Weapons trade fair cancelled by peace movement pressure

This video from England is about DSEi Arms Trade Fair protests, London 2013.

By Jacob Grech in Australia:

The killing business: Australia and the arms trade

6 September 2008

On the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day this November, Adelaide was due to play host to the largest military corporations in the world, who will be displaying the most sophisticated weapons that have ever been created. The planned fair was cancelled on September 7 by the South Australian government on grounds of supposed “violent protests” being planned.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann had called this a fantastic business and investment opportunity. We call it an obscenity.

The Asia Pacific Defence and Security Exhibition (APDSE) was being billed as an opportunity for Australia to take advantage of the “size and significant growth of the Asia Pacific defence and security market”. Citing regional issues — including North Korean instability, regional arms races, security implications of climate change, illegal immigration to Australia and the Australian government’s commitment to increase defence spending over the next five years — APDSE is positioning itself as the place for the international weapons community to meet and network on how to best take advantage of this perceived trend to instability in the region.

The governments of Israel, the United States, France, Italy, Britain, Germany and South Africa, along with companies such as Boeing, Thales and BAe, had already booked major exhibition space at APDSE. This is not to make sales to the Australian military but to network with the military representatives who will be visiting Adelaide for the show. …

The last time an arms fair the size of the APDSE was held in Australia was in 1989 and 1991, when the ALP government, with Kim Beazley as defence minister, set out to openly increase Australia’s military role.

The resulting public outcry was so strong at these events, and the blockades at the gates so effective, that AIDEX ‘93 was banned by the ACT government. After looking around for another home, the organisers, Desiko, quietly cancelled their 1993 event.

Protests against arms fairs are regular occurrences in many countries. In Britain, the largest arms fair in the world, DSEi, attracted so much opposition that the company organising it, Reed Elsevier, sold off its arms fair department last year.

While this was great news for the international peace movement, it was a two-edged sword for Australia: Alex Nicholl, who was employed by Reed to organise DSEi, was suddenly out of work and decided to try his luck in the colonies. What he found here was a military corporate sector desperate to improve its standing in the military community.

The links between the military and corporate worlds have been well-documented, most notably by supporters of the free market. In 1999 New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

This is not only the case for US and global capital, but for Australian capital as well. Australia has a strange place in the international arms trade. With a small population and a diminishing manufacturing sector, exports of Australian-made equipment are quite minor in world terms; but this is not Australia’s only role. Halliburton, Raytheon, BAe and Boeing, among others, maintain a major presence in Australia — out of proportion to the amount of business Australian government and industry generates.

Australia’s position as a Western outpost on the doorstep of Asia makes it an attractive place for US and European arms companies to locate their regional offices and, while the actual weapons themselves may never pass through Australia, in the globalised marketplace, a lot of the lobbying, administration and financial arrangements for international trafficking does.

In many ways this is analogous to Australia’s military role: overseas deployment of troops being largely limited by its small population, Australia plays a major role in hosting military command, control, communications and intelligence bases such as Pine Gap and provides unparalleled access to training facilities for US allies through exercises such as Talisman Sabre in Queensland. …

Peace groups, churches, political organisations and environmental groups had planned a major protest at APDSE. Planned protests included a peace festival on November 9, a picket and vigil for the duration of APDSE, from November 11-13, and a blockade of the setting up of the exhibition up from November 8-11.

See also here. And here.

7 thoughts on “Weapons trade fair cancelled by peace movement pressure

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