Australia’s defence industry is arming Israel’s genocide

Recent months have seen an increasing number of protests directed at the arms industry in Australia and its role in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Actions in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney have drawn attention to the fact that companies arming Israel are operating out of factories and campuses here.

Government records show that between 2018 and 2023, $13 million worth of Australian-manufactured arms and ammunition were exported to Israel.

While Penny Wong claims that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel for at least five years, the government has issued 322 defence export permits to Israel since the start of 2017, with 52 issued just last year.

Some of these may be “non-lethal” items like body armour or vehicle parts used by the Israeli military. But Australian companies also supply weapons components that are not included in the official count.

Many of the Australian companies arming Israel—including Ferra, HTA, Quickstep, L3Harris and BAE Systems Australia—do so through contributions to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. The completed jets are sold to Israel by the US.

Australian industry has played a role in the supply chain for the F-35 fighter jets since 2006 and more than 70 Australian companies have participated in the production of components.

This means every F-35A Lightning II that the Israeli Air Force has used to drop bombs on Gaza since 7 October involves components manufactured in Australia. As long as our government refuses to stop arming Israel, these companies will be profiting off genocide.

Ferra, HTA, and Quickstep

Since January, protesters in Brisbane have targeted the factory of Ferra Engineering. Ferra is the sole global manufacturer of the mechanism in the F-35 fighter jets that holds and releases the 900-kilogram JDAM bombs that Israel uses indiscriminately on civilians in Gaza.

The campaign, Shut Down Ferra, was launched on 8 January when activists stormed the factory. Despite intense police intimidation following the first action, there have been successful pickets on three occasions, with more actions planned.

Hundreds of activists have also participated in pickets at the factory of Heat Treatment Australia (HTA) in Melbourne. HTA provides heat treatment to strengthen the components in the F-35s and are described by the Department of Defence as, “Vital to the Australian supply chain for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

In Sydney a protest was taking place on 13 April at the Quickstep factory. Quickstep proudly boasts that, “Every F-35 Lightning Il aircraft currently in production incorporates approximately $440,000 of content built at its facility at Bankstown Aerodrome in Western Sydney.”

After the protest was announced, the company removed their signs from outside the factory in an attempt to hide their presence from the community.

Students have organised protests on campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to highlight the ties that arms companies have with Australian universities.

At the University of Sydney, the Eggleton Research Group brings together Lockheed Martin, L3Harris, the Royal Australian Air Force, several government agencies and the university’s Jericho Smart Sensing Laboratory for several research projects with military applications.

Australia’s arms exports

These protests have helped expose Australia’s links with Israel’s genocide in Gaza. But it will take union bans or government-imposed sanctions to stop the companies from arming Israel completely.

The Labor government has no intention of acting. Labor is fully committed to expanding the arms industry in Australia. Last financial year the defence industry saw growth of 4 per cent, after a staggering 18 per cent increase the year before.

In 2018, Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull laid out a plan for Australia to become one of the world’s top ten military exporters. Liberal PM Scott Morrison announced that the size of the Australian Defence Force would be increased by 30 per cent by 2040—the largest it has been since the Vietnam War.

Since taking office, Labor have been just as committed to this militaristic agenda. They have continued to ramp up Australia’s ability to wage military conflict in the region with their roll-out of the AUKUS nuclear submarine program and their expansion of the domestic defence industry.

The Albanese government has just signed the single largest defence export agreement in Australian history with the announcement of a $1 billion deal for Australian-made Boxer armoured vehicles to be made by Rheinmetall in Queensland and exported to Germany.

Rheinmetall has previously worked with Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, which make the drones used by the IDF in Gaza, including the one that killed seven aid workers.

Australia’s growing role as an arms producer is a product of our rulers’ commitment to the US alliance and to Australia’s own imperialist interests.

We need to oppose all military lies with Israel not just to stop the slaughter in Gaza, but to lay the groundwork for a serious fightback against Labor’s ongoing militarism and drive to war on China.

By Angus Dermody

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