Last week the Land Forces Arms Expo was held in the Brisbane Exhibition Centre in the heart of Southbank. Most people in Brisbane would have gone about their daily lives, unaware of what was taking place there.
According to the publicity it was a benign event, all about jobs and promotion of business and industry. As such it was co-hosted by the Old State Government. According to the organisers they were ‘especially appreciative of the support of the Government as the event’s principal sponsor’.
At what cost to taxpayers?
The taxpayers of Queensland should be asking themselves, how much will this event actually cost them?
When Amy McMahon, Greens member for South Brisbane, tried to ask the Queensland Treasurer that same question, he refused to answer saying: ‘We do not apologise for supporting the defence industry. We have always been at the front lines of defence. Now we want to be at the front lines of defence manufacturing’.
Indeed, Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk, when signing a $27 billion contract with Rheinmetall Defence Australia to build 450 infantry fighting vehicles, said: ‘Queensland is proud to be Australia’s khaki state’, therefore that one of the largest displays was that of the Queensland government.
However, there was no comment or interest in the fact that Rheinmetal tanks, being made at Redbank near Brisbane, are right now being used to transport Indonesian troops and special forces into West Papua to kill and disperse the people in order to enforce extraction, in the form of a new mega mine.
A ‘business networking’ event
So the truth of this ‘business networking’ event is somewhat different.
On display and for sale, by hundreds of companies and featuring the ‘primes’, the major global weapons manufacturers (Boeing, Thales, Rheinmetal, Raytheon, EOS, Elbit and more) were: tanks and armoured vehicles; ammunition; guns; attack helicopters; weaponised land-based robots; missiles; computer/digitised interfaces for sending rockets and ammunition; camera laser systems for canons and drones to ‘enhance lethality’ and weaponised flying drones.
These weapons will kill men, women and children like yourself, but this will be euphemistically called ‘collateral damage’.
A committed and diverse band of people made sure the truth was told.
The truth of the weapons and systems that were displayed and for sale, and the truth that the Expo was a massive networking event, with the key aim of bringing military industries together.
The exposition was described on the website as ‘a powerful forum for key decision-makers from throughout the region, enabling government representatives, defence officials, military procurement managers and senior army officers to network with defence materiel manufacturers, equipment suppliers and service providers’.
Speed dating for the weapons industry
In reality it could be likened to speed dating for the weapons industry. Conferences and meetings had titles like: Are you Defence ready?; A guide for SME’s on working in the Defence industry; Centre for Defence Industry Capability and small business connect; A whole government approach to Defence Exports lunch; Defence Global Supply Chain Program – meet the Primes.
So what are they networking for? For money of course. The goal is to get hold of and to gain access to the money making opportunities, to the billions of dollars the government is lavishing on the Defence Global Supply Chain Program.
Yes this is the icing on the cake, to get to be part of the global supply chain. The government is helping by providing all the support they fail to supply to industries that might actually help us as we enter an uncertain future, such as for regeneration of forests and farm land, climate ready housing and local systems and more.
Some of our group had the chance to go inside, in order to come face to face with the reality of this beast, and if possible to disrupt/disturb or make a statement while there. No one who did so was prepared for the reality.
The impact of the displays and what they represented and the palpable energy of gruesome enthusiasm in the wheeling and dealing was nothing less than intimidating. It was evidence that recent Australian governments to militarise our economy and lavish funds on industry to embroil them in #makingakilling, have resulted in an orgy of money grabbing that further entangles the military industrial complex, with what remains of Australian manufacturing and the neo liberal state.
Easy to feel defeated
It is easy to feel defeated and to give up in the face of this beast but the best answer to these feelings is to take action, whatever that action is. And some brave ones did just that, supported on the outside by the passionate energies of many individuals and groups including: Just Peace, Wage Peace, Quakers Queensland, Peace Convergence, Friends of the Earth, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and United Nations Assoc Aust Qld (UNAAQ).
The good news is the group disrupted and we succeeded. Despite the claims of ADMA (the non-profit company that organises the event) that Disrupt Land Forces hardly caused a ripple, the truth is we found their achilles heel and took to it with gusto.
The threat of a small group disrupting a teacher professional development workshop at the Rheinmetal factory at Redbank, sent the company into panic. The whole factory was locked down, about ten police turned up and a paddy wagon, because five protestors came to sing peace songs with the shocking intent of handing out information leaflets to teachers. The workshop was cancelled of course.
The people’s power to disrupt
The power of Disrupt was clear.
For a week and particularly on the three days of the actual expo, we used non-violent direct action in a festival of resistance. This massive arms expo was disturbed and disrupted, including when the fortress that was made of the exhibition centre was breached by twenty activists who stormed the displays, climbed on top of tanks, including one brave one who locked on to the tank.
We disrupted Land Forces! According to the Land Forces official press release at the end of the expo ‘The protesters’ noisy antics and offensive conduct failed to deter industry from conducting one of the largest single industry engagement events anywhere in the world since the onset of the COVID pandemic’.
Why then did it even get mentioned? The truth is, they were rattled.
Last Thursday, despite the rain, we persisted, we danced, we sang, we roared. We were angry, we lamented, we told the truth, we faced up to the arms dealers and the dealers in death.
We won with spirit, and camaraderie. We disrupted because our friends are dying and being terrorised.This shows the power of real human connection, because as a people’s movement we are also connected to the earth. We are connected across time to the truths of our history, across space to the suffering of people around the world and to movements of resistance and revolution.
Keep in touch with this ongoing work to disrupt the weapons industry – identifying specific targets with tactics that work using non-violent direct action – check out what is happening at wagepeace.org.