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Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 03:05 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 03:05 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The ethics of weapons exports

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13 January 2009 10:22

Crispin Rovere objects to my post about Israel's weapons procurement from Europe. I argued that it was disingenuous for the UK to claim that it only exported weapons where it judged there was no risk the weapons would be used for aggression or repression — responsibility for the use of such weapons should lie overwhelmingly with Israel:

You don't think that you might be getting just a little bit ranty with that one? Presumably they interpret risk to mean the initial reasons behind the weapon procurement, rather than what could be done with them over their entire shelf life. By this rationale, Australia has no responsibility whatsoever for who we export uranium to.

I take exception to the 'rant' claim, but I see Crispin's point. No doubt the UK does assess only the initial reasons for a given weapons purchase request, because trying to judge how it might be used over the life of the weapon is clearly too high a standard to meet. That was my point, and that's what makes the UK claim that it acts responsibly in such cases sound so thin. Short of pulling out of the weapons business altogether, there's just no way you can claim to be that upright.

Clearly some level of responsibility rests with the exporter, particularly if there is clear and unambiguous reason to think weapons would be used for aggression. But that hardly ever happens. So I wouldn't argue that Australia carries no responsibility for who it exports uranium to, but I would say the vast weight of responsibility rests with the party that imports it.

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