The world’s biggest weapons manufacturers will descend on Brisbane for Land Forces— the largest military conference ever to take place in the South Pacific. On 1-3 June, merchants of death will mingle with the government ministers, strategise for war and showcase the latest breakthrough killing and maiming technologies.
At the 12 May sitting of Queensland parliament, Greens MP Amy MacMahon questioned Labor Treasurer Cameron Dick about how much public funding was being devoted to the Land Forces expo. He refused to answer and instead said: “We do not apologise for supporting the defence industry. We have always been at the front lines of defence. Now we want to be at the front lines of defence manufacturing”.
Indeed, Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk, on signing a $27 billion contract with Rheinmetall Defence Australia to build 450 infantry fighting vehicles, said: “Queensland is proud to be Australia’s khaki state”.
The Land Forces conference will bring together close to 300 organisations involved in all aspects of militarism, from invention to deployment. The attendees engineer, manufacture, sell and profit from the missiles, fighter jets, bombs, armoured vehicles and chemical weapons deployed in warfare and occupations.
Among the attendees will be Lockheed Martin, the biggest supplier of the US military, producing the bombs and planes responsible for the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, the company has finessed a chilling design: fighter jets capable of carrying hypersonic missiles that travel five times the speed of sound.
Another stallholder will be Boeing, a major manufacturer of MK-84s—a 904-kilogram bomb described as “general purpose”—which have been dropped everywhere from Vietnam in the 1970s to Saudi Arabia’s current assault on Yemen. The Queensland-based arms company NIOA will also be in attendance. NIOA is Australia’s largest privately owned arms supplier.
Despicable regimes the world over are fortified by the products of Land Forces attendees: BAE Systems provides Israel with F-16 fighter jets responsible for flattening Palestinian homes; Thales supplies the Indonesian government tools for its brutal occupation of West Papua.
The conference is a warning that war is becoming more likely. Competition between the United States and China has been intensifying, drawing states behind one or another axis. The shadow-boxing of tariffs and ripping up of trade deals is increasingly giving way to open talk of conflict.
On Anzac Day, Home Affairs Department secretary Mike Pezzullo penned a letter to staff saying that “the drums of war beat” and warning them to brace “for the curse of war”. Shortly after, Defence Minister Peter Dutton chimed in that a war against China over Taiwan “should not be discounted”. This was followed by Liberal Senator Jim Molan, in the Australian, writing that “war is not just possible in our region, but likely”.
Left-wing activists should heed these calls by resisting our government’s aggressive militarism and nationalism. A US-led war against China would be too gruesome to fathom. But the psychopaths who run the world will be preparing for it, with pomp and ceremony, at the Land Forces expo.
That’s why the Shut Down Land Forces campaign will blockade the event. The attendees deserve to be shamed for daring to sell their weapons of mass destruction in our city. But there is a bigger fight here. Australia is a firm and enthusiastic supporter of the United States in the new cold war. This conflict represents a jostling for power among the world’s exploiters, who expect workers and the oppressed to sacrifice for their benefit.
We must demand the resources devoted to militarism be redirected to bettering society. The $270 billion the Morrison government is committing to the military over the next decade could fund completely free tertiary education in Australia for the next 30 years. The brain power that has produced weapons of death should be deployed to find solutions to the climate crisis. The Queensland government, instead of partnering with Rheinmetall to build tanks in Ipswich, should be pouring resources into training doctors, nurses and paramedics to deal with the health crisis still unfolding across the world.
The Land Forces conference crystallises everything that is sick about capitalism today. We should protest it, as the first step in what needs to be a long, determined resistance to militarism and war.
Protest the Land Forces expo, 7:00am, 1 June, outside the Brisbane Convention Centre.