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Transparency: who will the Australian Government listen to?

Written by: Nick G. on 21 March 2024


Original photo: Chris Shannen   Flickr Commons

Will a US arms manufacturer have more luck than Australian citizens in getting some transparency from the Australian government? 

Frustration at the lack of transparency surrounding decisions of the government is growing.

At the head of the list is self-styled “Transparency Warrior” and former independent SA Senator Rex Patrick. He has bombarded various government departments including Environment, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence with Freedom of Information requests that are more often than not denied. The former submariner and AUKUS opponent’s X (Twitter) account regularly updates readers with the lack of government transparency.

The Department of Defence is one of the least transparent, with many in the so-called defence community railing against the closed-doorism of the department. They include editor of the online Asia Pacific Defence Reporter Kym Bergmann, who has often complained about the lack of transparency in Defence. He said in a podcast last October that “the cult of secrecy – particularly surrounding anything to do with Defence and national security - is having such a corrosive effect.”

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties recently condemned the government for its lack of transparency surrounding the cancellation of visas for Palestinians escaping the Gazan genocide.

“There has not been any transparency from the government regarding their visa cancellations,” wrote Council President Lydia Shelly in an open letter to the Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil.

Peak legal body, the Australian Law Council, began the year with a call for more transparency in government policy decisions, saying the government had been much more closed off to policy discussions in the wake of the PwC tax leak scandal.

The views above represent a very broad cross-section of the Australian public, yet the government continues to have its ears in its pockets.
However, that may soon change.

US arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman “is readying itself for what it hopes will be a steady stream of business as part of the AUKUS submarine plan for Australia, two company executives” said in Canberra on March 19.

According to a report in the US online Breaking Defense platform, the company was hoping to win contracts for repair and maintenance work on the AUKUS submarines, and was also looking for “small to medium enterprises here that can provide components to the US for the US production”. 

In order to position itself to profit from the AUKUS arrangements, Northrop Grumman told the government it needed to help them by being more transparent.

Northrop Grumman executive Tom Wears called on the government to “Provide transparency on what the path ahead is. You know, what are the ultimate objectives? What’s the timeline? What are the milestones along the way so that all industry can be ready to engage at the right time to bring the information that they need to put the plan together… one thing I would encourage the government to do, is be transparent as possible on what the plans ahead are so industry can respond and be ready.”

There is no doubt that two executives of a major US imperialist weapons manufacturer will get their way where Australia citizens cannot.

This is the outcome of the sale of our national sovereignty to US imperialism and the control of our economy by US capital.


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