What people say about the Canberra Airport arms ads

Cartoon: Simon Kneebone

Sue Salthouse

2015 Canberra Citizen of the Year

Canberra Airport could showcase our region's tourist attractions, but instead visitors are greeted by decor more suited to an army base. The Canberra airport owners are leaders in our community; their philanthropy addresses disadvantage. I call on their leadership for a policy of ethical advertising at the airport.

Professor John Langmore

Melbourne School of Government, and former Member for Fraser, ACT

It is shocking to be greeted in Canberra as if it is a military base. It is in fact the national capital which is committed to strengthening national security in the fullest sense. That means that it should above all be seeking to settle disputes by peaceful means. Promotion of weapons also implies advocating their use, which is irresponsible.

Ninety-nine percent of the people who pass through the Canberra Terminal would have nothing to do with weapons purchasing. The weapons ads are not only distasteful; they are also likely to intensify caution and even hostility amongst those who visit from other countries. It is foolhardy provocation to advertise in ways that suggest Australia has a militaristic stance.

Paul Daley

Award-winning journalist and author

I'm always repelled and slightly confused when I come home and go to pick up my bag at the carousel, to be confronted by these huge banners advertising the merchandise of death at Canberra Airport. Repelled, because this city, my home, is a socially and politically progressive place that was built as the home of the new Federation - a federation forged in peace. And confused, because I don't know who these advertisements or promotions are speaking to. It's an awful welcome message to visitors. Get rid of these ads for the machines of death.

Geoff Page

Canberra poet

(From a letter to Canberra Airport Group on 18 August 2015)

As a relatively frequent visitor to your well-designed and efficient Canberra Airport, I must take some moral and aesthetic exception to the military/industrial advertising now displayed above your baggage carousels.

I recognise that an effective military force on land, sea and air is essential to a democracy moderately threatened by state powers and asymmetric terrorism but these advertisements truly belong somewhere else (possibly at the Australian Defence Force Academy where I am also am a frequent visitor or in specialist publications read by those in charge of defence materiel).

There is no place for them in a spacious, new building that is also distinguished by high quality public sculptures. It would be far better to have images of the natural and human attractions of Canberra and its surrounding regions, probably in photographs of the same quality as those currently advertising defence ‘systems’ analogous to those which were also used, we might remind ourselves, to shoot defenceless civilians out of the sky over the Ukraine last year.

(Bishop, ret’d) Pat Power

Retired Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn
2009 Canberra Citizen of the Year

My concern for peace in the world and my pride in Canberra as the national capital impel me to campaign against arms advertising at the gateway to our city. Innovative ideas for building peace in the world would be a much more worthy endeavour.

Dr Mitchell Smith

Director, NSW Refugee Health Service

Dr Smith worked for 25 years both in Australia and overseas promoting the health of people of refugee background, who are escaping the impacts of weapons of war:

As a public health physician concerned with prevention of death and illness, it is inconceivable to me that the gateway to our nation's capital city would display advertisements for arms industry companies. Australia and its capital should showcase natural and built beauty, cultural diversity and peaceful co-habitation, not weapons of war. I find the latter ads to be offensive, both personally and professionally.

Professor Peter Stanley

UNSW Canberra

Defence is a vital national function and an honourable calling, but visitors to Canberra should not face advertisements placed by defence industry firms as they arrive in our city. That projects a distorted view of what Canberra is about - it is a community, not just the venue for defence lobbyists. Canberra airport should be promoting Canberra, not a few defence contractors - who anyway will add the cost of their airport promotions to the bill the Australian taxpayer will have to foot.

Dr. Stuart Rees AM

Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney

The violence promoted by advertisements for the arms industry sends the wrong message in any airport, let alone one that serves a nation's capital city.

Dr Douglas Newton

Historian, author of “Hell-Bent: Australia’s Leap Into the Great War”

In essence the idea that military manufacturing companies can use billboards to generate public enthusiasm for their brand advertises their belief that their great raid on the public coffers can be assisted by flag-waving emotions. It is self-evidently an indictment of these companies' thinking!

Colin D Butler

Fmr Professor of Public Health, University of Canberra

Canberra airport is the gateway of many international visitors to our national capital. While waiting to collect their luggage these visitors see images of warfare and repulse. These images subliminally convey fear. While I believe that fear characterises the inner thoughts of many Australians it is not in our national interest that this be reinforced. These images should be replaced by something uplifting, welcoming, creative and Australian.

Dr Margaret Beavis

President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)

Many people find these advertisements deeply offensive. They believe these massive armaments make us poorer not safer, project fear not friendship to our neighbours, and foster an arms race in our region. They divert money from education and health and development aid, and divert our attention from working together to address climate change and the other real threats.

Dr Marianne Hanson (DPhil, Oxford)

Associate Professor of International Relations and Foundation Director, Rotary Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, The School of Political Science & International Studies, University of Queensland

I believe that it is completely inappropriate that Canberra Airport is displaying advertisements promoting the arms industry. As an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, specialising in arms control and disarmament issues, I urge you to remove these advertisements because I believe that they help to fuel global arms acquisitions and cultures of militarism which are responsible for up to 500,000 deaths every year.

Many of those killed are women and children, and numerous studies of gender-based violence suggest that the promotion of military cultures and access to deadly weapons have enabled these killings to flourish. As such, and in the spirit of promoting an image of Australia as a good international citizen – Australia was, after all, a key supporter of the UN’s recent Arms Trade Treaty – I believe that these images should be removed.

Weapons trade fairs are increasingly being seen as anachronistic and out of touch with the vast majority of ordinary citizens. On a personal level, I find it offensive that any advertising for weapons should appear at your venue.

Dr Peter Karamoskos

Radiologist, Melbourne

It is offensive and inappropriate for a manufacturer of anti-aircraft weapons (Raytheon) to advertise at an airport.

Margaret O’Callaghan, Canberra

Former UN staff member

I was appalled when I first saw the military-type advertisements above the luggage carousel - I found them very offensive and completely inappropriate for a place which is the first stopping-off point for visitors to the capital of Australia. Extraordinarily out of place, like lying a machine gun across one’s front door mat. Where is the warm welcome to our beautiful capital city with photos of the lake etc – and a cheerful greeting?

Alice T. Day PhD and Lincoln H. Day PhD

Washington DC

We are Americans who lived and worked in Canberra for 24 years and in 1991 took out Australian citizenship …..Imagine our dismay, when we learned that Canberra Airport, where we always looked forward to returning, features ads for military weaponry. In a time of deep concern about climate change, advertising weapons that wound lives and destroy the earth is not only offensive but anathema to the goals of the world’s peoples for reining in global warming and restoring a healthy planet.

Brett Odgers

Member of the Canberra Chapter of the Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc.

It concerns me greatly that, as increasing numbers of visitors, tourists and even Canberra residents, arrive at Canberra Airport, it is devoid of images of Canberra as a splendid city, the Seat of our federal Government and our nation’s capital. Structures, spaces and screens suitable for conveying a sense of place and our national capital’s character are used instead for unimpeded, fully focussed advertisements for commercial military systems and arms manufacturers. It is as if there is no pride in Canberra or promotion of its primary attributes.

Dr Janet Salisbury

On behalf of A Chorus of Women, Canberra

We call for the removal of the arms advertisements from Canberra Airport. These images of war machines, which greet visitors and returning residents to Canberra, reflect a political culture stuck in the paradigm that war is the normal way to fix problems instead of the cause of untold death, destruction and trauma. Are the advertisements intended to influence government decision makers as they come and go to the national capital? If so, how much better it would be to have images of peace and harmony among people and with Earth, and to encourage public policy that actively moves us towards that goal.