The Australian government will establish a $3.8 billion fund that will offer loans to local arms manufacturers in a push to rapidly grow Australia’s defense export industry, SBS News reported.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government aimed for Australia to become one of the world’s top 10 exporters of weapons within a decade.
Australia currently is ranked 20th in arms exports with a 0.3% share of the global market, according to a widely-cited 2017 report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Israel is currently ranked 10th with 2.3% of the market.
“Given the size of our defense budget, we should be a lot higher up the scale,” Turnbull told reporters at a press conference on Monday, with Australian-made armored vehicles in the background.
“The goal is to get into the top 10. That is the ambition,” the Prime Minister said.
The loans program, named the Defense Export Facility, will aim to help companies access overseas markets. Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the scheme could create “tens of thousands” of jobs for Australian manufacturers.
The government’s push on arms sales will also see a special exports division created within the Department of Defense.
The Bushmaster armored four-wheel drive (photo) is one of Australia’s best known military products, deployed by the Australian Defense Force (ADF) in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The vehicles have been purchased by foreign militaries around the world, including Jamaica, Japan, the UK and the Netherlands.
Chris Jenkins, CEO of Thales Australia, which makes the Bushmaster, attended Turnbull’s press conference on Monday and thanked the Prime Minister for his “unprecedented support”.
Pyne said Australia also exported parts for the new Joint Strike Fighter planes and life rafts for ships, but there was potential to sell many more defense products on the international market.
The lighter Hawkei vehicle, also manufactured by Thales, has been singled out in the government’s strategy as a promising export prospect.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia would base its arms export decisions on “strategic concerns”. She said the country was bound by various international treaties and would negotiate sales on a “case by case” basis.
As well as expanding the Export Finance Investment Corporation’s remit with the new $3.8 billion loan facility, the government will spend $80 million over four years on a grants program to support small and medium businesses who want to export, another program to help local companies build export capacity, and a focus on trade shows and long-term campaigns.
Priority markets for Australian arms include the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific, the government said.
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said Australia will also look at opportunities in Japan.
“What we are looking for are countries where we have got a strong human rights track record and, of course, have safeguards in place,” he told the Nine Network.