Australian news, and some related international items

Australian Prime Minister fails to congratulate the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

“Nobel prize but PM has no time for peaceniks”Dimity Hawkins and Tilman Ruff. The Australian, October 9, 2017, Sean Parnell Melbourne doctor Tilman Ruff might have helped initiate a ­global movement awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but that doesn’t mean he will be congratulated by the Australian Prime Minister.

Indeed, last night, about 48 hours after the announcement, Professor Ruff had still not received a call from Malcolm Turnbull nor anyone acting on his behalf.

“I’m a little disappointed that this is the first time that an organisation founded in Australia has been recognised with the highest global award in the world for peace and I would have hoped that would warrant some acknowledgments or congratulations,” Professor Ruff said.

“I haven’t had the phone calls, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast.”

The beast, on this occasion, is the nuclear bomb. Professor Ruff was one of the founders of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, awarded the Nobel prize as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump all but threaten nuclear war.

Professor Ruff, with fellow Australians Dimity Hawkins and the late Bill Williams, launched ICAN in Melbourne and its global campaign began in Austria in 2007. The organisation still has only a handful of staff — Professor Ruff remains unpaid as Australian head and chair of the international working group — but with the support of 468 partner organisations has become the dominant civil society player in the disarmament campaign.

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee cited ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

ICAN had a significant victory in July, when 122 nations adopted a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. But nuclear armed states including the US, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.

The honour comes with $1.42 million funding to sign up more countries to ratify the treaty, which Professor Ruff said had the potential to avoid devastating nuclear acts and accidents.

Australia is opposed to the treaty. It has a military alliance with the US and, according to Professor Ruff, enjoys the protection of American nuclear weapons, which helps explain the muted response to ICAN’s win.

Not that Professor Ruff is entirely surprised. Thirty years ago, he was part of a similar initiative, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize during the Cold War.

“I can remember the reaction vividly,” said Professor Ruff, 62, an infectious diseases specialist who works at the Australian Red Cross and the University of Melbourne.

“There was some very strident and fierce criticism of both the organisation and the Nobel committee for its decision. The US and NATO saw us as a Russian stooge organisation, with doctors who were a bit naive, a bit gullible perhaps, being used for Soviet propaganda purposes. We just wanted to play our part and we took it all very seriously.”

Fred Mendelsohn, Emeritus Professor at the Florey Neuro­science Institute, is one of the many doctors, health professionals and academics to join the anti-nuclear campaign. Last night he paid tribute to the ICAN workers he described as “so idealistic, hardworking and passionate, all for very little reward”.

“All that mankind has achieved is extraordinary but in parallel there is this recalcitrant, terrible susceptibility to war, persecution and the hatred of other groups,” Professor Mendelsohn said.

Greens leader Richard Di ­Natale was quick to congratulate ICAN, but the senator is also a friend and supporter.

A spokesman for Mr Turnbull acknowledged “the commitment of ICAN and its supporters to promoting awareness of humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”.


October 11, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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