The shooting of four people by drunken youths in New Caledonia was reported this week by Radio New Zealand International. Noumea’s public prosecutor noted the recent proliferation of firearms and the loosening of gun laws, fuelling reckless violence. There are about 50,000 weapons in New Caledonia, one for every three adults. Meanwhile, Australian arms manufacturers sell guns throughout the Pacific. Our government has encouraged this with taxpayers’ money, promoting the rising demand in the region as a market opportunity.
Should humanitarian concerns limit what we sell and to whom? The international Arms Trade Treaty says it should. Australia signed this treaty in June, but the present government has not referred to, ratified, or implemented it. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop did propose that Australia use its position as chair of the UN Security Council to dissuade others from flooding developing countries with small arms. Perhaps she should consider Australia cleaning up its own act – perhaps by ratifying the treaty we have signed and passing effective legislation to further the treaty’s humanitarian aims?