Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s part in continuing nuclear havoc in Pacific islands – legacy of atomic bomb tests

75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc
April 6, 2021 
 Patricia A. O’Brien Patricia A. O’Brien is a Friend of The Conversation.Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University,    This year marks 75 years since the United States launched its immense atomic testing program in the Pacific. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands, then a UN Trust Territory governed by the US, have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation.Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, the legacies of this history are shaping the present in myriad ways.

This history has Australian dimensions too, though decades of diplomatic distance between Australia and the Marshall Islands have hidden an entangled atomic past.

In 1946, the Marshall Islands seemed very close for many Australians. They feared the imminent launch of the US’s atomic testing program on Bikini Atoll might split the earth in two, catastrophically change the earth’s climate, or produce earthquakes and deadly tidal waves.

A map accompanying one report noted Sydney was only 3,100 miles from ground zero. Residents as far away as Perth were warned if their houses shook on July 1, “it may be the atom bomb test”.

Australia was “included in the tests” as a site for recording blast effects and monitoring for atom bombs detonated anywhere in the world by hostile nations. This Australian site served to keep enemies in check and achieve one of the Pacific testing program’s objectives: to deter future war. The other justification was the advancement of science.

The earth did not split in two after the initial test (unless you were Marshallese) so they continued; 66 others followed over the next 12 years. But the insidious and multiple harms to people and place, regularly covered up or denied publicly, became increasingly hard to hide.

Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia, thyroid and other cancers became prevalent in exposed Marshallese, at least four islands were “partially or completely vapourised”, the exposed Marshallese “became subjects of a medical research program” and atomic refugees. (Bikinians were allowed to return to their atoll for a decade before the US government removed them again when it was realised a careless error falsely claimed radiation levels were safe in 1968.)

In late 1947, the US moved its operations to Eniwetok Atoll, a decision, it was argued, to ensure additional safety. Eniwetok was more isolated and winds were less likely to carry radioactive particles to populated areas.

Australian reports noted this site was only 3,200 miles from Sydney. Troubling reports of radioactive clouds as far away as the French Alps and the known shocking health effects appeared.

Dissenting voices were initially muted due to the steep escalation of the Cold War and Soviet atomic weapon tests beginning in 1949.

Opinion in Australia split along political lines. Conservative Cold War warriors, chief among them Robert Menzies who became prime minister again in 1949, kept Australia in lockstep with the US, and downplayed the ill-effects of testing. Left-wing elements in Australia continued to draw attention to the “horrors” it unleashed.

The atomic question came home in 1952, when the first of 12 British atomic tests began on the Montebello Islands, off Western Australia.   Australia’s involvement in atomic testing expanded again in 1954, when it began supplying South Australian-mined uranium to the US and UK’s joint defence purchasing authority, the Combined Development Agency.

Australia’s economic stake in the atomic age from 1954 collided with the galvanisation of global public opinion against US testing in Eniwetok. The massive “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in March exposed Marshall Islanders and a Japanese fishing crew on The Lucky Dragon to catastrophic radiation levels “equal to that received by Japanese people less than two miles from ground zero” in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. Graphic details of the fishermen’s suffering and deaths and a Marshallese petition to the United Nations followed.

When a UN resolution to halt US testing was voted on in July, Australia voted for its continuation. But the tide of public opinion was turning against testing. The events of 1954 dispelled the notion atomic waste was safe and could be contained. The problem of radioactive fish travelling into Australian waters highlighted these new dangers, which spurred increasing world wide protests until the US finally ceased testing in the Marshalls in 1958.

In the 1970s, US atomic waste was concentrated under the Runit Island dome, part of Enewetak Atoll (about 3,200 miles from Sydney). Recent alarming descriptions of how precarious and dangerous this structure is due to age, sea water inundation and storm damage exacerbated by climate change were contested in a 2020 Trump-era report.

The Biden administration’s current renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and its prioritisation of action on climate change, will put Runit Island high on the agenda. There is an opportunity for historical redress for the US that is even more urgent given the upsurge in discrimination against US-based Pacific Islander communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are peoples displaced by the tests.

Australia is also embarking on a new level of engagement with the Marshall Islands: it is due to open its first embassy in the capital Majuro in 2021.It should be remembered this bilateral relationship has an atomic history too. Australia supported the US testing program, assisted with data collection and voted in the UN for its continuation when Marshallese pleaded for it to be stopped. It is also likely Australian-sourced atomic waste lies within Runit Island, cementing Australia in this history.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, history, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison’s $billion missile spend, a gift to foreign war companies and their sponsor, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, (ASPI)

Foreign war lobby gets a $billion for missiles – media fawns 4 Apr 21,
Scott Morrison’s latest billion-dollar missile spend was deftly leaked to the media then talked up by ASPI whose sponsors have raked in $51 billion in Defence Department contracts while doling cash to the conflicted “think-tank”. Marcus Rubenstein investigates.

No sooner had Scott Morrison’s new cabinet been sworn in than it was back to business, feeding out distractions to the Canberra press gallery.

Nearly 14 hours before the prime minister announced to the nation that Australia was going to spend a billion dollars on building “our own missiles” Greg Sheridan from The Australian had the scoop—along with The Age/SMH, Nine Newspapers stablemate Australian Financial Review and the ABC. Along with the ranks of metropolitan mainstream media dailies who all fell in line behind the announcement.

And with military precision they all fired off their online reports at 10:30pm… or, to be more precise, 22:30 hrs.

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald both quoted ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) in their coverage as did The Conversation, along with others they listed potential weapons maker partners for this home grown missile mission.

Apart from the glaring fact that none of these companies are actually Australian, most were listed by ASPI in a report it published last year. Of the five potential partner companies being touted by mainstream media— Raytheon (USA), Lockheed Martin (USA), Kongsberg (Norway), Rafeal (Israel) and BAE Systems (UK)—all but one is a long-term financial backer of ASPI.

As is de rigueur there was no mention that ASPI’s enthusiasm for substantial new military expenditure was directed towards spending on weapons made by their sponsors.

A number of media reports included PR handout images from US missile maker Raytheon, which for years was a loyal ASPI sponsor and also the former employer of, recently demoted, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

The actual announcement was made by the prime minister, not at Parliament House, but at the South Australian facility of Raytheon.

Government access for weapons makers

Since ASPI’s foundation in 2001, when it was created to challenge the policy direction of Defence, it has become more and more commercialised.

This fact was highlighted by ASPI’s founding Executive Director Hugh White, who wrote on the 15th anniversary of its foundation, “The quality of defence policy slumped… [and] ASPI’s focus inevitably swung round to contributing to public debates not government policy-making.”

Under Hugh White’s leadership, ASPI preserved a great deal of independence and only took an average of $28,000 per year in commercial revenue.

In the last financial year, under the leadership of (former Howard Government adviser) Peter Jennings, ASPI raked in $6,953,000 in commercial revenue. Yet it maintains its façade of independence of outside influence.

ASPI sponsor, French-owned Naval Group was awarded the contract for Australia’s controversial $80 billion future submarine project. It has been in the headlines recently after an independent report released in March found the project was “dangerously off track”.

In 2016, when the contract was awarded Jennings, wrote a glowing opinion piece, about his sponsor, under the headline “Vive Australia’s choice of a French submarine”.

The release of the Future Submarines Report was very critical of the entire project and there were suggestions from highly credentialed defence strategists that Australia should walk away from the deal.

In response, ASPI wrote that not only should Naval Group keeps its contract but the Royal Australian Navy should commission un-maned Orca submarines whilst waiting decades for the French submarines order to be fulfilled.

And who makes the Orca? Another ASPI sponsor, Boeing Defense.

This comes after revelations in March that ASPI had been commissioned to write a report critical of the federal government’s awarding of cloud computing contracts to Australian company Canberra Data Centres (CDC).

As it transpires, ASPI had been commissioned to write the report by lobbying firm Australian Public Affairs (APA); the Commonwealth Lobbyists Register reveals APA represent CDC’s three main commercial rivals.

Last October, ASPI’s Peter Jennings told the ABC, “ASPI’s work as a think tank is genuinely independent” and suggestions it was controlled by sponsors were “frankly nonsense”.

The massive ASPI payoff

ASPI is not an independent think tank, it is in fact a Commonwealth Company which reports to the parliament through the Defence Ministry. In its latest annual report ASPI singled out the then Defence Minister for her “continuing close personal engagement and support”.

In her first speech as Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds boasted of her close friendship with ASPI’s Peter Jennings.

Clearly ASPI’s boss and his board, which is chaired by former Chief of the Army, Lt Gen (Ret’d) Kenneth Gillespie and includes former Liberal Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, has access to the highest levels of government and the Defence Department.

Since ASPI’s inception it has received sponsorship from 12 manufacturers of weapons and weapons systems. Over that period, they have been awarded 9,423 Defence Department contracts with a total value of $51.2 billion.

This does not include another 49 ASPI sponsors who do not manufacture weapons, yet Department of Finance data, reveals have benefitted from more than $30 billion in defence contracts since 2001.

ASPI’s most recent annual report revealed that in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, it hosted 142 separate events and meetings, many of them bringing together defence policy makers and defence suppliers.

At one such event in 2019, sponsored by Thales, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds was keynote speaker. Presumably executives from these foreign weapons makers had some level of access to the minister.

Department of Finance figures later revealed that ministerial and department staff were charged $30,723 by ASPI in order to attend that speech.

April 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, politics, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research into the effects of nuclear bomb tests on Montebello islands


March 22, 2021 Posted by | environment, weapons and war, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australia’s purchase of vastly expensive French nuclear-powered submarine design, adapted to diesel, now to be scrapped?

These submarine designs were adapted from the French nuclear submarines. I thought, at the time, that they were chosen in preference to the more suitable, and more affordable German design, under the pressure of the nuclear lobby. Presumably, it would be practical to later adapt these submarines to be nuclear-powered.

March 2, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian Strategic Policy Institute – a stooge for weapons industries and China-haters

March 2, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Mount Isa City Council supports nuclear weapons ban

Mount Isa City Council supports nuclear weapons ban, Derek Barry, 10 Feb 21, 

   Mount Isa City Council has officially endorsed the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Cities Appeal and will advise the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the endorsement…… (subscribers only

February 11, 2021 Posted by | Queensland, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian Capital Territory politicians join calls for Australia to sign nuclear ban treaty

January 25, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Red Cross celebrates Nuclear Ban Treaty- an incremental process towards elimination of nuclear weapons

January 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia could sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty and still keep its military co=operation with America

The nuclear weapons ban treaty is groundbreaking, even if the nuclear powers haven’t signed The Conversation 22, 2021  Tilman RuffHonorary Principal Fellow, School of Population anobal Health, University of Melbourne, 

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted at the United Nations in 2017 and finally reached the milestone of 50 ratifications in October. The countries that have signed and ratified include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria and Thailand.

The treaty completes the suite of international bans on all major weapons considered unacceptable because of their indiscriminate and inhumane effects, including anti-personnel landminescluster munitionsbiological and chemical weapons………

The TPNW strengthens the current nuclear safeguards found in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by requiring all states that join to have comprehensive provisions in place and not allowing states to weaken their existing safeguards.

The treaty provides the first legally binding multilateral framework for a process by which all nations can work toward eliminating nuclear weapons………

Further, the TPNW is the first treaty to commit member nations to provide long-neglected assistance for the victims of atomic bombs and weapon testing. It also calls for nations to clean up environments contaminated by nuclear weapons use and testing, where feasible.

Nuclear-armed states have been put on notice

Currently, 86 nations have signed the TPNW, and 51 have ratified it (meaning they are bound by its provisions). The treaty now becomes part of international law, and the number of signatories and ratifications will continue to grow……..

While any treaty is technically only binding on the states that join it, the TPNW establishes a new international legal standard against which all nuclear policies will now be judged.

The treaty, in short, is a game-changer, and the nuclear-armed and dependent countries have been put on notice. They know the treaty jeopardises their claimed right to continue to threaten the planet with their weapons, as well as their plans to modernise and maintain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely…………

The strength of the opposition is a measure of the treaty’s importance. It will have implications for everything from defence policies and military plans to weapons manufacturing to financial investments in the companies that profit from making now illegal nuclear weapons………….

January 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Morrison government gets in early to disparage nuclear ban treaty, but Labor supports it

New nuclear treaty will be ‘ineffective’: DFAT, SMH,  Anthony Galloway, January 21, 2021, Australia says a new United Nations nuclear treaty signed by more than 80 countries will be ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.The Morrison government has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which comes into effect on Friday.

The treaty, signed by 86 countries, bans signatories from testing, developing, producing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

The Australian government decided not to sign the treaty on the basis that it failed to recognise the realities of the current international security environment.

Government sources confirmed there was concern about how the treaty would affect Australia’s dealings with the United States, including intelligence sharing through the Pine Gap satellite surveillance base near Alice Springs, because it banned signatories from doing anything to assist a nuclear weapon state in its nuclear plans.

New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, Australia, Canada and Britain, has signed the treaty…….

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Labor welcomed the treaty.

“After taking into account the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, the interaction of the treaty with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and achieve universal support, a Labor government would sign and ratify the treaty,” she said.

“Australia can and should lead international efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A Labor government would work with our allies and partners to this end and would always act consistently with the US alliance.”

Helen Durham, director for international law and policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said all countries should sign the treaty as it was the “most explicit and clearest expression that the horrific weapons need to be banned”.

“It deals not only with their use but also with their threat of use, with their stockpiling, with their production, with their development and their testing,” she said.

“This treaty is a great opportunity to move a very stagnated, to date, agenda forward and we would encourage every state to take up this opportunity.”

Dave Sweeney, co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the treaty was a “sign of hope for our planet”.

“The changed status of nuclear weapons means Australia faces a clear choice,” he said. “We either choose to be a responsible and lawful member of the global community or we remain silent and complicit in plans to fight illegal wars

January 21, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian government complicit in nuclear weapons, silent on Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

January 21, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons ban treaty: more than a symbolic victory

Nuclear weapons ban treaty: more than a symbolic victory, Editor: Nicole MacKeeAuthor: Sue Warehamon: January 18, 2021

As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) comes into force later this week, Dr Sue Wareham of the Medical Association for Prevention of War outlines the local and global implications. And, she calls on the Federal Government to make an explicit declaration that nuclear weapons must never be used again under any circumstances.

Sue Wareham writes:

Here’s a good news story about health to kick off 2021. It’s not about vaccines (despite their critical importance), but about the only weapons that threaten all of us and the environment we depend on: nuclear weapons.

On Friday 22 January, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or nuclear weapons ban treaty, will legally come into effect. From that date, nuclear weapons – and every aspect of their existence including their development, testing, production, transfer, use and even possession – will be illegal under international law.

This is a huge achievement, and celebrations will be held around the globe, including in Australia.

Health professionals push

The legal prohibition stemmed from the health and humanitarian impacts of the weapons. They incinerate cities, kill, maim, burn and irradiate humans by the million, and destroy just about everything that health professionals need in the event of disaster. Their use could well trigger a nuclear winter that reduces food crops to starvation levels. By any measure, that’s an unconscionable affront to the healing professions.

Similarly, the momentum that led to the ban treaty was driven by health and humanitarian organisations and practitioners, in collaboration with progressive governments.

The message of prevention, especially of catastrophes for which there would be little that health professionals could do in response, was key, and remains so.

The ban treaty is an especially proud achievement for health professionals in Australia, where in 2007 the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) initiated the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which played a leading role in the achievement of the Treaty.

The ban treaty is far from a symbolic victory; the are huge, even without all nations – including those with the weapons – yet coming on board.

Associated with illegality

Nuclear weapons and those nations that possess or promote them will now be associated with illegality, which provides strong political leverage with which to press for abolition of the weapons.

This has certainly been the experience with the prohibition by treaty of other unacceptable weapons systems such as chemical and biological weapons, landmines, and cluster bombs.

Pressure will be brought to bear on financial, academic and other institutions that receive funding from, or invest in, the companies that make the weapons, to dissociate themselves from the purveyors of illegal goods; this has already begun (see, for example, herehere, and here) and will increase.

This is not only morally and medically repugnant, but such implicit threats of nuclear terror will now be, as of 22 January, illegal under international law.

The ban treaty comes none too soon. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned in January 2020 of the undermining of “cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity”, and that “civilisation-ending nuclear war – whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication – is a genuine possibility”.

The risk of nuclear war was assessed as higher than it’s ever been. If any further evidence were needed of the perilous state in which humanity exists, we were reminded recently that the US nuclear arsenal can be launched by one person, the president, regardless of whether that person happens to be an unhinged narcissist.

Call for change

Australia’s policy must change. There must be an explicit declaration that nuclear weapons must never be used again under any circumstances. And there must be a commitment to the urgent abolition of these weapons as the only way to ensure this.

Preventive health demands nothing less, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the only global initiative that is leading us towards these goals. Australia must sign and ratify it.

The nuclear weapons ban treaty is supported by peak Australian and global health bodies, including the Australian Medical Association, the World Medical Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the International Council of Nurses, the Public Health Association of Australia, and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

MAPW is calling on the Health Minister Greg Hunt to declare that:

  • Nuclear weapons must never be used, under any circumstances; and
  • It is a medical and public health imperative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Readers are encouraged to join the call; you can do so here. It will be delivered to the Minister on 22 January, the day the TPNW comes into force. It will also be sent to the Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen. Pleasingly, ALP policy is to support the TPNW when in government; that commitment must remain solid.

Since the first – and, thus far, the only – use of nuclear weapons in war in 1945, health professionals have played leading roles in the quest for their elimination. This critically important role continues. We have the weight of medical authority, moral authority and now unequivocal legal authority with which to exert political pressure.

Dr Sue Wareham OAM is President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War, and board member, ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Australia.

January 19, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How will Entry Into Force of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty impact non weapons states parties, including Australia?

January 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Treaty – a step on the long path towards nuclear disarmament.

January 7, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia joins with USA to get hypersonic missiles

December 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment