Australia has approved 322 defence exports to Israel over the past six years, according to new figures that will fuel questions at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
The government-compiled figures, which include 49 permits for Israel-bound exports last year and 23 in the first three months of this year, may cover both military-specific goods and also dual-use devices.
The Greens’ defence spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said Australia had “one of the most secretive and unaccountable weapons export systems in the world”, given that it doesn’t break down the exact items exported.
The number of permits for Israel peaked at 62 in 2021, before dropping to 49 in 2022, followed by a further 23 in January to March this year.
Israel was one of 14 countries for which Shoebridge sought defence export figures. The Philippines was the second-largest destination among the countries that were part of the question, with 158 permits in the same period.
Other destinations included Mali (70 permits) and Burkina Faso (56 permits).
Previous disclosures indicated that Australia approved 21 permits for the export of military or dual-use equipment to Saudi Arabia between 1 January and 9 November 2022, an increase on previous levels to that country.
In the response detailing the figures, the government said permits were “required for a broad range of goods and technologies such as software, radios or chemicals that have legitimate civilian and commercial applications”.
“Every export permit decision must assess any relevant human rights risks and Australia’s compliance with its international obligations,” the government response said.
“If Defence identified an export might be used to facilitate human rights abuses, a permit would be refused.”
The government said each export application was assessed against criteria that include foreign policy, human rights, national security, regional security and Australia’s international obligations such as the arms trade treaty.
But the Greens argue Australia should join other countries in publishing “who we are selling weapons to, what those weapons are and how much they cost”.
“When Australia changed governments last year there was hope it would reverse the Coalition’s push to make Australia a top 10 global arms dealer,” Shoebridge said.
“Instead, the Albanese government has doubled down on arms sales to some of the world’s most troubling regimes.”
Last week a veteran US state department official quit his role in protest against arms sales to Israel, saying he had made many “moral compromises” during his 11 years at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Josh Paul said in a letter posted on LinkedIn that he had promised to stay in that role “for as long as I felt the harm I might do could be outweighed by the good I could do”.
“I am leaving today because I believe that in our current course with regards to the continued – indeed, expanded and expedited – provision of lethal arms to Israel, I have reached the end of that bargain,” Paul wrote.
The US said this week it was sending military advisers and air defence systems to Israel ahead of an anticipated ground assault into Gaza by Israel’s military.
The Australian government has joined the US in affirming Israel’s right to self-defence after the 7 October Hamas attack, but has also called for the protection of civilian lives and humanitarian access to Gaza.
The Israeli ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, is due to speak about the war in an address in Canberra on Wednesday.