would hope, for their own sake, they are getting advice about the legal risk they are in.”