Since the successful disruption in the first week of June of the huge arms expo ‘Landforces’ in Brisbane, there has been increasing interest in the Australian Government’s defence policies and budget. The experience of everyone who joined the Festival of Disruption was the same.
The person in the street was surprised, shocked and often distressed that a weapons expo was taking place in the middle of Brisbane, cheek by jowl with the Southbank parklands and entertainment district. Some even asked if such a thing was legal.
Imagine if a conference of the gambling industry or tobacco companies were to be networking on a scale as massive as this; finding out ways to join together and get more of the largesse of government funding to increase usage and sales of their products, including ways to introduce those same products into schools, disguised as science lessons.
The company Rheinmetall provides an interesting case study of the ways that global weapons corporations have insinuated themselves into the economies and policies of both state and federal governments, and have become feted almost as saviours. The huge munitions firm of Rheinmetall Berlin AG used thousands of concentration camp laborers during WWII. Rheinmetall were active in the crimes of the Nazi regime in WWII and continue to profit from the war machine in this century.
It was recently announced that Rheinmetall had secured the support of the Queensland government in its bid to supply Australia’s $18 billion to $27 billion LAND 400 Phase 3 program in Queensland at its new Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) at Redbank. The federal government is also supporting smaller companies like NIOA with land and funds to build new factories as part of their partnership with Rheinmetall, and other prime contractors, with the sweetener of becoming part of the global supply chain and the government’s defence-led economic recovery.
Weapons industry and education
In fact, during the expo, a professional development workshop for high school teachers of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) to be held at the Rheinmetall factory at Redbank was cancelled and the whole factory locked down, apparently they feared that activists had found out about the workshop. Five activists singing anti-war songs and seeking to hand out information for teachers apparently warranted this reaction, and the deployment of at least ten police and a paddy wagon to the site.
The peace activists were well aware of the ways that weapons manufacturers are seeking to launder their reputations and ensure a future workforce. They also seek to cement their place in the government’s jobs and growth narrative, by way of professional development, teaching materials and programs for children as young as four and five. Lockheed Martin for example have made billions from the war in Yemen. Back in Australia, Lockheed has been influencing kids, by insinuating itself as a major sponsor of the National Youth Science Forum which is a registered charity.
Defence or offence
This militarisation is insidious and far-reaching. Both federal and state governments are lavishing billions on the Defence Global Supply Chain Program. They are supplying potential defence industry partners with information and the support to access export markets and partner with global corporations. They offer them the very support they fail to supply to industries that might actually help us as we enter an uncertain climate-constrained future, such as for regeneration of forests and farmland, climate ready housing, local resilience systems and more.
This obsession with defence and militarism is particularly disturbing in light of the multiple crises that currently face us, and the very urgent need to address the future climate. Militarism monopolises the funding needed to seriously address the climate crisis.
In Australia, military spending is out of control and a staggering $98.9M a day is being poured into our defence forces and related agendas.
The defence industry is full of euphemisms. The image of the defence industries is carefully curated. Companies are described as focusing on ‘high end technology’, or of being ‘security and aerospace companies’ or ‘defence technology and innovation companies’ or of being ‘leading systems integrator[s]’.
Defence ministers, government officials and company marketing material all use the same language in which companies are ‘solving complex problems’ to ‘make the world safer and more secure’.
Truth doesn’t come easily in this world. For a week during the weapons expo, peace activists used nonviolent direct action in a festival of disruption. Yet according to the Landforces 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. And we, all of us, need to keep rattling that cage of secrecy. Truth needs to be told about our history, about our future, and about the world that we are being embroiled in. In the words of Julian Assange, ‘If wars can be started by lies, they can be stopped by truth’.