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Game changer: defence industry 'revolving door' database to be created
Undue Influence has been awarded funding from the Jan de Voogd Peace Fund to create an Australian-first database
Our long-held goal of creating a database that makes plain the extent of the revolving door between the government/military/public service and the weapons industry in Australia is set to become reality.
Undue Influence has been awarded a grant to cover the research and development required to fulfil this vision. Work on the database has commenced. More on the grant below.
The well-trodden path from public defence roles into the private weapons industry
With AUKUS expected to cost Australian taxpayers more than $350 billion, at a time of decreasing transparency and poor accountability for record expenditure on armaments, the need for this database has never been greater. Exposing the insidious links between global weapons corporations and the government is now essential. Before an egregious practice can be stamped out, it must be documented. Hence, this project.
When senior people depart politics, the military, or the public service for roles in the weapons industry they take with them extensive national and international contacts, deep institutional knowledge and rare and privileged access to the highest levels of government. Their inside knowledge, contact books and high-level access entrenches the undue influence of the weapons industry on government decision-making, which can undermine integrity and open the door to corruption.
The Grattan Institute described the revolving door problem like this:
…firms that employ former government officials are more successful at getting meetings with government. Relationships matter in politics because they affect both the opportunity to influence and the likelihood of influence. Individuals with personal connections are more likely to get time with policy makers and a sympathetic hearing when they do.
It’s human nature that we’re more likely to listen to people we know and like. Establishing credibility is critical to persuasion, and existing relationships help clear that initial barrier. This is why hiring or employing people with the right connections can ‘buy’ influence.
Undue Influence has reported extensively on the revolving door as a channel of backroom influence on government by the weapons industry. Information on revolving door appointments into and out of this industry must be made public to achieve greater transparency, accountability and integrity in Australian public life.
What the database will cover
The database will document revolving door appointments into and out of the weapons industry from the year 2000 onwards. While it is modelled on the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Pentagon Revolving Door website, the Undue Influence project will include more information. For example, we will include short articles accompanying key entries explaining the context and significance of certain appointments.
Users will be able to search by individual or by company. Some individuals in the database will have multiple revolving door appointments; this web of appointments across numerous companies will be revealed. Searching by weapons company will provide a list of former public officials hired by that company.
Undue Influence is delighted to be working with Evan Predavec as the project’s technical specialist and website/database creator. Evan is founder of Political Gadgets (politicalgadgets.com), a website that makes government and related information readily accessible to the public. Evan’s unique skillset and can-do attitude has been invaluable in designing and creating our website and database infrastructure.
More about the grant
Undue Influence has been awarded $60,000 by the Jan de Voogd Peace Fund to create the database. Jan de Voogd, a Quaker, died in 2021 leaving his estate to be spent on projects that foster peace and social justice. The bequest is administered by the NSW Regional Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Jan de Voogd’s father started work as a Japanese-Dutch translator before becoming a diplomat in a long career that included a posting to Japan. Jan was born in Japan in 1932. His first languages were Dutch and Japanese and he later learned English at a Canadian school in Kobe. After living in several countries during and after the war, the de Voogd children came to Australia. Jan became active in peace work in the 1960s through the anti-nuclear movement. A keen sailor, he built small wooden boats that he would sail on Sydney harbour in a flotilla of activists to meet, and protest at, the arrival of nuclear-capable military vessels. Jan de Voogd’s lifelong commitment to numerous peace and social justice activities is discussed here. Undue Influence is grateful that Jan’s long life and legacy has provided this important funding for our work.
The terms of the grant require an incorporated entity to receive the funding. Undue Influence warmly thanks the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) for agreeing to auspice the project. Since its foundation in 1981, MAPW has advocated for the redirection of the world’s resources away from war and towards peace, health and social justice. MAPW is the Australian affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2007, in Melbourne, MAPW launched the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and its remarkable achievement in bringing into being a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Read more about MAPW and ICAN.
When will the database be ready?
The database will be launched by 29 February 2024.
How you can help
If you have information about revolving door appointments into and out of the Australian weapons industry, please email us.
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