(Published by The Age – letters page 5 February 2018)
Over the years Australia has sold guns to government institutions in Papua New Guinea, which have sold them on to criminals in the civilian population. Armed violence now makes PNG one of the world’s most dangerous countries for its own citizens and for visitors.
Australia sells arms to the Duterte regime in the Philippines, which oppresses its impoverished population with irrational and brutal measures. We also sell arms to Saudi Arabia which also suppresses its own citizens militarily, is currently committing war crimes in Yemen, and passes on arms to extremist regimes and organisations it supports throughout the Middle East.
The arms trade is like the trade in narcotics. Both commodities have their legitimate uses but both can be abused, requiring responsible regulation. If Australia is to increase its arms trade, our current top secret and ineffective regulatory system must surely need review. Otherwise we are the equivalent of illicit drug dealers. Ideally the grounds for granting licences should be transparent, allowing Australians to know what our government is approving on our behalf.
Dr Peter Wigg, Medical Association for Prevention of War