On launching AUKUS, Biden made the statement that it was “a partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defense forces are all working together”
This gives more than a nod to the notion that AUKUS isn’t just military bases and submarines; it involves the whole Military Industrial Complex.
While Australia has for many years been trying to break into the global arms market. In 1986 Defence Minister Kim Beazley (who later joined the Board of Lockheed Martin) commissioned the 1986 Cooksey Review urging greater support for Australia’s military export industry led in turn to the change of direction n defence industry in the 1987 Defence White Paper and the creation of various Federal Government commercial support programs .
1989 saw the first AIDEX Arms Exhibition in Australia which was repeated in 1991 attracting large protests which led to the cancellation of the 1993 event. Similarly, a planned arms fair for Adelaide was shut down due to the protests being planned. Since that time the public face of the arms industry has been limited to the Avalon Air Show and smaller additions to military conferences such as the Land Warfare Conference in Brisbane this year which attracted a national protest.
Nonetheless, Australia’s role in the arms industry continues to grow. In 2018 Malcolm Turnbull announced a Defence Export Strategy aimed at joining the ranks of the top 10 global arms exporters. A whole raft of Federal grant programs were introduced and the states soon followed suit as they competed to host arms companies profiting from the Federal Government’s largesse. Each state now has government defence industry advocates touting for business.
The push for increased arms exports has been at least partly successful, with exports more than doubling in the last financial year.
The announcement of increased research and development integration would be a boon for the Australian defence industry. This industry which currently exports hi-tech home grown weapons systems used against the poorest people on the planet in places like Gaza and Yemen.
Increased co-operation in technology research extends to Australian universities with major arms companies funding research in all major Australian universities. Within a week of the AUKUS announcement, Reengineering Australia announced an ‘AUKUS style educational alliance with partners in the UK & US’ within its Subs in Schools program, targeting kids in primary and high Schools.
Another aspect of the technological co-operation aspect of AUKUS is the integration of cyber warfare technologies. In the days immediately following the AUKUS announcement, all of Australia’s spy agency chiefs, ASIO, ASIS, ASD & ONA were summoned to Washington for a meeting with their counterparts.
Australia is already deeply integrated with both the US & UK intelligence networks through the Five Eyes, but this meeting more than hints that further integration is on the cards.
Australia is already deeply involved in space research with the US, as it’s geographical position places it equidistant from the US and the UK and in the Southern Hemisphere: the very reason behind locating Pine Gap where it is a half a century ago. Space based technology is increasing at an alarming rate with more 1400 satellites launched in the first 8 months of this year, bringing the total number of operational satellites to more than 5000. Almost 1000 of these were launched last year.
Five new satellite dishes are currently being installed at Pine Gap and as reliance on space based technologies increase so does Australia’s role in the military industrial complex.
Finally on the industrial side is the subject of supply chain resilience raised at this year’s AUSMIN talks. In particular in regard to rare earths, which are used in all modern military technologies. It seems that with all the talk of technological advancement and nuclear subs, Australia is also still a mine.