Game-changer: defence industry revolving door database

Sep 1, 2023
Soldier in uniform and civil man in suit shaking hands.

Do you have information about revolving door appointments involving Australia’s weapons industry? It’s time to speak up and contribute to a new database set to expose corruption.

The long-term goal of creating a database that reveals the extent of the revolving door in Australia between the weapons industry and the government/military/public service is set to become reality.

The Jan de Voogd Peace Fund has awarded a grant to cover the required research and development.

At a time of decreasing transparency and accountability for record spending on armaments, the need for this database has never been greater. AUKUS alone is expected to cost Australian taxpayers more than $350 billion. Exposing the insidious links between weapons corporations and the public sector is essential. Before an egregious practice can be stamped out, it must be documented. Hence, this project.

When senior people depart politics, the military, or the public service for roles in the weapons industry they take with them extensive national and international contacts, deep institutional knowledge, and privileged access to the highest levels of government. This entrenches the undue influence of the weapons industry on government decision-making, which undermines integrity and opens the door to corruption.

The Grattan Institute described the revolving door problem thus:

…firms that employ former government officials are more successful at getting meetings with government. Relationships matter in politics because they affect both the opportunity to influence and the likelihood of influence. Individuals with personal connections are more likely to get time with policy makers and a sympathetic hearing when they do…

This is why hiring or employing people with the right connections can ‘buy’ influence.

The database will document revolving door appointments from the year 2000 on. While it is modelled on the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Pentagon Revolving Door website, my Undue Influence project will include more information. Short articles will accompany key entries to help explain the context and significance of appointments.

Users will be able to search by individual or by company. Some individuals will have multiple revolving door appointments, which speaks to the power of this database. The entangled web of appointments across numerous companies will be revealed. Searching by weapons company will provide a list of former public officials hired by that company.

Evan Predavec, the project’s technical specialist and website/ database creator, is the founder of Political Gadgets, a website that makes government and related information accessible.

Jan de Voogd Peace Fund

When he died in 2021, Jan de Voogd, a Quaker, bequeathed his estate to projects that foster peace and social justice. The bequest is administered by the NSW Regional Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Jan de Voogd’s father started work as a Japanese-Dutch translator before becoming a diplomat. Jan was born in Japan in 1932. After living in several countries during and after the war, the de Voogd children came to Australia where Jan became active in peace work in the 1960s through the anti-nuclear movement. A keen sailor, he built small boats that he would sail on Sydney harbour along with a flotilla of activists to meet, and protest at, the arrival of nuclear-capable military vessels. His commitment to peace and social justice activities is discussed here.

The terms of the grant require an incorporated entity to receive the funding. Undue Influence thanks the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) for auspicing this project. Since its foundation in 1981, MAPW has advocated for the redirection of the world’s resources away from war and towards peace, health and social justice.

The database will be launched by 29 February 2024.

If you have information about revolving door appointments involving Australia’s weapons industry, please email me at (encrypted). Subscribe to Undue Influence to receive updates.

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