ACT remote weapons systems manufacturer, Electro Optic Systems Holdings, which has hitched its wagon to countries known to be engaged in gross violations of human rights and likely war crimes, wins big from the Coalition’s weapons announcement on eve of by-election, writes Michelle Fahy.
The Coalition Government’s announcement of the purchase of 251 more remote weapons systems manufactured by the Canberra and Queanbeyan-based Electro Optic Systems (EOS) Pty Ltd was a nice “announceable” on the eve of the crucial Eden-Monaro by-election and gave welcome media coverage to EOS.
EOS was in the headlines last year for a very different reason: it supplies the same weapon systems to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that are waging war in Yemen, and in the process creating the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, including the mass starvation of children.
The company has justified its exports (it exports 90-95% of its weapons systems) saying,
“Foreign sales significantly reduce the cost of development, acquisition and support for Australia for defence technology. This is the principal reason why Australian industry participates in international sales.”
EOS has denied its weapons are being used in Yemen by the Saudis and UAE. But that is not the point. The point is that this is a company willing to secure its financial future by doing business with countries the UN has said are known to be engaged in gross violations of human rights and likely also war crimes.
Handy little earner
But back to the by-election. In January, the government spent $50 million on 82 EOS remote weapons systems destined for the Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles. These numbers suggest that yesterday’s announcement of 251 more systems could cost in the vicinity of $150 million. A handy earner for a local weapons producer.
Following on from the government’s big defence announcement on Wednesday, at Thursday’s media event at EOS the government emphasised the defence industry jobs the contract would create for local industry. EOS has a production facility in Queanbeyan, and another nearby in Hume in the ACT.
The Prime Minister was at the media event, as was Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, head government arms buyer Tony Fraser and Liberal candidate Dr Fiona Kotvojs.
Weapons order brought forward
The chief executive of EOS, Ben Greene, was remarkably frank about the suddenness with which the government had brought forward the purchase. He referred to the order having been on the cards “at a later period” but then said the government had “very … intelligently, others would say kindly, and others would say far-sighted, brought forward” the purchase.
Still others might call it pork-barrelling on the eve of a crucial by-election — as we’ve seen in previous elections. But Dr Greene was full of praise, thanking the Government for a very welcome and much-needed element of support for his company.
UPDATE: Australian Defence Magazine published an article saying the new EOS contract is worth “almost $100 million”. As at 10 July 2020, no contract has appeared on the government’s Austender website. The article also noted, “The requirement had been identified by Defence and had not been allocated funding under the current planning model. Thanks to a push from government to maintain Australian supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was funded in weeks rather than years.”