Richard Di Natale labels Australian arms sales to Saudi Arabia ‘contemptible’ | Australia news
Richard Di Natale has criticised the Morrison government’s response to the killing of a journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi Arabian embassy and accused it of making a “contemptible choice” to sell arms to the Gulf state.
The Australian Greens leader is set to make the comments in a speech to the Australian Council for International Development conference on Tuesday in which he also targets Scott Morrison for copying Donald Trump’s policy on the possible embassy move in Israel.
In January the Coalition announced Australia aims to become one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters. The policy, while criticised at the time, has been drawn into sharper focus by the government’s indecision over whether to impose an arms export ban on Saudi Arabia in retaliation against the killing of Washington Post reporter Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
In a Senate estimates hearing last week, the Department of Defence admitted it had made 14 approvals of military gear and services to Saudi Arabia in the past two years. On the same day, defence minister Marise Payne would not rule out an export ban, saying “all options are on the table”.
In the speech, seen by Guardian Australia, Di Natale criticises the Australian government’s handling of Saudi Arabia, noting it took “weeks for our foreign minister to respond” to the Khashoggi incident and “we’ve barely heard a peep about Saudi atrocities in Yemen”.
“At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, many going about their business – attending weddings, children on their way to school, doing their groceries … 13 million people are being deliberately starved as a weapon on war.”
Di Natale said Australia continues to sell military equipment to Saudi Arabia’s national guard.
“The Morrison government is making a contemptible choice. It has an economic plan built on weapons of death rather than one that promotes a sustainable future.
“Our response to the gruesome Saudi regime is one of many examples of our crawling retreat on human rights and development globally.”
Di Natale also criticises Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australia will consider moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as “another sign of Australia’s complete capitulation to Donald Trump’s erratic and reactionary view of the world”.
He says the possible embassy move amounts to “offering tacit support for the Israeli government’s illegal settlement enterprise, the Gaza blockade and its disproportionate use of force”.
Di Natale accuses both Labor and Coalition governments of gutting the foreign aid budget, to its “lowest point in our history as a proportion of gross national income (GNI)”.
He says the government is “more intent on pandering to xenophobes and racists than standing up for the world’s most vulnerable people”.
In April, then minister for international development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, claimed that increasing aid spending was politically untenable while calling on UK to pay more.
Di Natale predicts the Coalition will lose the next election, and says the Greens are the only party to commit to spending 0.7% GNI by 2030 on foreign aid.
In February Labor’s shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong committed that Labor will rebuild and grow the aid program “to the fullest extent that financial circumstances allow … in a timely manner”.