Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s first Nobel peace laureate- but no congratulations from Prime Minister who supports nuclear weapons


If only Australia could get a Nobel prize for sport – wouldn’t Turnbull be thrilled with THAT?

Malcolm Turnbull won’t congratulate Australia’s first Nobel peace laureate, because he supports nukes, Sue Wareham , 11 Oct 17, 

Sometimes, the most obvious words can be the most difficult for leaders to utter when a situation demands they utter something. So it was with former prime minister John Howard and that word “sorry”, which he refused to offer to Aboriginal people who were forcibly and shamefully removed from their families.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is having trouble with the word “congratulations”. On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the 2017 Nobel peace prize will be awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The campaign originated in Australia as an initiative of the Medical Association for Prevention of War. It was launched in 2007 in Melbourne by, among others, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser. It grew rapidly to became a strong, international campaign in more than 100 countries.

This is the first Nobel peace prize to have its roots in Australia. A first in other fields, such as sport, would almost certainly elicit at least a “congratulations” from our leader, if not something more effusive, but not on this occasion. It seems peace is something different. Turnbull acknowledged the campaign’s commitment but reiterated his government’s view that the United States’ nuclear weapons help keep us safe.

The award was given to the campaign for its pivotal role in bringing about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the United Nations adopted in July this year. The campaign’s goal is the prohibition and elimination of all nuclear weapons; the ban treaty is merely the first step in that process. It is, however, a landmark achievement, as it establishes the illegality of nuclear weapons and sets the stage for their elimination. It applies the same standards to all nations; it categorically rejects the division of the world into nuclear haves and have-nots.

The treaty opened for signature on September 20. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in New York at the time but, as expected, refused to sign. Our government argues the treaty does not take into account the nuclear-armed nations’ security concerns. On the contrary, however, the treaty owes its existence to the security and humanitarian concerns of all nations, and the need to remove the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over us all, including those with the weapons. It affirms the humanitarian principle that the consequences of using nuclear weapons are unacceptable under any circumstances and that any use of the weapons would contravene international humanitarian law.

 Replete with irony, the Australian government repeatedly talks up the need for “the rule of law”. In her speech to the UN General Assembly on September 22, Julie Bishop referred to an international “rules-based order” no less than seven times. Yet this same government fought vigorously to kill off the most important initiative in decades to strengthen the rules banning the world’s worst weapons.

Turnbull’s difficulty in providing a dignified and appropriate response to this significant achievement by an Australian-grown group perhaps indicates a sense of desperation from a government that knows it is out of step with its own people on this issue. In the most recent survey on the matter, a ReachTEL poll in September, over 70 per cent of Australians said they supported a ban on nuclear weapons, as a step towards eliminating them.

The government is also out of step with global and regional opinion. The treaty was adopted by an overwhelming 122-to-one vote at the UN, and almost every country in the South-East-Asia Pacific region favours it. Three of those countries, which are also US allies, were among the first signatories: New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand.

On nuclear weapons, the policies of Australia’s main political parties diverge. At its national conference in July 2015, Labor changed its policy to say: “Given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, Labor firmly supports the negotiation of a global treaty banning such weapons and welcomes the growing global movement of nations that is supporting this objective.” The Greens also support the ban treaty.

For the countries with the weapons, the treaty offers a stark choice: comply with the norms that the treaty has clearly and unambiguously established and eliminate your weapons, or be stigmatised as an outlaw state.

For countries such as Australia, which, confusingly, claims to want a nuclear-weapons-free world while asserting that such weapons are essential for security, the choice is similar. We sign the treaty or we remain on the side of the outlaws.

The Prime Minister can withhold whatever common decencies he likes from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; it’s the choice he makes on this question that really matters. We can choose to be on the right side of history or we can continue to impede this critical and long overdue progress towards eliminating the only weapons that threaten our planet.

Dr Sue Wareham is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons‘ Australian vice-president.


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

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