Australia’s big gun import figures reflects wealthy, healthy nation

An international report into the legal firearms trade has identified Australia as the sixth biggest firearms importer in 2014 and the largest small arms importer in the Oceania region from 2001 to 2014. Although unsurprising given our relatively small local manufacturing industry, high number of defence imports and wealth of our nation, the results clearly show that Australia’s firearms industry remains healthy, despite facing some challenges.

Conducted by the Small Arms Survey think-tank and sponsored by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Trade Update 2017: Out of the Shadows used data provided by participating nations to establish how many legal firearms a country imports and exports. It is important to note that the study relied on self-reporting and countries willing to hand over their data. Furthermore, the Small Arms Survey group is not an impartial organisation.

The report found that at our peak, Australia spent $US195 million on firearm imports in 2011, mostly on ammunition and sporting and hunting firearms, although the report does not differentiate between government (eg. military or police), security or civilian firearms. The majority of imports came from the United States and Italy. Our third largest trading partner, accounting for 20 per cent of imports, was listed as “unspecified”.

The United States, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Germany outranked Australia in terms of imports, but France, the Netherlands and Britain trailed behind us. For exports, Australia ranked 13th largest in the world, thanks to the success of local manufacturing companies such as Thales Australia and NIOA Australia and our prime geographical position in the Oceania region.

The study also identified the most and least transparent nations. Australia was rated moderately in terms of how transparent we are with our arms trade involvement, notching up a score of 12 out of a possible 25. In unsurprising results, the least transparent reporters included Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Australian Government sponsored the study, with DFAT contributing more than $150,000 to the Small Arms Survey for past projects. While DFAT has not publicised the latest findings, the Australian Greens Party used the report to again call for tighter gun controls and desperately sought an outright ban on lever-action shotguns. “Reinstating the ban on lever action shot guns such as the Adler is essential as it effectively is a semi-automatic weapon,” Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

The New South Wales Senator, who remains isolated from her own party due to previous run-ins, again resorted to mistruths to push the party’s anti-gun agenda. “More guns in circulation is a public health issue as more lives can be lost from accidental shootings, suicides and murders,” she said. This exact claim was recently debunked by an international report that showed wealth inequality has a greater influence on gun murder rates, not the number of known firearms in society.

While the report does not reveal any new or startling information, it is pleasing to see the healthy state of Australia’s firearms industry. The report also shows the vital cost of the legitimate arms trade to our economy, thanks in part to the nation’s one million licensed firearm owners who participate in the safe, fun and all-abilities pastime of recreational shooting and hunting.

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