Statement On Two-way Arms Trade With State Of Israel

Australian Greens

As the Albanese Government last week teamed up with Peter Dutton’s Coalition to try and make the genocide in Gaza about themselves, there were staggering revelations in Senate Estimates about the scale of Australia’s two-way arms trade with Israel.

This evidence adds to the body of knowledge on Australia’s two-way arms trade with Israel. We are releasing this statement on the issue to create a more informed debate.

The fact weapons parts are used in a genocide is “not material” to Labor

At Senate Estimates this week it was revealed that not only does Australia make parts in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but the fact that Israel using these weapons to bomb Gaza is considered “not material” – basically does not matter – to whether the Albanese Government approves a permit or not.

Shockingly the evidence provided made clear that it does not matter to this government if the weapons exported by Australia create instability, fuel conflict or are used in human rights violations, as this is simply ‘outweighed’ if the Government deems it to be in the national interest to approve the export.

This is how the Albanese Government can approve military exports to Israel, including indirectly through third countries while maintaining they are complying with domestic law.

Varley Rafael production of Spike missile parts

The history of Australia’s export of weapons parts to Israel precedes the current genocide in Gaza. One area of particular contention is the export of parts of the Spike missile into the global supply chain of Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael Systems. The Spike missile is reported to be the missile that killed Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and colleagues. It has killed an unknown number of Palestinians.

Since coming into office the Albanese government has signed fresh contracts valued at over $60 million with Rafael to produce these missiles in Australia for the Australian military, including one as recently as January this year. Prior to this, however, Rafael’s Australian subsidiary Varley Rafael has been producing spike missile parts to feed into Rafael’s global supply chain.

In August 2021 (before the contract with the Australian military for the Spike missile) Varley Rafael announced it had already begun local production of the Spike Guided Missile Integration kits. This was said to be the first time the Israeli company had conducted assembly operations overseas.

To be clear, there was no contract with the Australian government at this time and the production was part of Rafael’s global supply chain. As was widely reported in 2017 when the Varley Rafael operations were commenced:

“The joint venture also means Varley will become part of Rafael’s global supply chain for Spike missiles, enhancing the company’s export opportunities and giving access to Rafael’s cutting-edge, fifth-generation defence technologies.”

The Greens have never stated that Varley Rafael in Australia exports entire Spike missiles to Israel. Based on the evidence above we have repeated the company’s statements and public media position and said that they are part of the global supply chain for the Spike missile. As such they are complicit in the deaths from that weapon. The fact the Albanese government allows this to continue and then enters into fresh contracts with them in the middle of genocide, makes them complicit too.

It is extraordinary that media organisations, including the ABC, fail to undertake due diligence about weapons exports. Instead, they rely on comments from the likes of former MP Bob Baldwin, now a “Government Relations” officer for Varley Rafael, that Varley Rafael does not export entire Spike missiles to Israel. The Greens have never said they do.

The $4 billion part Australia plays in the F-35 global supply chain

It was further revealed in budget estimates hearings that Australia’s involvement in the F-35 supply chain is valued at $4.6 billion in contracts through over 70 companies, including as sole global manufacturers for specific parts. As the head contractor for the F-35 Lockheed Martin said: “Every F-35 built contains some Australian parts and components.” This includes the mechanism that allows the F-35 to drop its bombs.

The F-35 weapons parts from Australia likely go through the US and then to Israel and would not be included in data as direct sales to Israel. As a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing on trade with Israel makes clear:

“… service and defence equipment trade is not reflected in the public data, and a significant amount of trade is carried out through third parties such as the US and Singapore.”

However, even keeping in mind that most of the arms trade with Israel is washed through a third country, there is still clear ongoing direct arms trade as set out below.

Existing military export permits to Israel – what is on the public record

During Senate Estimates questioning Defence revealed that there are currently 66 military export permits active for the State of Israel. These include goods being sent to Israeli manufacturers for repair and uplift, including weapons as part of the two-way arms trade, as well as dual-use goods and parts and components.

Defence has still not told the public what is in these permits, however, there is clear public information that parts of weapons and military equipment are being exported to Israel from Australia.

Public information can give an indication of what they are. For example, Currawong Engineering is a Tasmania-based company that creates the Corvid-29 engine, which is used in the Israeli-made Bluebird Aero System’s ThunderB drone. Bisalloy Steels provides military-grade steel for Plasan Re’em, an Israeli company, that makes armoured cars used in occupied Palestine both by the military and the armed settler militias. This is in addition to the Varley Rafael material above.

The Arms Trade Treaty, Australia’s obligations

The Arms Trade Treaty makes it perfectly clear in Article 4 that parts and components of weapons, or conventional arms to use the term in the treaty, are weapons. It was this very article that was invoked by a Dutch court when it ordered the Netherlands Government to stop exporting weapon parts for the F-35 earlier this year.

Australian Defence officials have attempted to deny that sending weapons parts is covered by the Arms Trade Treaty. This is an interpretation of the treaty that is both novel and dangerous.

DFAT data on sales of Arms and Ammunition to Israel

/Public Release. View in full here.