War Profiteer Profile: NIOA

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Two soldiers fire a howitzer cannon
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NIOA is Australia’s largest privately owned weapons and munitions company, found in 1973 by Robert Nioa, who remains the company’s CEO. NIOA primarily supplies the Australian military and police forces – they are the majority supplier of guns and ammunition to the Australian police. According to their website, by 2022 the company had supplied “Over one billion rounds have been supplied by NIOA to the Australian Law Enforcement, Military and Sporting markets”.

As well as manufacturing ammunition, NIOA imports weapons from around the world, working with companies such as Federal and CCI ammunition, Ruger, Anschutz, Leupold, Bushnell, Colt, and Glock. In 2015, NIOA sparked controversy due to its involvement in the import of thousands Adler A110 lever-action shotguns from Turkey. This prompted a debate in Australia about access to rapid-fire shotguns with large magazines.

NIOA plays a key role in supplying the Australian military through the “LAND 159 Lethality System Project”, an upgrade programme which sets out to “equip the ADF with next-generation weapon systems, surveillance and target acquisitions ancillaries, ammunitions, facilities and training and support systems”. NIOA is the prime contractor for stage 1 of the project, covering sniper rifles, laser sighting systems and close combat weapons (including knives, pistols, shotguns and assault breach systems). The contract is worth A$527.2 million.

NIOA is a “major industry sponsor” of the 2022 Land Forces arms fair (due to take place late September 2022), alongside Boeing and CEA Technologies. NIOA has also attended the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris, an event the company described as “fertile ground for future opportunities”.

Joint venture with Rheinmetall

The company also has a 49% stake in Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions, a joint venture with Rheinmetall Waffe Munition, which owns the other 51%. Rheinmetall’s website focuses on the production and export of ammunition for the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, but media releases in 2022 also show that the company manufacturers 155mm artillery shells for the Australian Defence Force. The company is based at a 40,000m² with 100 staff in Marborough, Queensland, and has received over A$35m in state backing.

Arming the police

In 2017 NIOA transitioned from the commercial gun market into supplying military and law enforcement, with a contract to supply the police in Australia and New Zealand with 70,000 Glock pistols. NIOA supplies Australian armed forces, such as the Northern Territory of Australia (having signed a three year contract worth A$857,623.97 in 2021) and the Victoria Police (with a three year contract to supply 22 different types of ammunition from a range of companies).

NIOA has most recently announced a contract with New Zealand’s police force to supply SureFire Suppressors, a US-based manufacturer of suppressors, lights, ear defenders, sights and high-capacity magazines.

In June 2022 members of WRI affiliate in Australia - Wage Peace - blockaded the facilities of the NIOA bullet manufacturer in Benalla in solidarity with the call by Senior Elders from the aboriginal Yuendumu community for a police ceasefire. Another group also blocked the companies factory in Brisbane. The ceasefire demand from the Yuendumu community comes with a raft of judicial and social measures to increase the communities safety, and for the state to respect self-determination.

Relationships with politicians

NIOA has a close relationship with a number of prominent Australian politicians. For example, in January 2018 the then-Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne announced the award of a $100 million Federal government contract by the Commonwealth under the LAND 17-1C.2 Future Artillery Ammunition program. In 2020 Pyne was welcomed as the chairman of the company’s inaugural advisory board. Other examples include Kim Beasely (former leader of the Australian Labor Party) and Brendan Nelson (former leader of the Liberal Party) have taken up lucrative leadership positions at NIOA after their political careers. Scott Morrison was also photographed holding a large ammunition shell at the Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions factory in 2021.

NIOA’s CEO is the son-in-law of Bob Katter, a member of the House of Representatives. According to WRI affiliate Wage Peace, NIOA has donated at least $160,000 to Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), and $20,000 to the Liberal Democrats.

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