Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Senator Scott Ludlam asks inconvenient questions about Australia’s role in nuclear weapons ban negotiations

Senator LUDLAM: …I want to turn to the opening day of the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, 27 March this year. Having failed to prevent these negotiations occurring, the Trump administration’s ambassador to the UN held a protest outside the UN General Assembly Hall. Did Australia participate in the protest?

Senator LUDLAM: So we just stood there in mute solidarity with the Trump administration? As 130 UN member states started serious work on negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, we were outside the room in a protest?

It is a shame that there will be no Australian representatives at the UN because these talks are scheduled to conclude at the end of June or early July

FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, UN – Nuclear Weapons Ban, 31st May 2017   http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/0a6ef7dd-2f88-423a-a01b-23b5c5b4e4c0/toc_pdf/Foreign%20Affairs,%20Defence%20and%20Trade%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_05_31_5055.pdf;fileType=application/pdf

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Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Mr Sadleir: Yes, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: It is good that you are here, Mr Sadleir, because I want to ask a couple of questions about a meeting that occurred between 4 and 8 July 2016 that I understand you were present at. You and Ms Jane Hardy travelled to Washington, DC to meet with a range of, I understand, quite senior State Department and National

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Security Council people to discuss what was then referred to as the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. Can you confirm for us on the record that that meeting occurred and that you were in attendance?

[Here it took an extraordinarily long time for Mr Sadleir to admit that he was at this meeting]

‘……..Senator LUDLAM: I have not asked what you discussed yet. Were you in attendance at that meeting?
Mr Sadleir

?
Mr Sadleir: I was certainly in Washington. I would need to check my diary to get the precise dates but I was certainly there around that time.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that what will happen when you check the dates is that you will come back and confirm that you were in fact there. I will let you check the record. I would appreciate that. What was the purpose of those meetings? If you want to contest the date range that I have given you and come back with different rates, that is fine. But what was the purpose of those meetings in particular?

Mr Sadleir: We discussed international security issues.
Senator LUDLAM: Did you discuss the open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament as an international security issue? It is probably the largest international security issue that there is.

Mr Sadleir: I will not be drawn on communications—the details of our discussions of that sort.

Senator LUDLAM: Chair, could I get your advice? The witness is being remarkably evasive. I am not after matters of state security.

Senator Brandis: He is not being evasive; he is just declining to answer for reasons that he has explained. Senator LUDLAM: What is the point of us showing up at these committees if witnesses just decline to answer? This is fairly basic stuff.

Senator Brandis: Senator, as you know, there are some questions that ought not to be asked and may not be answered. The witness has merely indicated that the questions that you have asked him are questions that he does not consider he is at liberty to answer. He is not being evasive.

Senator LUDLAM: That is the very definition of evasion. Chair, could I get your advice? I have engaged on this matter with senior DFAT people over the previous nine years, and it is not out of bounds of an estimates committee to ask as to the broad topic of a meeting for which taxpayers paid for your airfare.

CHAIR: You are correct. It is not outside your remit to ask the questions. But it is also within the capacity of the witness—in this case he is making the claim that the subject matter of discussions in this case with his US counterparts is not a matter which he can canvass in the public arena. That is where that stands. Would you continue with your questions. If he is able to respond to them I will direct him to do so; if he is not able to he will avail himself of that opportunity.

Senator LUDLAM: Understood. Thank you, Chair. Mr Sadleir, I will ask you to take a couple of questions on notice. My understanding—which is why all this seems a bit silly—is that you and Ms Hardy were discussing the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, which was shortly to meet. You cannot tell me whether that is the case. You will not, I presume, be able to tell me the outcomes.

Could you provide us on notice with the public interest immunity ground on which you are declining to respond to a perfectly reasonable question—whether it is national security or commercial in confidence, or whether cabinet matters were discussed—rather than just coming back with, ‘No, I’m not going to answer your question’. And, if you do decide that you are able to disclose just the very broad parameters of purpose of that meeting, did the United States government instruct or encourage Australia to take any particular position at the UN working group or subsequent negotiations. That is where I would have taken this conversation if you had been forthcoming…….

CHAIR: That will give the officer an opportunity to consider the response. Senator LUDLAM: Can we hear from the officer, just to close that loop?

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Mr Sadleir: Thank you, Senator. I am very happy to take those questions on notice.

CHAIR: Before you start, Senator Wong: Mr Sadleir, can you make your explanation and then we will go to you, Senator Wong.

Mr Sadleir: I just wanted to advise that I can confirm that Jane Hardy and I were in Washington between 4 and 8 July and that we discussed with a range of senior State Department and National Security Council officials the open-ended working group.

Senator LUDLAM: That was not so hard, was it. Thank you.

Senator LUDLAM: Could we get Mr Sadleir back. Thank you for the answer you provided us just now at the meetings at which you were in attendance. Did the United States government—and you do not have to go into particular detail—instruct or encourage Australia to take any position in particular at the UN working group meetings that occurred shortly after you were in DC?……

Senator LUDLAM: I would like to come to the ban treaty negotiations soon. Is it fair to say—and I know you have to choose your words a little bit carefully—that the US government lobbied us to take a particular position in the OEWG, and Australia took that on board and then formed our own view?…….

Senator LUDLAM: … I will come back to some questions. I want to turn to the opening day of the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, 27 March this year. Having failed to prevent these negotiations occurring, the Trump administration’s ambassador to the UN held a protest outside the UN General Assembly Hall. Did Australia participate in the protest?

Mr Sadleir: It was not a protest. It was a press conference in which the views of a group of countries with respect to the ban treaty were expressed.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. It has been written up everywhere from The New York Times down as a protest, but let’s not quibble. I have participated in any number of protests in my life, Mr Sadleir. I am not down on it as a mode of expression. But did Australia participate in that, if you will, press conference?

Mr Sadleir: Yes. We were represented there.
Senator LUDLAM: What did Australia hope to achieve by participating in this protest—press conference?

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Mr Sadleir: It was an opportunity to have the views of a number of countries that did not support ban negotiations registered and heard.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand Australia did not speak. There is no transcript record that indicates the Australian representative spoke at that press conference—is that right?

Mr Sadleir: That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: So we just stood there in mute solidarity with the Trump administration? As 130 UN member states started serious work on negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, we were outside the room in a protest?

Mr Sadleir: We were standing there aligning with the remarks that were made. I should point out that, because our head of mission was here in Australia, we were represented by a deputy head of mission. It would have been unlikely that we would have spoken anyway in those circumstances, because it was a more junior representative because of the need for our head of mission to be in Australia—for the GHOMM, I believe it was……

Senator LUDLAM: I am getting the wind-up here. It is a shame that there will be no Australian representatives at the UN because these talks are scheduled to conclude at the end of June or early July. My question, firstly, is: will Australia have anybody in the room claiming even observer status? I am planning on attending. I think it is an enormous shame that we will not be formally represented there. What will be the policy of the Australian government when, it is hoped, a formal, binding, legal, international agreement to ban nuclear weapons comes into force? Is it the intention of the Australian government to stay outside the tent, or are we actually going to constructively engage at some point?

Mr Sadleir: In terms of your first query about representation, I suspect we will have no-one present……. As to your second question, Australia’s position on this is clear. Obviously, those are issues which ultimately rest with ministers and governments, but our position has been clearly enunciated.

………Senator SINGH: Will Australia be represented at the second session on 15 June and 7 July?
Mr Sadleir: No, we will not be.
Senator SINGH: If you will not be present, will you monitor the June-July sessions through the webcast?

Mr Sadleir: As I said earlier, yes, we will make a point of monitoring it using the webcast facility to see how the negotiations unfold. But also as I mentioned earlier, we will talk to participants in the process as well and get their impressions as they go forward. That is the normal thing to do.

Senator SINGH: How much more useful would it be to attend the sessions instead of just watching them on the webcast, especially if Australia, as you say, wanted to talk to other nations and put its views forward in the room?

Mr Sadleir: Participating would be quite significant in terms of the messages that are sent. From Australia’s point of view, as you know, we do not support a ban treaty. Although we share a goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and we are determined to pursue that in an effective, determined and pragmatic way, we do not wish to attend a set of negotiations which are contrary to so many of our established positions…..

Senator SINGH: You say it is significant but to not even turn up; in November last year we turned up. Even though we voted against that particular resolution to bring forth the negotiations for a new nuclear ban treaty we still turned up and now we are not even turning up…

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June 10, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, weapons and war

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