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Top Guns

Disrupt Land Forces

This week’s show is about disrupting arms fairs. That’s right, the Land Forces weapons expo is on again in Brisbane at the start of October, and the community is mobilising again to disrupt it. I talk to organiser Margie Pestorius and to investigative journalist Michelle Fahy about the arms industry’s dirty links to government.

Playlist

Lowkey – Hand on your gun

Zelda Da – Jangan Bunuh Kami LagiAUS

Ryan Harvey -It’s bigger than a war

The Wild – We will drive these warlords out

August 19, 2022

Transcript

Margie Pestorius 

I’m Margie Pestorius, and I’m with the organization Wage Peace. And we’re looking at disrupting militarism in Australia, the rise of militarism, especially with the weapons corporations here,

Andy 

Yes. Well, quite topical talking about weapons corporations, because in Brisbane, in six weeks or so there will be a convergence of weapons corporations, called Land Forces. Can you tell us about it?

Margie Pestorius 

Well, it’s a massive weapons exhibition. And there’s a gathering of arms dealers; or people would-be arms dealers, there’s a lot of money around the arms dealers at the moment. So everybody gathers in Brisbane to sell what they’ve got, but mainly to try and get as much money out of the government as they can for either real projects or fake projects. So the money sloshing around, they all gather there in the Brisbane Convention Center. They make deals, it’s about 30 Billion a year at the moment that they’re transiting around themselves.

Andy 

$30 billion a year, quite a lot of money. And so, I mean, what kind of corporations are we talking about that gathering here, Land Forces,

Margie Pestorius 

The biggest weapons corporations in the world will be there. Many from the top 100. But definitely many from the top 20, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, the big American ones, Boeing, Boeing has a special relationship with the Queensland Government, of course, but also the German company Rheinmetal, which also has a special relationship with the Queensland Government. And companies such as Tallis, the French weapons company, but they what happens is they get the money from the government and then they disperse it to smaller … to a set of smaller enterprises. So all of those small enterprises all wanting a bit of a cut of the cake, that will be there as well.

Andy 

They’re, you know, small Australian companies that get a contract doing a part of a job for Rheinmetal or BAE or Lockheed Martin or something.

Margie Pestorius 

That’s right, those big companies, they get the sort of overall tender for a new tank, a jet fighter or a ship. And then they then divided up into smaller companies actually, mostly they divided amongst themselves first. And then after they divided amongst themselves, they then divide it up into smaller and smaller companies. Another company that’s quite notable, I think, is NIOA, which is an Australian company, Brisbane based … its… it made it sort of …. it managed to grow itself quite rapidly by getting a tender for all the police guns in Australia for importing all the police guns in Australia. And now it’s sort of moving into the missile sort of arena, which is the fastest sort of booming area in Australia.

Andy 

Hopefully not for the cops, the missiles.

Margie Pestorius 

Well, I think no, I think they’ve they’re sort of they’ve moved … the cops were their jump up. They’re sort of, you know, how they grew their business. And now they’re moving into military, defense contracts.

Andy 

Okay, well, I mean, police guns has been a topic of its own in recent times, especially following the death of Kumanjayi Walker, and in Yuendumu; there’s talk about the use of police firearms. So I mean, that’s one way that weapons have come up in our discussions, public discussions about justice and freedom and things like that, but Um, I mean, overall, what are? Why should we resist something like the Land Forces conference?

Well, for starters, it’s a huge waste of money. There’s a lot of, there’s so much money, you have to have some corruption with that money. You see a normalization of militarism, you see a push to sort of normalize militarism across all social sectors, including schooling and education university, you get a push by the arms dealers to take over, you know, elements of the university, you know, the best paid positions at the moment at the universities, where you have weapons companies, engineering companies sort of moving in for high level technology. But really, and then you get the actual ethical issues of where they’re rolling out the actual violence, so that some of its for money on one hand, but on the other hand, they are rolling out violence. So they are anti cops, for example. But they’re also arming, for example, the Indonesian military. And you get, you get the sort of the the, the objects that are actually being used, such as the transport vehicles, tanks, attack helicopters, and small arms, a lot of small arms. So they’re moving company countries like Indonesia, or buying those from the corporations and corporations, or even the offices of the ministers in these in most of the states, that pushing these weapons, and buying getting huge tenders, huge contracts. And then they’re being used in a place like breast pump one, to actually take control of indigenous lands, dispossessed indigenous tribes, deforest those lands. So they’re the front, the military is in the front of the enforcement of the extraction, the colonial extraction. And so if we’re going to peel back colonial colonial colonization, and decolonize, we’re going to have to deal with this. This pointy edge of militarization, which enforces extraction, enforces land stealing, enforces the dispossession of First Nations people.

Andy 

Yeah, there’s sort of two entities and they one is the frontline and of the weapons industry, which is where the weapons get used and trying to keep that in attention, while people are talking about just trade show jargon about products and things like that bring attention to where the weapons are used. But there’s also the kind of back end of lack the political corruption, the personnel revolving door and the lobbying of the arms industry and things like that in Australian politics.

Margie Pestorius 

One of the ways I explained it, this is one of the only places where the money goes directly from government to contractor, because the government’s are the dealers, you know, they’re the deliberately Defense Department. So the money just comes straight in from, for example, the fossil fuel industry, where they do even though the center life tax, they didn’t get a lot of money out of the fossil fuel industry. And then that money then has to be used somewhere. So they, they pushed out through the arms industry. So that’s the sort of the money dealing the ridiculously large projects that don’t ever really start or never get in the way or have big failures, then those vehicles and objects don’t ever get used. For example, jet fighters haven’t been used since that 1950s. Last time, they’ll use early 1950s In Korea, but we’ve had a whole we’ve bought fleets, fleets of them, between the 1950s. And now they’ve never been used as jet fighters. So there’s these ridiculous probe programs from assist the transfer of large amounts of cash into the private arena. But as you said, we’ve also got these areas where the weapons do get used, but mostly they’re small arms, transporters, tanks, you know, military vehicles and attack helicopters, drones, getting used drones get used for surveillance and finding people and they get used themselves to drop bombs on people and target people, target missiles. So, you know, so we do have a group of people who are victimized, directly victimized, and mostly that’s First Nations people first, but also people standing up in their own countries for justice, as the civil resistance, you know, you know, in many of the Global South, are being targeted by their own states with these weapons,

Lowkey – Hand on your gun 

Andy 

You’re on the Paradigm Shift on 4 triple Zed, that song you just heard is lowkey with hand on your gun, though I’m coming to you courtesy of my wife Bek who put it on the other day, a topical one for what we’re talking about. With a shout out to a few of the biggest arms companies in that song and they will be in Brisbane, from the fourth to the sixth of October for Land Forces Weapons Expo. I’ve been speaking with Margie Pestorius about what land forces is and why people are getting together to disrupt it. Let’s go back to that.

Andy 

Back to land forces. It’s a convergence of 100 or more weapons industry companies in Brisbane at the convention center. Now last year it this happened and there was a big resistance to it organized by disrupt land forces, I guess do you want to talk talk a bit about what happened last year?

Margie Pestorius 

Yeah, well, we, our idea is to disrupt it enough so that they don’t come back, they don’t come back to this community. Hopefully, they won’t come back to any community. But we making sure they don’t come back to this community and not wanting to hear they’re not welcome. So there’s a sense that we’re going to make things unpleasant, and make them feel unwelcome. And we’re going to find different ways of doing that. But you know, that’s not that nice. So we also have to find ways that that keep us connected, and make sure that we’re having enough of a good time to keep doing it because we have to be really persistent. So we’ll get quite a few days before it starts, we’ll look at how we can disrupt the bumping (?) how we can disrupt the vehicles going in and the setup, the big tanks going in the trucks, food, all the stuff that goes into a big conference center, we’ll also be having a sort of almost like a festival of ideas, we want to tell the stories of Radical Brisbane, we think there’s not it’s not a surprise that this is happening. This sort of resistance is happening in Brisbane because Brisbane has such a strong history of, of radical resistance. And we’re drawing on that we’re drawing on the community of that we’re drawing on the memories of that and we want to tell those stories. We want to bring people together. We want to remember that this city was militarized Aboriginal people here were militarized. And we want you know, we want to tell those stories, but we want to tell them in a way that’s also disruptive. So we want to find ways of also making the people attending unwelcome and having a really horrible time. It’s smelly time, noisy time, the time where people just tell them you are not welcome in this town. So there’ll be a mixture of different sorts of tactics, we’ve got ‘unwelcome clowns’, u’nwelcoming clowns’, or we might have other people who actually tried to stop vehicles going in there the sort of things that we did last year, I imagine those sorts of things will pop up again next year.

Andy 

Some things are the same this year, I mean, it’s going to be in the same venue at the Convention Center. And I guess a lot of the companies will be the same. And a lot of the groups are getting together to be part of disrupt land forces, probably the same other are there things that will have changes between last year and this year?

Margie Pestorius 

Well, I think, be more international visitors, because the international borders are open. So they did have international visitors last year, but they, I guess is most of them came through the embassies. And people were travelling, rich people and government people were traveling. But my guess is we’ll have more visitors from overseas this year. You know, this, each of the states are buying each of the states trying to sell. So. And they do that both in partnership with the big corporations. So I think that that’s one thing, let’s see different. But you know, Andy what we’re wanting is, especially for the people of Brisbane to come down, it’s quite, it’s quite a long time, it’ll be over seven days that the conference itself was only three days, but we like to prepare, so that by the time we’re starting people are ready, they know what they’re doing they are connected and having fun, and then know what sort of things are going to suit them to participate in participating but creatively when people come down with creative arts and music, creative theater, sort of … we’re ordinary people just trying to take back space in the streets of South Brisbane and make sure that these South Brisbane streets are not taken up by the arms industry, for its ???

Andy 

The militarism and the weapons industry and the army, I guess, have a lot of propaganda on this side. Just look at the most popular movie this year is, you know about the Air Force and whatever. And of course, cultural and as well as advertising and things like that. But land forces, there’s not so much public discourse around it. Is it just the government and the industry? Do they try to keep it quiet? Or are they trying to promote to the public what’s going on there?

Margie Pestorius 

I reckon it’s there that people are just not looking at it. This is one of the amazing things about Australia is we we go through life without blinkers on and we don’t look at things that we find uncomfortable or difficult or that we don’t want to know about. I think it’s a bit like the climate crisis slump for a long time, people didn’t want to look at it because it was too painful to own up to what was going on. And then you get through that you get through that period. And then you’re like, Alright, let’s do something about it. I think we’ve got to be going through that period with the weapons industry for a while. And I know that for me to go and look at what was going on, it’s not hard to find, you just have to subscribe to a couple of military magazines. And they tell you every day, you get a media release every day about a deal that’s been done or contract being signed, it’s all in plain sight. Where are they putting that information? It’s not hard to find that I don’t think they’re hiding it. So yeah, it’s just, you know, specialist if you like, especially sort of information. So we’re look, we we want people to go and look and start to not be avoided and expose yourself and just notice what’s going on. Because it’s pretty, it’s can be a little frightening. But we’re finding we’re getting wins. I mean, even last week, there was a STEM Education and Defense conference in South Brisbane. And we put pressure on one of the presenters, which was, which was a, which is quite a large community organization that was presenting their on some work that it does drones, I won’t say the name of the organization, but they did pull out. And we found that you know, if people actually put them under the gaze and under a community gaze and so what are you doing with weapons corporations? What are you doing presenting at a conference that’s sponsored by weapons Corporation for weapons business? And, you know, they’ll pull out because they know it’s the wrong thing to be doing?

Andy 

All right, well, if people are interested in disrupt land forces, how can they find out more info and potentially get involved?

Margie Pestorius 

We have a terrific site at disrupt land forces.org We’re just saying how it is. That’s what we’re doing. We’re disrupting land forces, the weapons exhibition, disrupt land forces.org. You can go there and there’s a couple of different places you can sign up to participate. Come to our public meeting. We’ve got a public meeting on the 10th of September and it’s going to be a great public meeting, drawing connections to the history In this town Aboriginal history and the way surveillance, incarceration and militarization have continued to subject Aboriginal people over time and and the way that non First Nations people have been caught up in a sort of pretense about that so we need to it’s about sort of opening ourselves to these ideas and to come along to that and get to know us there’s lots of places that you can join you don’t have to be right down there in the thick of things we’ve got a great kitchen group we’ve got lots of crafting happening in music you know there’s there’ll be a place for you whatever you’re interested in

Andy 

Alright, thanks very much Margie.