Phillip Thomson August 19, 2012
More than $13 million of Australian-made military equipment has been exported to three Middle Eastern nations in the past three years, all with the help of the Australian government.
Turkey, Oman and Saudi Arabia have become some of the Australian industry's newest customers, according to the Defence Materiel Organisation.
But the Defence Department refuses to say what private companies have been exporting to the three nations.
While Australian companies have sent relatively little to the three countries at the moment in defence terms, the lucrative market could turn out to be the proverbial gold mine for businesses here in the future.
The Defence Export Unit (DEU), an Australian government initiative to help private contractors find overseas customers, has taken a trade mission to the Middle East.
The DEU was formed to ensure Australian had a strong, long-term military industry by helping contractors find business so they do not have to rely on only servicing Australian defence needs.
The government also established an Australian Military Sales Office (AMSO) last month, a one-stop shop to allow the government to sell Australian-made defence equipment that is in service with the ADF, directly to other governments on behalf of Australian manufacturers.
A visiting fellow at Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Derek Woolner, said Saudi Arabia was a particularly lucrative but difficult market to crack into.
Saudi Arabia spends more of its GDP than any other country in the world on weapons and military equipment, according to The Economist.
The oil-rich Arab state spends more than 10 per cent of GDP on defence.
It means Australia's market share - which equates to just several hundred thousand dollars since 2009 - can be described as insignificant.
Turkey has bought $12.2 million of military equipment from Australian companies in the past three-and-a-half years.
Oman purchased $964,000.
John O'Callaghan from the Australian Industry Group's defence council said private defence companies here were finding conditions difficult at the moment because of the country's high dollar and cuts to the government's defence budget.