MUNGO MacCALLUM. Merchants of death

Australian government has in recent years, become debased – opportunist, secretive, poll-driven, fixated on short term political gain and unwilling to engage in serious issues when (as is always) they interfere with its internal wranglings.  It has been depressing and demoralising, and the public has responded by branding our parliamentarians a bunch of untrustworthy go-getters, obsessed with their own well-being rather than the public good. 

Unfair, perhaps – there many politicians who (initially at least)  seek office for the right reasons, to enhance the national interest and indulge in honest debate about increasingly complex issues, attempting to involve the voters as partners rather than mere election fodder. There has been, for many of us at least, the hope and belief that the lucky country could again become what it once was – a forthright member of the world community, a vanguard for worthwhile change and reform.

But after last week it will be hard to maintain that sanguine proposition – we have struck a new nadir, a depth of greed and amorality that is unlikely to be beaten. Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to allocate $3.8 billion (that’s $3,800,000,000 in real money) to promote the export of killing machines is the end of the road.

Since the conclusion of the second world war, if not before, Australia has generally been seen as a peacemaker – not a passive advocate  of neutrality but an active participant in the world-wide movement for ending the arms race in a step to preventing, or at least mitigating, war and its causes.

We have made our mistakes, most notably the disaster in Vietnam. But after that, our interventions in conflicts, although almost invariably ill-advised, have been more in the nature of holding operations than all out assaults. With all respect to our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, they were not about belligerence but defence against fanatical and unconscionable aggression.

And in the meantime we have taken part in many genuine peacekeeping operations: Timor and the Solomons are among the most impressive but there have been others less publicised – Cyprus, to name but one. And perhaps more importantly, we have been a significant, and at times a leading, player in the international campaign for disarmament.

Australians have been involved in working to end nuclear proliferation, in the elimination of chemical weapons, in the abolition of landmines. There have been times when we have been more zealous than others, but our default position has been on the side of peace – the side of the angels.

And it is this history that Turnbull has abandoned in what can only be seen as cynical betrayal of our (and we had thought his own) values and ideals in the desperate search for a few bucks. His attitude appears to be the rationale of every drug dealer, every provider of pornography – if I don’t do it. someone else will, so why should a Australia not aspire to become one of the top ten world-wide merchants of death.

And of course we (unlike every other merchant) will take stringent precautions to ensure that our guns, bombs, tanks, and whatever instruments of slaughter that our scientists can devise, will never be used illegally and unethically. The latter stricture may be seen as a contradiction in terms, but in fact it hardly matters: the obvious fact is that once we hand the arsenals over we lose all effective control of them.

Turnbull’s warriors have already signalled their willingness – eagerness, indeed – to flog the stuff to just about anyone who will pay for it. Only a few weeks ago our ebullient Minister for Industry Christopher Pyne was spruiking the sale of Australian weapons to Saudi Arabia —  those wonderful folk who brought us 9/11 and are now committing war crimes in Yemen before moving on to subdue their own dissenting citizens by any means they deem necessary.

But of course the Saudis are considered our allies – well sort of,  they are the allies of our great and powerful friend, so near enough is  good enough – and thus they are, by definition, worthy recipients of any horrors we can offer them – if, of course, the price is right. And it needs not be added (but will be interminably among the government’s talking points) that there will be jobs involved – well, there may be a few, and there would want to be at the cost of $3.8 billion.

In fact, we can confidently predict just 3,800 jobs, eventually. We know that figure because the price of government assistance (read: taxpayer handouts) to defence procurement works out at a cool one million for every new worker employed.

But wait, there’s more – our killing machines will not only secure our own base for keeping up a steady supply of our own weapons (most of which are being licensed to foreigners anyway, and thus providing minimal profits to Australia) but revive our ailing manufacturer industry, the one successive governments have run into the ground. The once thriving automobile sector could have been saved by a fraction of the cost to be lavished on the warmongers but that would have been economic irrationalism, picking winners and we couldn’t have that.

Fortunately (and the only conceivable saving grace of the moral turpitude into which Turnbull is seeking to immerse us) we probably won’t have to: the experts in the field assure us that the already established merchants of death will effortlessly freeze out such a bumptious upstart in what has become a seriously cut-throat (and that is itself a euphemism) industry.

Let’s face it, they know all about real wars, so a trade war with an uppity neophyte should be a doddle. And if  this happens (and frankly it should) Turnbull’s latest thought bubble will be revealed as an utter failure in every sense – not merely unforgivably depraved, but hugely wasteful and simply stupid. What a way to start the new year of rewards for all.

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11 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Merchants of death

  1. neil steadson says:

    Just a thought Mungo, perhaps PM Trumble has learned a little in the sneakiness dept from is mate Donald and done a deal with him. The Donald may see some benefit in sliding a tiny bit of the U.S. defence pie over to Malcolm. After all $3.8Bn is only a minute slice of the American defence budget. I think we can look forward to some nice orders for a few boats and vehicles from across the waves.

  2. Doug Hewitt says:

    Thanks you, Mungo, for such a clear response to the madness of our government.

    The Prime Minister’s ambition for Australia to become one of the world’s top 10 defence exporters under an ambitious $3.8 billion plan announced last week takes the breath away.

    Late last year our national leaders were unable to congratulate the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, which had their origins in a group begun in Australia. We now know why.

    They were cooking up this crazy idea to boost the manufacture of weapons of death here in our country and export them to the world. And prepared to invest in $3.8 billion to tempt local industries.

    This is a government that has slashed overseas aid since coming to office, so that it is now the lowest percentage ever of our GNP. But this form of expenditure promotes peace and we are not keen on that!

    As well our political leaders refuse to support local vehicle production, which has employed far more people than any weapons manufacturing will in the future.

    Loans from the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, which will oversee the distribution of these billions, do not need to pass any test of “social risk evaluation” – which may determine whether they harm others – but can be approved at the discretion of Trade Minister, Steve Clobo.

    In a century when more people have been displaced by violence that ever before, we are going to add to the world supply of armaments. Will we offer to take those who are forced to flee from their homelands by the use of the weapons we sell?

  3. Geoff Prior says:

    Perfectly stated Mr MacCullum and thank you for saying it.

  4. Richard Butler says:

    Mungo, Beautifully written and even more splendidly argued: accurate in every respect. Where is the ALP in this. See the often dismissed late Arthur Calwell’s trenchant speech, in 1965, on Menzies’ Vietnam deception. What has happened to us?

  5. Jim KABLE says:

    Pretty much you have it all covered – that general feeling that they are all rorters in the federal parliament (but, yes, well, there are some there for the right and honourable reasons) and yet this bouncy PYNE and chuckling Malcolm Tremble YaY! Where going to be one of the big 10 destroying other lands! And the old JobsonG bleat! This is truly the lowest of the low in our national/international face! (Along with as-of-this-moment destruction of our ABC libraries and librarians – when we should be sending that terrible Guthrie woman off-shore – out of her dismantling of “our” ABC!)

  6. Jim KABLE says:

    Yay! We’re going to be one of the big 10…

  7. Phillip R says:

    This so-called government is morally and ethically bankrupt on every count. My only solace is that I have never voted for them and never will.

  8. Ted Egan says:

    Mungo at his best. Keep naming and shaming them

  9. Joe Goozeff says:

    “f I don’t do it. someone else will” and it will provide employment. It’s known as ‘the carpenter’s defence’, first used by the carpenter who made the cross for Jesus’ crucifixion, and still popular today.

  10. Mary Tehan says:

    No wonder Malcolm Fraser stopped being a Liberal. Thanks Mungo, for naming this atrocity “merchants of death” for that is what they are. I keep wanting to watch last night’s Olympic Opening Ceremony … the bit where John Lennon’s song was sung with gusto … and the symbols of peace (doves) were offered to the audience and cosmos … and then there was the moment when the speeches were being read and one of the Korean athletes sitting behind the speakers kept showing his flag to the world … an image of the whole of the Korean Peninsula. Is ‘adversary’ the only way that politics can find their voice? Is ‘conflict, death and destruction’ the only way that makes sense to them … these leaders (?) of death? Oh for some integrity and goodness in these peoples’ hearts. We should all be turning our backs on them when-ever they choose to come into our presence. The media have opportunities to challenge their wickedness … thank you Mungo for at least being prepared to!

  11. Rosemary O'Grady says:

    We can’t build our own submarines – or, actually, do just about Anything Alone aka Independently – but we can Aspire to join the world’s laziest, dirtiest markets. This is Serious.

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