Australia-Saudi Arabia relationship opacity regarding Yemen ‘unacceptable’

In light of today’s Defence Estimates, Amnesty International is concerned that Defence Minister Marise Payne has not adequately explained the Royal Australian Navy’s recent training exercises with Saudi Arabia’s Navy and also what defence materiel has been sold to Saudi Arabia while it is imposing its devastating blockade on Yemen.

Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Campaigns Coordinator Diana Sayed said today:

“It is unacceptable that the Australian government denies transparency in its defence-force relationship with Saudi Arabia while the Saudi-led coalition continues to commit horrific human rights abuses in Yemen.

“We are asking yet again: let the Australian public know, unequivocally, verifiably and without delay, that Australia is not complicit in the collective punishment of millions of Yemeni civilians.

“Defence Minister Marise Payne has still not tabled the contents of the four military exports approved to Saudi Arabia, as she has been required to by a Senate motion passed in March.

“The Australian government has argued that the detail of the exports must be kept from us because it is ‘commercial in confidence’. How can we be confident that what the Australian government has been telling us about these exports is true, when the true background to the Navy training exercise between the two countries was hidden from us?

“If indeed the details of the four military exports must be kept confidential on commercial grounds, they can be tabled in camera [in private] to a Parliamentary Committee.

“We call on Australia to suspend all arms and military support to Saudi Arabia while it commits atrocities in Yemen, and to detail the contents of this year’s military exports to the Saudis.”


On 14 August, the Royal Australian Navy ran a training exercise with the Saudi Arabian Navy in the Red Sea, conducted as part of Operation Manitou, a joint force operation to maintain maritime security in the Middle East.

This year, Australia approved four defence materiel exports to Saudi Arabia and has consistently refused to detail the contents of those consignments on ‘commercial in confidence’ grounds.

The Saudi Arabia-led blockade of Yemen is causing a widely condemned humanitarian crisis.