Again, Senator Shoebridge, I refer you to my first answer and I refer you to the many answers you were provided at Senate estimates where you were told that we are not going to provide details about individual arrangements with individual countries.
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:20): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Over recent years Australians have been watching in increasing horror as reports of war crimes and human rights abuses take place from Yemen to Ukraine, from Gaza to West Papua. Can you tell the Australian public exactly what Australian weapons have been sold under your government and to which countries?
Senator WATT (Queensland—Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:21): Thank you, Senator Shoebridge. Thanks, Senator Farrell, that is the one I was looking for. It’s a two-way helping relationship we have here. We are a team—again, something that is a foreign concept to those opposite. The party of individualism even extends to the Senate chamber where they won’t help out their mates—in fact, they’d rather stab a knife in the back of their mates.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, I draw you to the question.
Senator WATT: But I digress. Senator Shoebridge, you are aware that I am not able to confirm the details of particular arms exports to any country in the world. You are aware of that because I know that this was covered in some detail at Senate estimates when you were asking questions about this very matter, so you do know that we can’t do that. What you also know is that Australia’s defence exports are conducted in line with robust export guidelines and international obligations. The Department of Defence assesses each export application on its own merits against the relevant legislative criteria under the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012. This legislation addresses a range of issues, including those that you have raised. Those issues include foreign policy, human rights, national security and Australia’s international obligations. If Defence identifies an export would be contrary to Australia’s national interest or pose risks to Australia’s security, defence or international relations, the permit is refused.
Under this government Australia’s export controls regime provides a balance between protecting our defence and security interests, meeting our international obligations, including around human rights and arms trading, and supporting Australia’s sovereign industrial capability. I will be clear about this: the government appreciates this is a complex and sensitive area of public policy that must account for security interests, human rights obligations and the viability of domestic industry.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge, first supplementary?
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:23): We know that this year alone your government authorised 52 defence export permits to Israel. As the Israeli government engages in war crimes in Gaza, can you provide the Australian public with information on what military equipment these permits contain and if there are any currently before the government awaiting approval?
Senator WATT (Queensland—Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:23): Again, Senator Shoebridge, I refer you to my first answer and I refer you to the many answers you were provided at Senate estimates where you were told that we are not going to provide details about individual arrangements with individual countries. But, as was also pointed out to you, Senator Shoebridge, at Senate estimates, when we’re talking about defence exports we’re not just talking about weapons and we’re not just talking about arms. We’re also talking about what is known as dual-use technology, things like radios or other technology and communications equipment, so you shouldn’t assume that the existence of a permit means that a weapon has been exported to any country, whether that be Israel or any other. But, for very good reason, we don’t go around broadcasting details of export permits that we have with any particular country, because there are national security issues at stake, and this is a government that takes national security seriously.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge, second supplementary?
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:24): Distressingly, once Australia authorises weapons to leave our shores, we are not obliged in any way to follow up on how they are used. Will the Albanese government take responsibility and introduce policy that requires the Australian government to monitor the military equipment exported from Australia to ensure that it is not used to commit war crimes?
Senator WATT (Queensland—Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:25): Thank you, Senator Shoebridge. Again, you wouldn’t expect me, especially as a representing minister, to be making Australian government policy in Senate question time. But the broad position that we take—as I say, we’re not broadcasting individual details—is that, as I have already answered, the matters around human rights and the usage of defence exports, whether they be weapons or other forms of technology, are taken into account in the granting of a particular permit or the extension of permits in the future. So these are exactly the types of issues that are taken into account by the Department of Defence in reaching decisions about whether they would grant a particular export permit.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge?
Senator Shoebridge: My point of order is to relevance. My question wasn’t as to consideration done at the time of the permit but once the weapons have been sold, and the minister is refusing to address that point.
The PRESIDENT: The minister is being relevant, thank you, Senator Shoebridge.
Senator WATT: As I say, Senator Shoebridge, these matters are taken into account. The record of particular buyers of defence exports is taken into account in determining the success or otherwise of a particular export application. I can’t really add anything further to what you heard at Senate estimates.