An extra $50.3 billion will be pumped into Australia’s defence as part of the 2024 National Defence Strategy, Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced at the federal budget last night. 

The boost makes the total allocated for defence $330 billion over the next decade, according to the Department of Defence.

But a Sydney solicitor said the Albanese government’s foreign policy remained vague, especially on the Middle East, and she called on the government to make clear the money would not be used to support allied countries carrying out war crimes.

Rita Jabri Markwell, from Birchgrove Legal, which in March referred Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other ministers to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for complicity in genocide by Israel, said the government was vague on whether Australian weaponry could be used to commit war crimes or be involved in a potential genocide.

“Two narratives are coming from the Albanese Government – one about exercising caution to respect international law; and another that says full steam ahead for US and Israel’s global supply chain to support the US to uphold its version of the global rules based order,” said Markwell.

“That second narrative is about national security, jobs and growth – and some lives simply do not matter in that paradigm.”

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, introduced the National Defence Strategy to the National Press Club as a “necessary defence reform” in response to the 2023 Defence Strategic Review.

Another country could bring genocide convention-based proceedings against Australia, as Nicaragua has done against Germany because Germany is a major supplier to Israel.

The Review found that “for the first time in 80 years we must go back to fundamentals, to take a first-principles approach as to how we manage and seek to avoid the highest level of strategic risk we now face as a nation: the prospect of major conflict in the region that directly threatens our national interest”.

“The 2024 Integrated Investment Program is the first version of Defence’s 10-year procurement plan,” Marles said.

The program’s investment priorities include the nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS, developments in cyber capabilities and electronic warfare, and the development of a “sovereign ability to produce, maintain, repair and overhaul selected weapons”.

“In a world of rapid economic change and heightened strategic competition, investing in modern defence industries serves our economic and national security interests,” Chalmers said, addressing parliament last night.

Yiannis Ventikos, the Dean of Engineering at Monash University, said such investment was critical to further developments beyond defence manufacturing and technology.

“The Integrated Investment Program 2024 is definitely a step in the right direction,” he told Central News. “I believe it shows commitment and a longer term view, which is definitely required when issues like technology, upskilling and national sovereignty are discussed.

“An investment initially aiming at defence technologies translates into capability, and this capability finds applications, quickly and emphatically, in the commercial sector, leading to new manufacturing competences, a skilled workforce that will eventually find high-tech employment outside the defence sector, and in general an innovation ecosystem that from a certain point feeds itself.

“The example has been used so many times that it has become cliché, but we are reminded that Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and a whole bunch of other companies, worth collectively many trillion dollars, were made possible by Blue Sky defence investment of the USA government into resilient communications, that gave rise to the Internet.

“This investment can pump-prime a resurgence of knowledge-based advanced manufacturing in this country that can be the most transformative event in the Australian economy ever.”

However, apprehension remains that the funding may be utilised to further foreign relations while in potential breach of international law.

In late March, Greens Senator David Shoebridge told The Guardian the Albanese government was content for “ongoing two-way military trade” with Israel, with Australia providing ‘defence-related’ exports, such as items with both commercial and civilian uses like software, radio and chemicals.

“A pencil is used for writing, it is not designed in of itself to be a weapon but it can be a weapon,” Hugh Jeffrey from the Department of Defence stated in response to allegations of Australian manufacturers providing bomb bay doors for the Israeli Defence Force F-35 fighter jets being used to bomb the Palestinians in Gaza.


According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia and Israel have been working towards expanding cooperation on national security, defence and cyber security since 2017 with the Memorandum of Understanding of Defence Cooperation.

The 2018 Defence Export Strategy set out a “comprehensive system to plan, guide and measure defence export outcomes” until 2028, according to the Defence Department.

The Export Strategy also clearly states that “Israel has an advanced and innovative defence industry that also presents opportunities for [the] Australian defence industry to collaborate on the development of advanced capabilities”.

However, While the 2024 National Defence Strategy states that “Australia remains committed to transparency about Australia’s strategic intentions and defence capabilities”, the government continues to remain increasingly unclear about what the defence relationship between Israel and Australia entails, particularly since the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas in October last year.

The 2024 National Defence Strategy also states investing in [global] partnerships ensures the Government can respond to unexpected events that impact Australia’s interests, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East.

While visiting Ukraine in late April, Defence Minister Marles affirmed unwavering support for Ukraine through a $100 million assistance package that includes “world leading drone technology, with the support of local Australian defence industry”. 

Since Russia’s invasion, Australia has provided over $1 billion in support of Ukraine.

Enough evidence exists to make reasonable inferences and ask critical questions, but the government holds many of the cards in refusing to answer certain questions.

“It is also extremely hard to have information released on some details of Australia’s defence exports to UK, US and Germany that are part of Israel’s global supply chain,” said Markwell.

“Enough evidence exists to make reasonable inferences and ask critical questions, but the government holds many of the cards in refusing to answer certain questions.” 

Markwell said there were distinct legal ramifications for Australia’s investment in defence that may be used to support a plausible genocide.

“Another country could bring genocide convention-based proceedings against Australia, as Nicaragua has done against Germany because Germany is a major supplier to Israel,” she said. 

“It also opens up individual criminal responsibility for Prime Minister Albanese, Defence Minister Marles and Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy for being accessories to genocide.” 

And when addressing the National Press Club, Marles said “the strategic landscape in the Indo-Pacific is intimately connected with the success of Ukraine in its efforts to resist Russian aggression”.

The Defence Strategy outlines defence engagement with Indo-Pacific partners by “embracing bilateral, minilateral and multilateral opportunities to support mutual interests,” with nation states in the region such as Indonesia and Japan as “essential” and “indispensable” partners.

Last week, An Australian Navy helicopter was forced to evade flares released by a Chinese military jet.

In response, the Department of Defence released a statement expressing their concerns to the Chinese Government.

The Albanese government also announced last week it will spend up to $18 billion in the next 10 years to develop defence bases across Australia’s north in response to potential security threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

Main image by ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office/Wikimedia Commons