Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia on the wrong side of nuclear disarmament history

world-nuclear-weapons-freeAs the world pushes for a ban on nuclear weapons, Australia votes to stay on the wrong side of history, The Conversation,  Associate Professor, International Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne November 16, 2016  “………Australia’s role in fighting a nuclear weapon ban

In voting “no”, Australia stuck out like a sore thumb among Asia-Pacific nations in at October’s UN committee meeting. All of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEANmembers – including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – as well as New Zealand and ten out of 12 Pacific island countries voted yes.

Australia is signatory to all the key international treaties banning or controlling weapons. On some, like the Chemical Weapons Convention, Australia was a leader. Australia’s active opposition and efforts to undermine moves towards a treaty banning nuclear weapons stand in stark contrast.

Australia’s stated arguments for opposing a ban treaty have varied, including that there are no “shortcuts” to disarmament; that only measures with the support of the nuclear-armed states are worthwhile; that a ban would damage the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, causing instability and deepening divisions between states with and without nuclear weapons; that it wouldn’t address North Korea’s threatening behaviour; and that it does not take account of today’s security challenges.

Perhaps the most extraordinary justification of Australia’s position came from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Richard Sadleir, who said at a Senate estimates hearing on October 20, 2016:

it is not an auspicious time to be pushing for a treaty of this sort. Indeed, in order to be able to effectively carry forward disarmament, you need to have a world in which there is not a threat of nuclear weapons and people feel safe and secure.

Can anyone seriously imagine Australian officials arguing that we need to keep stockpiles of sarin nerve gas, plague bacteria, smallpox virus, or botulism toxin for deterrence, just in case, because we live in an uncertain world?

Yet that is what Australia continues to argue about nuclear weapons. Sadleir is saying that disarmament is only possible after it has happened, when we live in an impossibly perfect world. It’s a nonsensical argument that puts off nuclear disarmament indefinitely.

As revealed in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade internal documents, released through a Freedom of Information request, the real reason that Australia opposes a ban treaty is that it would jeopardise our reliance on US nuclear weapons.

How Australia can help with disarmament

It’s 71 years since the Hiroshima bombing, and 46 years since the nuclear non-proliferation treaty came into force, committing all governments to bring about nuclear disarmament. But that treaty is too weak: no disarmament negotiations are underway or planned.

Instead, every nuclear armed state is investing massively in keeping and modernising their nuclear arsenals for the indefinite future. The US alone has said it plans to spend about US$348 billion over the next decade on its nuclear arsenal.

Nations like Australia cannot eliminate weapons they don’t own. But they can prohibit them, by international treaty and in domestic law. And they can push other nations to do more to reduce threats to humanity – just as Australia has done with every other weapon of mass destruction.

An overwhelming majority of Australians have said in the past that they support a treaty banning nuclear weapons: 84% according to a 2014 Nielsen poll commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with only 3% opposed.

This is an issue that should be above party politics. In 2015, the Labor Party adopted a new national policy platform committing to support the negotiation of a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. At a public meeting in Perth last month, Bill Shorten said that a Labor government would support the UN resolution for a ban treaty.

In October 2016, our government let us down by voting to be counted on the wrong side of history. Thankfully, we can still expect to see the United Nations ratify the move towards a new treaty banning nuclear weapons in December, with negotiations set to begin in March 2017 in New York. It’s still not too late for Australia to change its vote, and participate constructively in the negotiations next year.  https://theconversation.com/as-the-world-pushes-for-a-ban-on-nuclear-weapons-australia-votes-to-stay-on-the-wrong-side-of-history-68337

November 16, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war

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