Letter to CEO of Canberra Airport Group, Stephen Byron,16 March 2015

16 March, 2015

Mr Stephen Byron

CEO, Canberra Airport Group                                                                                           

Dear Mr Byron,

I am writing on behalf of a group of Canberrans, including MAPW members, to express concerns at the use and prominence of advertising by defence manufacturers and suppliers in Canberra airport, and to seek some further information.  Professor Joan Beaumont (Professor of History at the ANU’S Strategic and Defence Studies Centre), Mr Brett Odgers (Convenor of the Walter Burley Griffin Society) and myself met with Mr Matthew Brown on 11 March to discuss this matter, and appreciated the thorough and helpful briefing that he provided. However our concerns remain.

As we explained to Mr Brown, we are commencing a campaign for the removal of the current defence advertising and a change in policy whereby such advertising will not be accepted by Canberra Airport in the future.

Our concerns are two-fold. Firstly, we believe that such advertising conveys an inaccurate and inappropriate image of the nation’s capital Canberra to visitors arriving at one of the gateways to the city.  Advertisements on such prominent display should convey images of Canberra which capture, and do not distort, its political, historical, environmental and cultural richness. The impression currently conveyed by defence advertising is that Canberra is most noteworthy for its being a hub of a global arms industry, albeit that these companies have local bases.  

Secondly, the advertising by defence manufacturers is offensive to many in the Canberra and the wider Australian community. Although, as Mr Brown argued, the imagery currently used in these advertisements might be deemed (by some) to be inoffensive, they represent an industry which supplies armaments and communication systems which, when used in wartime, cause immense human suffering.  Given that many Australian citizens have emigrated from war zones, the offence that we personally feel is almost certainly shared by many visitors to Canberra.

We seek further clarification from Canberra Airport on the following:

1. What are your processes for approving the content and placement of advertising in the Canberra airport?

2. On what criteria is the content of advertising deemed to be potentially offensive to visitors to the airport?

3. What policies do you have regarding ethical and value-based advertising?

MAPW works for the prevention of armed conflict and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. We promote peace through research, advocacy, peace education and partnerships, and work globally through the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.  However the campaign to remove the airport’s arms industry advertising will go far beyond MAPW membership.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sue Wareham OAM

Vice-President and ACT Coordinator, MAPW (Australia)