Snapshots from the Shadow World, July 2021
Spotlighting under-reported items of interest for Undue Influence subscribers
Defence Department “significantly less transparent” under Dutton
Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton has clamped down on media access to senior Department of Defence officials according to reports by Australia Pacific Defence Reporter and US Defense News recently.
Here’s more from the Defense News editorial by Nigel Pittaway:
Dutton took office on March 30… and it is no coincidence that the Australian Department of Defence has become significantly less transparent under his watch.
The situation has now deteriorated to the point that department staff were given new guidelines as to how it should engage — or not — with reporters. According to Kym Bergmann, editor of Australia Pacific Defence Reporter, if these guidelines are enforced (and they overwhelmingly are being enforced), no member may speak with the media without approval from the minister’s office...
I have not seen those guidelines, but my experience has been consistent with them. At the least, my last 10 requests for interviews across a range of subjects were met with a response, either on or after deadline, which “politely declines” the request without further reason. Even a benign request to speak with the chief of the Royal Australian Air Force about the service’s 100th anniversary was declined, and at least one industry-led media visit has been canceled [sic] without explanation.”
Protesters, 1; Defence Industry Minister, 0
What was Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price hoping to achieve by publishing an opinion piece criticising people protesting at the recent Land Forces weapons expo in Brisbane while at the same time lauding our “wonderful democracy”?
Given her chosen outlet, it appears the local arms industry was her target audience. Surely she wasn’t intending to appear as disingenuous and defensive as she did?
Over 700 companies from the arms industry attended Land Forces. Their representatives heard what protesters were saying, they saw the banners. The minister’s simplistic generalisations as a response to concerns shared by a broad cross-section of Australia’s population fall flat.
Many Australians, not only the protesters, are deeply concerned about climate change and educated enough on the subject to know that military activity and warfare make significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of the environment. (More on that below.)
Many Australians are also concerned about Australian sales of weaponry to nations engaged in human rights abuses and war crimes, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE which have largely caused the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. Not forgetting the gruesome murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis either. The government and the companies involved cannot expect to avoid continuing criticism of these weapons exports. The same applies to arms exports to Indonesia while the abuse and murder of West Papuan civilians continues.
Responding by saying the Land Forces expo is all about “national security”, maintaining a peaceful region and a free Australia, while creating lots of Queensland jobs, looks like an attempt to whitewash community concerns.
Relatively few (around 150) undoubtedly annoying, occasionally offensive, yet generally peaceful protesters succeeded in provoking a gauche self-serving response from a federal government minister.
This government lacks skill in engaging with community concerns and criticism, often preferring heavy-handed silencing tactics.
On that subject… stay tuned for more from us in the wake of Land Forces.
Protest against the arms trade is not unusual
Noisy protests at weapons expos might ruffle ministerial feathers in Australia, but it’s not uncommon in other democracies.
For example, one of the world’s largest weapons expos, the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) will run again in London in September. It attracts large-scale organised protest. DSEI 2019 involved thousands of protesters who were strongly supported by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (“The way much of the arms trade currently works continues to be a blot on the global moral landscape”) and other religious leaders. Williams has long provided support for arms trade activists.
Late last month, following four years’ of legal battle, the UK Supreme Court quashed the convictions of four UK protesters who blockaded DSEI 2017. Two of the judges said, “There should be a certain degree of tolerance to disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, caused by the exercise of the right to freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price might consider this advice.
Demands to include military GHG emissions in climate agreements
The next UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is in November in Glasgow. Ahead of the conference a coalition of peace and anti-militarism groups is organising a petition to participants at COP26 demanding that the military's greenhouse gas emissions be included in climate change agreements.
The opening text says: "As a result of final-hour demands made by the US government during negotiation of the 1997 Kyoto treaty, military greenhouse gas emissions were exempted from climate negotiations. That tradition has continued. The 2015 Paris Agreement left cutting military greenhouse gas emissions to the discretion of individual nations. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change obliges signatories to publish annual greenhouse gas emissions, but military emissions reporting is voluntary and often not included... There is no reasonable basis for this gaping loophole."
In the past six weeks we have published three significant articles revealing previously unreported information. Michelle was also interviewed by ABC Radio Brisbane following her exposé of the registered charitable status of the Land Forces organiser.
We are currently working on a long feature article. Stay tuned.
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