Australian news, and some related international items

Climate change, sea level rise, and the plight of Australia’s island neighbours – Kiribati

Former president Anote Tong compares Kiribati’s future to the sinking of the Titanic, ABC News By Sarah Hancock , 13 Oct 17 Anote Tong is the former president of the Republic of Kiribati and his island home, in the central Pacific Ocean, is already suffering from the effects of climate change.

Rising sea levels are causing land to be engulfed by tidal waters, driving people away from their homes and leaving them displaced.

Anote Tong is the former president of the Republic of Kiribati and his island home, in the central Pacific Ocean, is already suffering from the effects of climate change.

Rising sea levels are causing land to be engulfed by tidal waters, driving people away from their homes and leaving them displaced.

“What I have seen in my lifetime over the years has been villages, communities, who have had to leave … because it is no longer viable,” he said. “The sea is there and there is nothing. Everything has been taken away so they have had to relocate.”……..

“As a grandfather I have got to think beyond that, as a leader I have to think beyond what will happen today, and knowing what we know today, what will happen to the next generation,” he said.

Mr Tong compared Kiribati’s future to the sinking of the Titanic.

“We are the people who will be swimming,” he said.

“The question will be — will those people on the lifeboats bother to pull us in or push us away because we would be too problematic?”


October 14, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | 1 Comment

Australia’s role in monitoring North Korea’s nuclear tests

North Korea nuclear tests: How Australia is watching Kim Jong-un

THE key to stopping North Korea’s nuclear technology could lie in Australian towns you’ve never even heard of.  Debra Killalea@DebKillalea 12 Oct 17,

THERE are 321 monitoring stations around the world all designed with one common goal. The International Monitoring System (IMS) uses four technologies to monitor nuclear activity in countries including North Korea.

Unsurprisingly some of these stations are located within our own borders and play a powerful role in monitoring rogue nations.

In a piece for The Conversation, Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow Department of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne reveals the key role Australia plays.

Dr Findlay writes Australia hosts six seismic, two infrasound, and one hydroacoustic station, including a large seismic array and infrasound station at Warramunga in the Northern Territory.


The Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) uses the IMS to detect nuclear tests around the world.

This means if Kim Jong-un decides to conduct another nuclear test there are several monitoring stations in Australia which could potentially pick up this abnormal activity.

According to Dr Findlay its monitoring system, which began construction in 1996, is “sensitive enough to detect underground nuclear tests below 1 kiloton”.

The CTBTO picked up the September 3 blast detecting a seismic magnitude of 6.1 and a blast yield of 160 kilotons.

Data such as this is picked up is transmitted to Vienna via satellite where it is analysed and distributed to member states.

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System is basically designed to verify compliance with the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty.


According to Associate Professor at Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre Dr Stephan Fruhling, the monitoring system is hugely beneficial.

“The technologies used by the monitoring system (seismic, infrasound, and radionucleides) were all used developed the Cold War to monitor other countries’ nuclear tests, and/or are also the same as used in geophysical monitoring,” he said.

However, it has a much more vital function.

“The main innovation of the CTBTO system is that it makes all raw data freely available, which means that all member states have now access to a global detection system that is meant to give confidence that the treaty is effective, whereas before only the superpowers had such capabilities,” Dr Fruhling said.

He also said the system is operating “even though the CTBTO itself isn’t actually legally in force, and probably never will be.”

Dr Fruhling said the system was very effective and expects it to become even more so over time as sensors and computing improve and the last few stations come online.

He said the system wasn’t perfect.

“There are some limits to the system in terms of very low-yield tests, especially where reduced enrichment fuels are used that do not produce a full yield but still a useful neutron flux to validate a weapons design,” he said.

“However, this is something that is of more use to the advanced nuclear powers who have a lot of experience and access to past testing data, than it is to a new proliferant like North Korea.


Nuclear disarmament campaigner John Hallam said the system and Australia’s role in it was actually quite remarkable.

Mr Hallam said the system has managed to not merely detect, but diagnose every North Korea test right from their first which was just a fraction of a kiloton.

“Australia plays quite a key role, mainly with the big seismic and infrasound array at Warramunga and the Hydroacoustic station at Cape Leeuwin,” he said.

“The CTBTO manages to do amazing work not only in detection of nuclear blasts, but also in detecting earthquake and volcanic activity and a secondary role as a tsunami early warning network.”

However Mr Hallam said the current policies of the US threaten all of that as the CTBTO has been in effect “boycotted” by the Government, despite being the first to actually sign it.

CTBTO’s executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo is geophysicist who used to be the Director of the International Data Centre which processes and analyses all the data coming from the more than 300 stations around the globe.

CTBTO’s work, including the establishment and maintenance of the IMS, is mandated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in the 1990s and endorsed by the General Assembly. It opened for signature in 1996.


October 13, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Julie Bishop says that USA should keep Iran nuclear deal

US should keep Iran nuclear deal: Bishop

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has made the case to the US that the nuclear deal with Iran should remain. Australia has urged the US to retain the nuclear deal with Iran in the absence of any credible alternatives.

US President Donald Trump will make an announcement this week on an “overall Iran strategy”, including whether to decertify the international deal curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, the White House says.

“We are urging that it be maintained and Iran’s other behaviour be dealt with in different circumstances,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC TV.

October 13, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Julie Bishop stops North Korean youth football team from coming to Australia

Australia blocks North Korean youth football team over nuclear program, A youth football qualifying fixture is likely to be moved offshore after the government moved to stop the North Korean team from entering Australia. The federal government has prevented a North Korean youth football team from coming to Australia to play in a tournament, saying allowing them would be contrary to its opposition to the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

The North Korean U19 team was due to play in the Asian Football Confederation championship qualifiers in November, amongst a group consisting of Australia, Hong Kong, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The North Korean team was due to play Australia on November 8 in Shepparton, Victoria. A Victorian Government spokesman said the fixture will now be moved to a “neutral venue”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed she stopped the group from arriving.

“The government has decided to not allow the North Korean U19 soccer team to enter Australia for the Asian Football Confederation U19 Championship Qualifiers,” Ms Bishop told SBS World News in a statement.

“Hosting the team would be contrary to the Government’s strong opposition to North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile development programs.

“It would also be inconsistent with our efforts to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang to comply with UN Security Council resolutions.”

Football Federation Australia said it was disappointed that the qualifying fixtures would now be played elsewhere.

“Football Federation Australia is disappointed that qualifying fixtures for the Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship … are now likely to be relocated outside Australia due to the Federal Government’s decision not to grant visas to the team from DPR Korea,” a spokesman told SBS World News.

“FFA respects the Australian Government’s responsibility to make decisions on visa applications.”

It’s understood the potential financial losses from the hosting rights would be minimal but the decision would cost the Australian youth team competitive advantage.

Earlier this year, Malaysia’s qualifying match against North Korea for the 2019 Asian Cup was postponed after the two countries were involved in a tiff over the assassination of the estranged half-brother of Pyongyang ruler Kim Jong-un.

October 11, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international | 1 Comment

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): how it won the Nobel Peace Prize

“We’re calling on all countries to sign the new UN treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which offers a powerful alternative to a world in which threats of mass destruction are allowed to prevail.

“We will work in coming months to persuade more nations to sign this landmark treaty.

“One of our priorities will be to bring the Australian government on board.

What is ICAN and how did it win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize?

So how did a campaign from Melbourne make its way to the international stage?

Key points:

  • Group honoured for “ground-breaking efforts” to achieve nuclear ban treaty
  • ICAN also awarded for drawing “attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of nuclear weapons
  • 215 individuals and 103 organisations were nominated for the prize

So what is ICAN?

ICAN describes itself as a coalition of non-governmental organisations in 100 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.

That global agreement was adopted by 122 countries — but not by Australia — in New York on July 7 this year.

It has advocated at the United Nations and in parliaments around the world, bringing the stories of those impacted by nuclear testing and survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to a world stage.

How did it form?

ICAN set up its first office in Melbourne, with disarmament campaigner Felicity Hill as the coordinator.

It officially launched in Vienna, Austria in April 2007 during the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meeting.

ICAN campaign director Tim Wright said it was inspired by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which had played a major role in the negotiation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, also known as the Ottawa treaty. Continue reading

October 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) started in Melbourne

Nobel peace prize awarded to Melbourne-born International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Melissa Cunningham 

During a time when the risk of nuclear conflict is imminent, the prestigious Nobel peace prize has been awarded to a Melbourne-born advocacy group that pushed to establish the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

The Nobel Committee honoured the now Geneva-based group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

The group worked to advance the negotiations that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed earlier this year at the United Nations.

In July, 122 nations voted to pass the treaty, but nuclear-armed states including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.

Australia is also yet to sign the treaty.

October 7, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia should cease to be subservient to USA foreign policy – John Hewson

John Hewson: We need some homegrown diplomacy in North Korea John Hewson 

The evolving tragedy that is North Korea is now at the mercy of a mere miscalculation, or accident, an isolated piece of stupidity, or a Trump shot from the hip – even just a piece of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) dropping on Japan.

This vicarious situation necessitates Australia adopting a strong, independent, foreign policy stance on this challenge, in our national interest. The inflammatory rhetoric from both Trump and Kim Jong-un seems to have no limit, but achieves very little, except more missiles and tests from Pyongyang, and more threats of military options/retaliation from the US.

Sanctions are important, especially now they have been given greater grunt by China, but they will take many months to be fully effective. Clearly, military engagement would be catastrophic, so every effort should be made to foster effective diplomatic engagement and, ultimately, hopefully, negotiation. Obviously, the major powers, the US, China, Russia and Japan, would be fundamental to any effective resolution.

In this context, Australia needs to consider what more we can do, if anything, as a middle-ranking power, but capable, at times, of punching above our weight, especially from the point of view of our national interests.

I fear that we are far too embedded in the US position, and where it may go. I am concerned that our political leadership is simply happy to be subservient to the US, leaving them, Trump, to define us. Yet, we could play a more significant role, diplomatically, in attempting to manage the emerging crisis.

In attempting to understand and strategise on how events might unfold, we would have to contemplate the possibility, even if we gave it a low probability, that an effective target for North Korean aggression could be Pine Gap – it would not kill many of us, but would represent a very significant blow to US intelligence capability.

To be absolutely clear, despite all the US bluster, I sincerely doubt that Pyongyang will ever be the aggressor, would ever initiate a war. Apparently, China has told the North Koreans that they will only come to their defence if they are attacked, but not if they are the aggressor. But have no doubt, the nuclear tests, and rocket launches, will continue, with rockets directed towards say Guam, but to land outside their territorial waters.

The point is that we need to look after our own interests, and position ourselves most effectively, from that perspective. In these terms, we could announce a desire to establish an embassy in Pyongyang, with a view to opening and developing a dialogue, perhaps, ultimately leading to a resumption of the Six Party talks.

Other back channels could also be exploited. For example, I was somewhat surprised that our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, didn’t create the opportunity to meet with her North Korean counterpart at the recent UN meetings. Australia could also play a significant role in co-ordinating the responses of many of our Asian neighbours, from sanctions to missile interception and defence capabilities.

We presently run our “diplomacy” with North Korea, with a non-resident ambassador, based in Seoul, making trips up North. This would surely be insulting to the North Koreans, and easily dispensed with as just another “branch of the US”. It doesn’t begin to give Pyongyang the global recognition that it so desperately craves.

We need to be seen to be able to stand on our own two feet, and we might be surprised at just how much influence we could achieve.

Despite all the sabre rattling and inflammatory rhetoric, the world needs a diplomatic solution on North Korea.  Sanctions may ultimately force Pyongyang to the negotiating table, but there will be no alternative to face-to-face, hard-headed negotiations that, surely, must initially accept North Korea as an emerging nuclear power, and then focus on deterrence. Think about it from their point of view. The world seems to happily accept countries such as India, Pakistan, and Israel, as nuclear powers, but where is the balance of risks? These are risks that we don’t want to talk about, while at the same time saying that North Korea is a “clear and present danger”.

The government needs to be prepared to discuss publicly its assessment of the North Korean situation. I really don’t understand why we don’t use the processes of Parliament, and encourage a parliamentary debate, leading to a broader debate across civil society.

All too often, the way government has worked in this country is that government closes down debate on an issue, calls all the shots, and, in the end, we drift into a situation that is not necessarily in our national interest. Recall the futility of Howard’s sycophantic support of Bush junior in the Iraq war. We never should have been involved.

On North Korea, we are again letting the issue drift, driven by the possible irrationality of the US. We will end up where, in our national interest, we won’t want to be. Yet, we could play a globally significant role in resolving the matter.

John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy and a former leader of the Liberal Party.

October 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Could Australia be the target of a North Korean missile?

Leonid Petrov, a leading North Korean expert, said Australia could play a much better and more viable option in the crisis.

Dr Petrov, a visiting fellow at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University, said it was obvious someone who served as US deputy assistant secretary of defence for nuclear and missile defence policy would recommend buying a US-made piece of equipment.

However, Dr Petrov said there was a cheaper option on the table.

“Australia can save a lot of money (and lives) by using its diplomatic channels and mediate a comprehensive peace deal, which North Korea is begging for since 1974,” he said.

North Korea missile crisis: Could Australia be targeted by Kim Jong-un? A PENTAGON adviser has warned Australia could be on the receiving end of Kim’s fury as experts say anything could  Debra Killalea@DebKillalea  2 Oct 17 

IT WAS a stunning warning that made Australia sit up and take notice.

Former Pentagon official Dr Brad Roberts said Australia needed to develop greater missile defences in the event of a North Korea missile strike.

Dr Roberts, who served as US deputy assistant secretary of defence for nuclear and missile defence policy between 2009 and 2013, also warned Australia had no say in Kim Jong-un’s decisions.

“Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t really get to choose whether or not North Korea threatens it — it’s the choice that the North Korean leader,” he told the ABC.

“His objective is to make us fearful so that our leaders will not stand up to his threats and coercion.”

But just how much of a target is Australia, and are we likely to feel the wrath of Kim?


Experts warn anything is possible and hope this scenario remains an unlikely possibility. Continue reading

October 2, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia should not blindly follow USA on foreign policy – Gareth Evans

I never had any doubt about the genuineness of Hawke’s position when he said at the time that “we are not an aligned country which had to agree, or did agree, with every single aspect of US policymaking.

The ability to maintain a healthy balance in our alliance relationship seems, unhappily, to have largely evaporated since the Hawke-Keating years.

Gushing sentiment has become the norm..

The election of President Donald Trump has given a new ­urgency to restoring some real balance in the alliance relationship. We can only hope that enough cooler and wiser heads than his own will emerge to eventually dispel the worst fears generated during his campaign and in his first weeks in office.

We now have to be ready for American blunders as bad as, or worse than, in the past. We will have to make our own judgments about how to react to events, based on our own national interests.

Australian foreign and defence policy for the foreseeable future is going to have to be founded on three core principles: More self-reliance. More Asia. Less United States.

Trump era: Australia should rely less on the USGARETH EVANS, The Australian, 

  Australia’s alliance with the United States was not under­valued by the Hawke-Keating governments. But nor did we overvalue it, and we certainly did not accept that its care and maintenance demanded obeisance to all Washington’s whims and wishes.

Then, as today, there could be little doubt that the ANZUS alliance contributes hugely to our military capability, above all in the access it gives us to American intelligence and weapons systems. As self-reliant as we may be, we are by no means completely self-­sufficient, certainly when it comes to really major threat contingencies. It has been credibly estimated that without the alliance, Australia would have to triple or quadruple its defence spending, at a budgetary cost of an additional $70 billion to $100bn a year. There is, moreover, the deterrent value against potential aggressors that a close alliance with a global superpower, on the face of it, seems clearly to provide.

But the issue of deterrent value needs closer scrutiny than it usually gets. The ANZUS Treaty formally provides only that each party “will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific” (Article III) and that in the event of an “armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties” each “would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes” (Article IV). That is in significant contrast to the language of Article 5 of the NATO treaty, whereby “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in ­Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” and commit to applying armed force as necessary in response. Continue reading

October 2, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

As Australia’s greenhouse emissions soar, Pacific islanders despair of its backward climate policies

Stuck in the dark ages’: Pacific island leader vents after Australia’s emissions hit record high, The Age, 30 sept 17  Desperate Pacific islands at risk of sinking beneath the sea say Australia is “stuck in the Dark Ages” by relying on fossil fuels, in response to alarming data showing this nation’s energy emissions have hit record highs.

The outcry from Australia’s smallest neighbours comes just weeks after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited Samoa and reportedly promised Pacific leaders that he understood “very clearly” the threat of sea level rise to low-lying islands.

As Fairfax Media reported on Friday, a national audit prepared for The Australia Institute by energy analyst Hugh Saddler shows Australia’s emissions from energy combustion reached a record high in the year to June, driven largely by petroleum, and specifically diesel, consumption.

The audit showed the increase in Australia’s annual retail diesel emissions in the year to June on its own exceeded the total annual emissions of any Pacific nation.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, whose tiny nine-island nation has become the poster child for the threat of sea-level rise, on Friday vented his frustration at the audit findings.

“While the rest of the world is moving ahead to renewable energy, Australia is stuck in the Dark Ages with its reliance on dirty fossil fuels. This is bad news for the Pacific”, he said, adding that Australia’s continued mining of coal was “extremely disappointing”.

Genevieve Jiva, spokeswoman for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, said the findings would prompt Pacific leaders to exert further pressure on Australia at international climate talks in Bonn, Germany, in November. Fiji will chair the talks.

“This is happening right now and needs action right now. Not in 20 years’ time, not after the next Australian election, but right now.”……..


September 29, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Did Australian govt reject China’s climate change action initiative?

Government denies claims it knocked back Chinese climate change offer and reveals ‘joint action plan’ Fergus Hunter SMH, 23 Sept 17

The Turnbull government rejected a landmark Chinese invitation to issue a formal joint statement on climate change earlier this year, Greenpeace has claimed, saying Australia vetoed an unprecedented step in the Asian power’s emerging international role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Australian government has denied the claim and revealed the two countries’ energy departments were working on a “joint action plan” on climate change as part of their commitments under the Paris agreement.

According to Greenpeace East Asia senior climate policy adviser Li Shuo, the government quietly knocked back an offer – perhaps the first time the Chinese government had proactively sought such an arrangement – during Premier Li Keqiang’s state visit to Australia in March.

Mr Li said the offer was “very, very significant” because it suggested China had become “diplomatically proactive” after previously being on the receiving end of invitations from the European Union and United States to outline mutual commitments on climate change.

He observed it would have been a concrete political signal for the international community amid the uncertainty triggered by the election of President Donald Trump, who has wound back American leadership on climate change and begun the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris accord.

“The Chinese delegation with Li Keqiang came with the proposal but that didn’t get the green light from the Australian side,” Mr Li said, adding that his awareness of it came from a directly involved figure in the Chinese government.

“It was clearly the intention from the Chinese side to build up international climate momentum. I think the proposed bilateral statement was part of that effort to send a signal back to the rest of the world and primarily the US.”

A spokesperson for the Australian government said it “did not decline an offer from the Chinese government earlier this year to make a joint statement on climate change” and labelled the March leaders’ meeting “highly successful”……..

Previously an advocate for sweeping action on climate change, Mr Turnbull has had to compromise since taking the leadership of a Liberal-National Coalition still internally divided on the issue. A significant portion of his party room are keen supporters of coal-fired power and some do not accept the scientific consensus on climate change.

Under the Paris accord, former prime minister Tony Abbott’s Coalition government committed to reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. His government also renegotiated the Renewable Energy Target in the electricity sector down to 23.5 per cent by 2020.

In the face of internal hostility, the government is currently redesigning a Clean Energy Target proposed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, which would aim to have 42 per cent of Australia’s energy generated by lower emissions technologies by 2030. The government may loosen the CET to allow for high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations…….

September 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia follows nuclear weapons powers in boycotting UN treaty outlawing nuclear weapons

Australia joins boycott of UN treaty outlawing nuclear weapons

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joined representatives from the US, Britain, France and others who were absent from the event at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders overnight.

A total of 51 countries lined up to sign the new treaty.

 The treaty was adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in July following negotiations led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.

None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — took part in the negotiations.

“There remain some fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in existence. We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children’s future,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened the treaty for signing.

NATO condemned the treaty, saying that it may in fact be counter-productive by creating divisions.

As leaders formally signed on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed as historic the first multilateral disarmament treaty in more than two decades.

But Guterres acknowledged that much work was needed to rid the world of its stockpile of 15,000 atomic warheads.

“Today we rightfully celebrate a milestone. Now we must continue along the hard road towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals,” said Guterres.

The treaty will enter into force when 50 countries have signed and ratified it, a process that could take months or years.

“At a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, in particular the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, the treaty fails to take into account these urgent security challenges,” the 29-nation Western alliance said.

It added: “Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and stability.

Rejecting need for nuclear weapons

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, one of the few Western European nations that is not in NATO, rejected the idea that nuclear weapons were indispensable for security.

“If you look at the world’s current challenges, this narrative is not only false, it is dangerous,” he told AFP.

“The new treaty on the prohibition on nuclear weapons provides a real alternative for security: a world without any nuclear weapons, where everyone is safer, where no one needs to possess these weapons,” he said.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty. Others included South African President Jacob Zuma and representatives from Indonesia, Ireland and Malaysia as well as the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.

But even Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack and a longstanding advocate of abolishing nuclear weapons, boycotted the treaty negotiations……

September 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Whether or not Trump is sane, Australia will follow him into nuclear war

Australia is being dragged into US wars, Green Left  TONY ILTIS, September 9, 2017The threat of nuclear annihilation is closer than at any time since the end of the Cold War as two heads of state use nuclear weapons as props in what looks like a fight between two adolescent boys.

On one side is a narcissistic bully, born to inherit great power and with credible reports that his personal life includes indulging in acts of sadism, whose policies in government are driven by a combination of xenophobia, ego and whim and who is threatening nuclear Armageddon if he doesn’t get his way.

On the other side is North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

In a situation where Russia’s belligerent President Vladimir Putin is able to play the role of a level-headed voice of sanity, some Western countries are distancing themselves from US President Donald Trump, or at least urging caution. But not Australia……

Since the 1940s, Australian governments of both parties have been keen to promote Australia as Washington’s most loyal ally, regardless of the sanity of the incumbent US president. The policy is based on the premise that if Australia unquestioningly follows the US into any war, the US, the world’s most powerful imperialist state, will look after Australian capitalists’ global interests.

This policy has led to Australian involvement in numerous wars, from Korea in the 1950s, and Vietnam in the ’60s and ’70s, to more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This policy has also allowed Australian mining companies to operate across the globe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Romania and Chile, making huge profits at a horrific cost to the environment, workers and local communities.

The devastation wrought by the Korean War is the reason for the North Korean regime’s xenophobic paranoia. While the media generally portrays Kim Jong-un as mad, and provides no further explanation for North Korea’s nuclear program, the fact that Iran continues to suffer sanctions despite abandoning its nuclear weapons program and Iraq was invaded after getting rid of its weapons of mass destruction, points to some rationality in North Korea’s approach.

It also points to grotesque hypocrisy on the part of the West: the largest nuclear powers declaring that it is unacceptable for other countries to have nuclear weapons. North Korea was not responsible for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it has not used the populations of any Pacific Island nations as guinea pigs in nuclear tests.

On July 8, when the UN General Assembly supported a resolution to ban nuclear weapons, Australia joined the nuclear powers in boycotting the session.

On July 21, Trump announced an escalation of the US presence in Afghanistan. Attempting to portray his policy as distinct from his predecessors’, he said the US role in Afghanistan would now be “killing terrorists” not nation building……..

September 11, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s choice: back nuclear war, or support UN nuclear weapons ban.

Nuclear War Or Prohibition? Australia Can Choose,    By Gem Romuld on Australia’s alliance with the US does not mean we have to follow them to nuclear war, writes Gem Romuld from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Faced with two irrational and aggressive nuclear-armed leaders, deterrence theory is failing. The promise of nuclear attack is meant to keep nuclear states from using their weapons. Is it becoming clearer every week that this fragile structure is not built to last.

North Korea’s 6th nuclear test is alarming, yes, but an unsurprising next move in the war-game with US President Trump. Both Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are threatening each other with some form of catastrophic “fire”, a thin veil for nuclear war.

Both the US and North Korea are engaging in reckless provocations. Joint US/South Korean military drills on the Korean peninsula and the pursuit of the THAAD missile defence system are continually fueling the fire. Trump and Jong-un are paving the path to nuclear war. Another path exists and we must take it.

On September 20, heads of state and foreign ministers will line up at the United Nations to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). All states are invited to participate in the signing ceremony. When 50 countries have ratified, the new Treaty will enter into force. The TPNW was negotiated and adopted at the UN by 122 nations earlier this year, and promises to be a powerful tool to de-escalate, de-legitimise and disarm nuclear weapons.

The TPNW categorically rejects nuclear weapons for the instruments of catastrophe that they are. Founded on a deep and detailed understanding of the humanitarian impacts of the weapon, the treaty’s drafters have closed the legal gap by which nuclear possession by some was apparently tolerable.

Now, all three weapons of mass destruction are outlawed by international treaties, and nuclear possession by anyone is declared equally unacceptable. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “there are no right hands for the wrong weapon.”

The TPNW prohibits the development, stockpiling, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. It also prohibits any nations from encouraging, assisting or inducing others to engage in the prohibited activities. The goal of the Treaty is the total elimination of nuclear weapons; and it provides the formal legal channel to facilitate the process.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s unqualified support for Trump serves to legitimize and condone his actions. Instead of providing constant approval, Australia is in a position to change the landscape. The ANZUS Treaty doesn’t require us to be “joined at the hip”, as Turnbull suggests, but to consult together. Australia’s interests are not identical to the US’. Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong explained in the Lowy Interpreter last October; “being in an alliance does not mean Australia must agree reflexively with every aspect of American policy or make its foreign policy subservient to that of our partner”.

On September 20, the Australian leadership is faced with a choice to support or reject nuclear weapons. If it fails to sign the TPNW, Australia’s commitment to nuclear disarmament is fictional. As a signatory to the treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, expectations are high. Public opinion is with the Treaty; a March 2017 IPSOS poll found 74 per cent of Australians wanted our government to join the negotiations that led to this landmark agreement.

With every new signatory on the TPNW, the international norm against nuclear aggression will strengthen. The weapon will lose its status and it will be harder for nuclear programs to secure resources for modernization and maintenance. Countries that claim dependence on extended nuclear deterrence, like Australia, will experience increasing pressure to sign on and choose a non-nuclear defence posture.

What right does Turnbull have to criticise the North Korean nuclear program when Australia claims that nuclear weapons are essential for our security? De-escalation is urgently required, and the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides a legally sound and feasible alternative to the perilous path we’re currently on.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

How Australia increases nuclear weapons proliferation risks

Australia has uranium export agreements in place with all of the five ‘declared’ nuclear weapons states – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – although none of these countries take seriously their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation-Treaty to pursue nuclear disarmament.

IAEA safeguards inspections in the declared weapons states are voluntary and, in general, tokenistic.

Australia, along with the weapons states, boycotted recent negotiations on a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations in early July.

Australia has fallen into the trap of bending over backwards to support its allies on an international scale, and subordinating non-proliferation objectives to the commercial interests of the (mostly foreign-owned) uranium companies operating in Australia.

Australia’s contribution to nuclear proliferation risks, Bridget Mitchell and Jim Green, 6 Sept 2017, Online Opinion   Once again, the world finds itself in a dangerous place as one mad-man explodes increasingly powerful nuclear weapons and another mad-man threatens North Korea with “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

There appears to be no solution to the North Korean problem. Diplomacy, threats and sanctions have not been effective. Military intervention would likely result in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the 38th parallel ‒ with or without the use of nuclear weapons.

Australia isn’t to blame for the dangerous and escalating situation in North Korea but it’s worth reflecting on how we ‒ or more to the point, how successive governments ‒ have made the world a more dangerous place.

According to the World Nuclear Association, from the 1950s until the 1970s, Australia’s uranium was “primarily intended for US and UK weapons programs”. Although we no longer supply uranium for weapons production, Australia does contribute to proliferation risks. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment