Australian defence firms have secured contracts to supply military equipment to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest importer of arms.
The Department of Defence has not named the firms or the equipment, citing commercial-in-confidence rules.
DoD has approved four military exports to Saudi Arabia in the past year and the Australian government has led the push for more.
The news comes after Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne unveiled the government's new defence export strategy.
The new strategy is aiming to reverse Australia's globally ranked import and export numbers, which currently sit at fifth and 20th respectively.
Minister Pyne visited Riyadh in December to promote Australian defence industry and products to senior government figures, including Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah al-Saud, the head of the National Guard. A delegation of Australian defence industry representatives also visited Saudi Arabia at the same time.
A spokesperson for Minister Pyne said the Australian government is determined to expand Australian defence industry exports internationally, including to Saudi Arabia. The spokesperson said by expanding the Australian defence industry, Australia will create more high-tech manufacturing jobs and opportunities for Australian businesses.
The spokesperson also said the minister received a very positive reception, as did the business representatives who visited, and that work is now underway to build on this with exploration of possible opportunities not just in defence industry, but in vocational education, training and the mining sector.
The defence contracts with Saudi Arabia have come under fire, with critics citing accusations of war crimes committed against Yemen by Saudi Arabia.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Arab states on a bombing campaign in Yemen's north against Houthi rebels.
The United Nations recently stated at least 10,000 civilians had been killed in the conflict and warned some coalition attacks "may amount to war crimes".
A spokesperson for Minister Pyne said the export of controlled goods such as military equipment is subject to strict controls, which reflect Australia's international obligations as a responsible global citizen. Sales to Saudi Arabia strictly adhere to all of these obligations.
Consideration of export applications includes an assessment against the following five criteria:
- International obligations;
- National security;
- Human rights;
- Regional security; and
- Foreign policy.
With regard to the situation in Yemen, Australia continues to urge all those involved there to end the conflict and return to negotiations towards a permanent end to hostilities.