The Business of War, Part 2


Last week in New Matilda, in my first piece on Australia and the Business of War, I didn’t quite get it right concerning ADI (formerly, Australian Defence Industries).

ADI is the primary defence contractor for the Australian Defence Force and used to be an Australian government-owned monopoly until it was fully privatised in 1999. Today, the global French arms manufacturer, Thales, shares its 50 per cent stake in ADI with Transfield Holdings, but Thales plans to buy Transfield’s share and Transfield has agreed to the sale subject to the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Image from Peace Not War: Art Gallery

When and if the FIRB agrees to the transaction, the foreign takeover of ADI will be complete.

Thales was established in France more than a century ago. It is a global electronics and armaments company, one-third owned by the French State. It has operations in more than 30 countries and employs 60,000 people. In 2004, the Thales group generated 10.3 billion in revenues. So they’re up there with the big boys in the armaments and killing industry.

To quote from their website, ‘Thales people around the world are committed to making your high-tech world a safer place and your future more secure.’ Tell that to the people in Iraq and Darfur.

ADI is Australia’s leading defence, engineering and systems contractor. It has annual sales of AUD$700 million and employs about 2500 people. Among a host of military products (including ground, maritime and air systems), ADI manufactures rifle and small-arms ammunition, grenades, bombs, anti-missile shells, demolition charges, propellants, explosives, chemicals and missile warheads. It also produces reliable handcuffs and stun guns.

Among ADI’s many overseas customers is the Hodgdon Powder Company of the USA, which produces a wide variety of smokeless powders for sporting shooters. In their mission statement, Hodgdon say that their purpose is to provide top quality goods and bring credit to the Lord Jesus Christ. They also urge their customers to join the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.

ADI’s corporate office is at Garden Island, NSW, but they have other facilities in eastern Australia. One of the biggest is in Benalla, Victoria, where they have invested AUD$160 million. There, they manufacture small-arms ammunition for rifles, machine guns and cannons; large-calibre ammunition for naval and field artillery; together with grenades and explosive products. Also in Victoria, the Australian Government has committed AUD$200 million to ADI’s facility at Mulwala, where rocket propellants, chemicals and high explosives are manufactured.

The Managing Director of ADI is one Lucio Di Bartolomeo (also Director of Thales Australia). Lucio is a qualified civil engineer, an Australian citizen and he has three children. Chris Jenkins is Director of Operations and enjoys sailing, the beach and time with his family, Mary-Lou and son, Tom. Kerry Irwin is Director of Human Resources, and her personal interests include horses, reading, skiing and tennis. Darryl Page is Director of Land-Ordnance (which includes the manufacture of ammunition, small-arms weapons, bombs, handcuffs and demolition devices). He enjoys fishing, fine food and the family. Alan Ball is Director of Finance. From the UK, he recently became an Australian citizen and his interests include golf, soccer, kayaking and relaxing with his family.

Thus, ADI is in the hands of upright, hard-working, family-orientated, sports-loving people.

ADI is very much concerned with ethics. They deliver ‘maximum shareholder value.’ They say that ‘doing business demands ethical behaviour.’ And they care for the environment. Their statement on ethics does not include anything about manufacturing products that kill and maim human beings.

The locals in Benalla and Mulwala have welcomed ADI’s expansion in their districts. ADI have provided employment in the area, and have put Benalla and Mulwala ‘on the map.’ ADI Bendigo (Victoria) has helped raise over $13,000 as part of the town’s campaign to help Leanne Galtieri in her courageous fight against breast cancer. At the Bendigo plant, ADI manufactures mounts for machine guns and medium-calibre guns for British Aerospace.

ADI has strong affiliations with the CSIRO and leading tertiary institutions. Notable partners include Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Raytheon, BAE Systems and Steyr Mannlicher all large arms manufacturers. ADI is an expert in major gun systems.

With the exception of ABC News on-line on 11 March and the Yahoo business news story linked above, I don’t think the mainstream media print or broadcasting has mentioned the Thales bid for ADI. And it is very doubtful if the average punter has heard of either Thales or ADI. There has been no public discussion of the production of armaments in Australia whatsoever, and the very real prospect of its being outsourced to a company partly owned by a foreign government.

Some wit once said that the business of business is business. So it is. The end product is of no consequence, providing ‘maximum shareholder value’ is delivered. Thus, there is no real economic difference between ADI and, say, McDonald’s. Whatever government is in power, it makes no difference to large companies. But with Howard and the Liberals, corporate life is more predictable.

It seems there is not a great deal we can do about ADI, or any arms manufacturers. But for the media in Australia to ignore such an issue, is, perhaps, one of the greatest crimes of all.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.