Outsourcing responsibility: companies supplying arms to unlawful conflicts secure lucrative Australian Government contracts

A new report from Amnesty International has found that key global companies who have lucrative Australian government contracts also supply arms to the Saudi Arabia/UAE led coalition responsible for likely war crimes in the conflict in Yemen.

All of the companies examined in the report, Outsourcing Responsibility, have or have recently had multi-million dollar contracts with the Australian government, including Lockheed Martin, Airbus and Rolls Royce.

While the human rights obligations of states to regulate the international arms trade are now clearly defined under the Arms Trade Treaty and regional and domestic legislation, the crucial role of companies in the supply of military goods and services is often overlooked. 

Despite the often inherently dangerous nature of its business and products, the defence industry has not been the subject of the same level of scrutiny as other sectors – such as the extractive, agricultural, garment and tech industries. 

Amnesty International Australia has long called on the Australian government to be transparent about its own supply of arms to UAE and Saudi Arabia, and again calls on the Australian government to apply more rigorous standards to the companies that it awards millions of dollars of taxpayers money in contracts.

“Australia invested a lot of time and money for a place on the United Nations Human Rights Council – it would be gross hypocrisy for it to be advocating for human rights at an international level, without getting its own house in order,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White said.

“Procurement processes for government contracts rightly ensure companies are compliant with a range of standards; having a framework for human rights  requiring defence companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their global operations, supply chains and in relation to the use of their products and services should be part of this process. 

“Governments can and should do more to stop companies from selling to parties who are complicit in human rights violations – for example, refusing to licence arms transfers to Saudi/UAE. 

“Australians deserve to know their money isn’t being spent with companies who supply regimes and militias with arms used to abuse fundamental human rights.”

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