Why is Australia not fully behind efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons? http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/why-is-australia-not-fully-behind-efforts-to-prohibit-nuclear-weapons-20161229-gtjhd6.html, Sue Wareham It’s about time for some good news. Heaven knows, we need it after 2016’s litany of human failures to find peace between ourselves and with our struggling planet. But as a Christmas gift of historic proportions, the UN – which is to say its member states – has taken the most promising action in decades to lead us towards the elimination of the world’s worst weapons. Late on December 23 in New York, the UN General Assembly resolved by a strong majority to begin talks in March on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
To realise the full significance of this, consider the fact that other weapons of mass destruction – chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines, cluster bombs – have all been prohibited by their respective treaties, and the threats posed by these weapons dramatically reduced as a result. But for nuclear weapons, which literally threaten life on Earth, there is currently no equivalent.
One might have expected that our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who likes spruiking Australia’s commitment to a “rules-based international order”, would welcome the imminent closure of this legal anomaly. On the contrary, however, Australia has been leading the charge to undermine the process.
Australia claims that the ban treaty process has not taken into account the security needs of “all nations” (for which read the US), a curious claim given that our ally stands out as more vulnerable than most to a nuclear weapons attack. In any event, is she really suggesting that the security needs claimed by the nine nuclear-armed nations outweigh the right of the other 187 of us to be rid of this diabolical threat?
That’s a bit like cutting President Bashar al-Assad some slack over his alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria because he has “security needs”. Weapons of mass destruction are not somehow more acceptable because a handful of nations claim that they, and only they, must have them. But, the ban treaty critics say, nuclear weapons are different, and the countries with the weapons will just thumb their collective noses at it.
Not according to a letter in October from the US mission to NATO to its European allies, urging that they oppose the treaty. With an air of desperation to sabotage the whole thing, the US stated that efforts to delegitimise nuclear weapons are at odds with its policy of nuclear deterrence, including extended deterrence for its allies (such as NATO members and Australia). Further, horror of horrors, it “could make it impossible to undertake nuclear planning or training”. Well, yes, that’s the general idea, to delegitimise every aspect of nuclear weapons possession and planning; and all indications are that that goal will be achieved, regardless of who signs the treaty. So much for the toothless tiger notion.
Nevertheless, Australia presses on with its defence of US nuclear weapons, including their possible use on our behalf, not veering from its chosen “progressive” approach to disarmament. This consists of a number of steps that have progressed more slowly over decades than a drunken snail.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has languished since it was completed in 1996, with little prospect of ever coming into force, and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty has been moribund for even longer. In other words, we are told that a stagnant business-as-usual agenda is the way to go, even as 15,000-plus nuclear weapons – 1800 of them still on hair-trigger alert – continue to threaten human suffering of the most grotesque proportions, and all warnings point to increasing risk of their use.
Australia will have to decide very quickly whether we support the majority of nations that have come to their senses and are about to outlaw nuclear weapons, or the Trumps and Putins of this world with their chilling Cold War-style ravings. For a nation that boasts commitment to a “rules-based international order”, the choice hardly seems difficult.
The reality of moving one big step closer to stigmatising, prohibiting and eliminating the most destructive, inhumane, indiscriminate devices ever created is cause for celebration. However, there is another cause for celebration, and that is the capacity of civil society – without which the nuclear weapons ban would not be happening – to mobilise, organise, work with supportive governments and set the agenda for a better world. As the politics of violence, division and hatred loom large on many fronts, such capacity is desperately needed for the huge challenges ahead.
Dr Sue Wareham is a board member of ICAN (Australia), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Hawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/hawke-government-schemed-to-stymie-maralinga-nuclear-test-compensation-cabinet-documents-reveal/story-fni6uo1m-1227171284110 PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015 THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.
Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading
As the world pushes for a ban on nuclear weapons, Australia votes to stay on the wrong side of history, The Conversation, Associate Professor, International Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne November 16, 2016 “………A
ustralia’s role in fighting a nuclear weapon ban
In voting “no”, Australia stuck out like a sore thumb among Asia-Pacific nations in at October’s UN committee meeting. All of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members – including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – as well as New Zealand and ten out of 12 Pacific island countries voted yes.
Australia is signatory to all the key international treaties banning or controlling weapons. On some, like the Chemical Weapons Convention, Australia was a leader. Australia’s active opposition and efforts to undermine moves towards a treaty banning nuclear weapons stand in stark contrast.
Australia’s stated arguments for opposing a ban treaty have varied, including that there are no “shortcuts” to disarmament; that only measures with the support of the nuclear-armed states are worthwhile; that a ban would damage the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, causing instability and deepening divisions between states with and without nuclear weapons; that it wouldn’t address North Korea’s threatening behaviour; and that it does not take account of today’s security challenges.
Perhaps the most extraordinary justification of Australia’s position came from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Richard Sadleir, who said at a Senate estimates hearing on October 20, 2016:
it is not an auspicious time to be pushing for a treaty of this sort. Indeed, in order to be able to effectively carry forward disarmament, you need to have a world in which there is not a threat of nuclear weapons and people feel safe and secure.
Can anyone seriously imagine Australian officials arguing that we need to keep stockpiles of sarin nerve gas, plague bacteria, smallpox virus, or botulism toxin for deterrence, just in case, because we live in an uncertain world?
Yet that is what Australia continues to argue about nuclear weapons. Sadleir is saying that disarmament is only possible after it has happened, when we live in an impossibly perfect world. It’s a nonsensical argument that puts off nuclear disarmament indefinitely.
As revealed in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade internal documents, released through a Freedom of Information request, the real reason that Australia opposes a ban treaty is that it would jeopardise our reliance on US nuclear weapons.
How Australia can help with disarmament
It’s 71 years since the Hiroshima bombing, and 46 years since the nuclear non-proliferation treaty came into force, committing all governments to bring about nuclear disarmament. But that treaty is too weak: no disarmament negotiations are underway or planned.
Instead, every nuclear armed state is investing massively in keeping and modernising their nuclear arsenals for the indefinite future. The US alone has said it plans to spend about US$348 billion over the next decade on its nuclear arsenal.
Nations like Australia cannot eliminate weapons they don’t own. But they can prohibit them, by international treaty and in domestic law. And they can push other nations to do more to reduce threats to humanity – just as Australia has done with every other weapon of mass destruction.
An overwhelming majority of Australians have said in the past that they support a treaty banning nuclear weapons: 84% according to a 2014 Nielsen poll commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with only 3% opposed.
This is an issue that should be above party politics. In 2015, the Labor Party adopted a new national policy platform committing to support the negotiation of a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. At a public meeting in Perth last month, Bill Shorten said that a Labor government would support the UN resolution for a ban treaty.
In October 2016, our government let us down by voting to be counted on the wrong side of history. Thankfully, we can still expect to see the United Nations ratify the move towards a new treaty banning nuclear weapons in December, with negotiations set to begin in March 2017 in New York. It’s still not too late for Australia to change its vote, and participate constructively in the negotiations next year. https://theconversation.com/as-the-world-pushes-for-a-ban-on-nuclear-weapons-australia-votes-to-stay-on-the-wrong-side-of-history-68337
Clearly, Australia, Japan and South Korea voted in solidarity with their U.S. nuclear protector and against the overwhelming sentiment of their Asian and Pacific neighbors as well as against global opinion. Being on the wrong side of geography as well as history is not a good look. Their vote might also attract charges of hypocrisy the next time they criticize North Korea’s nuclear program
Rattling the nuclear cage, and look who is terrified, Japan Times, BY RAMESH THAKUR , 4 Nov 16, “…….
on Oct. 27 the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly adopted, by the overwhelming vote of 123-38 (with 16 abstentions), Resolution A/C.1/71/L.41, which calls for negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.” Two conferences will be convened next year in New York (March 27 to 31 and June 15 to July 7). The resolution fulfills the 127-nation humanitarian pledge “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
The strengthening international sentiment was evident at the U.N. working group’s disarmament meeting in Geneva in August when Australia angered many countries by insisting on a recorded vote instead of approving a consensus report calling for negotiations on a ban to begin in 2017. Continue reading
UN votes to start negotiating treaty to ban nuclear weapons
Australia votes with major nuclear powers against the resolution – including US, Russia and Israel – but 123 nations vote in favour, Guardian Ben Doherty, 28 Oct 16, United Nations member states have voted overwhelmingly to start negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed nations and their allies.
In the vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee on Thursday, 123 nations were in favour of the resolution, 38 opposed and 16 abstained.
Nuclear powers the United States, Russia, Israel, France and the United Kingdom were among those that opposed the measure.
Australia, as forecast last week, and as a long-time dependant on the US’s extended nuclear deterrence, also voted no.
The resolution now goes to a full general assembly vote some time in December.
The resolution aims to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.
But Australia has been the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.
During months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons…….
Professor Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said the vote was a “historic step” for the world that “heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament”.
“The numbers are especially encouraging given the ferocious pressure on countries to vote no by the nuclear-armed states, who see that this will fundamentally challenge their continued possession of nuclear weapons,” he said.
The treaty will fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons – nuclear weapons – are the only weapon of mass destruction to not yet be outlawed by international treaty.”
Ruff said Australia should reverse its opposition “and get on the right side of humanity”.
“Australia is doing dirty work for Washington, and is willing for US nuclear weapons to be used on its behalf, and potentially with its assistance,” he said.
“It is inconceivable that Australia would not eventually sign up to a treaty prohibiting the last to be banned and worst [weapons of mass destruction]. We’ve signed every other treaty banning an unacceptable weapon, and on some, like chemical weapons, we were a leader.”…….https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/28/un-votes-to-start-negotiating-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons
One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.
Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.
While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.
Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.
Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia Published in: Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.
The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:
6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).
Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.
Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia Published in: Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “…….The security measures taken to restrict access to the testing site were not without flaws. One morning in May 1957, four Aboriginal people, the Milpuddie family, were found by range authorities near the crater formed by the ‘Buffalo 2’ explosion the previous October. ‘Me man, woman, two children and two dogs had set out on foot from the Everard Ranges in the northwest of South Australia, and were unaware that the Aboriginal inhabitants of the Maralinga area had been removed. When authorities discovered them, the family was immediately taken to a decontamination centre at the site, and were required to shower. After this experience, which must have been frightening enough, the family was driven to Yalata.
As one of the site personnel described the experience:
It was a shocking trip down as they had never ridden in a vehicle before and vomited everywhere (Australia 1985, p. 320).
On instructions from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Supply, the dogs were shot. ‘ne woman was pregnant at the time the family was taken into custody; subsequently, her baby was born dead. Australian authorities went to great lengths to keep the incident secret, but they appear to have been less concerned with the family’s subsequent health. Commenting upon the fact that no-one appears to have taken the time to explain the experience to which the hapless Aborigines were subjected, a team of anthropologists was to comment:
[T]he three remaining members of the family have been subjected to a high degree of stress and unhappiness about the events of twenty-eight years ago (Australia 1985, p. 323)…….http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html
Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia Published in: Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253
“……….Another factor which underlay Australian deference during the course of the testing program was the role of Sir Ernest Titterton. A British physicist, Titterton had worked in the United States on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapon.
After the war, he held a position at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and in 1950 he was appointed to the Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University. Among Titterton’s earliest tasks in Australia was that of an adviser to the British scientific team at the first Monte Bello tests. In 1956, the Australian government established an Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) responsible for monitoring the British testing program to ensure that the safety of the Australian environment and population were not jeopardised. To this end, it was to review British test proposals, provide expert advice to the Australian government, and to monitor the outcome of tests. Titterton was a foundation member of the Committee and later, its Chairman.
While Menzies had envisaged that the Committee would act as an independent, objective body, evidence suggests that it was more sensitive to the needs of the British testing program than to its Australian constituents.
Members tended to be drawn from the nuclear weapons fraternity, as was Titterton; from the Defence establishment, from the Commonwealth Department of Supply, from the Commonwealth X-Ray and Radium Laboratory, and from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Although the expertise of these individuals is beyond dispute, one wonders if they may have been too closely identified with the ‘atomic establishment’ to provide independent critical advice. The nuclear weapons fraternity have often been criticised as a rather cavalier lot; no less a person than General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb, has been quoted as having said ‘Radiation death is a very pleasant way to die’ (Ball 1986, p. 8). In retrospect, the Australian safety committee suffered from the absence of biologists and environmental scientists in its ranks……..
In 1960, the British advised the AWTSC that ‘long lived fissile elements’ and ‘a toxic material’ would be used in the ‘Vixen B’ tests. Titterton requested that the materials be named, and later announced ‘They have answered everything we asked.’ The substances in question were not disclosed (Australia 1985, p. 414). In recommending that the Australian government agree to the tests, he appears to have been either insufficiently informed of the hazards at hand, or to have failed to communicate those hazards to the Safety Committee, and through it, to the Australian government. Earlier, before the Totem tests, he had reassured the Australian Prime Minister that
the time of firing will be chosen so that any risk to health due to radioactive contamination in our cities, or in fact to any human beings, is impossible. . . . [N]o habitations or living beings will suffer injury to health from the effects of the atomic explosions proposed for the trials (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 467).
There were other examples of Titterton’s role in filtering information to the Australian authorities, a role which has been described as ‘pivotal’ (Australia 1985, p. 513). He proposed that he be advised informally of certain details of proposed experiments. In one instance, he advised the British that ‘It would perhaps be wise to make it quite clear that the fission yield in all cases is zero’, knowing that this would be a misrepresentation of fact (Australia 1985, p. 519). Years later, the Royal Commission suggested that Titterton may have been more a de facto member of the British Atomic Weapons Research Establishment than a custodian of the Australian public interest.
The Royal Commission’s indictment of Titterton would be damning:
Titterton played a political as well as a safety role in the testing program, especially in the minor trials. He was prepared to conceal information from the Australian Government and his fellow Committee members if he believed to do so would suit the interests of the United Kingdom Government and the testing program (Australia 1985, p. 526)……… http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html
when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base
“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”
“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”
We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation….. these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk….These are the questions we don’t discuss.
Later this month, the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly will vote on a draft resolution that will ‘convene a UN conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. The resolution is expected to be adopted with a substantial majority. But the Australian government, in an unprecedented departure from a decades-long bipartisan commitment to nuclear disarmament, plans to vote no.
As reported in The Interpreter in August, Australian diplomats have been fighting an increasingly desperate rearguard action against the move by more than 100 other countries to negotiate a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons, with or without the participation of nuclear-armed states. Such a treaty would put Australia in an awkward spot. As a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), there is no prima facie legal reason Australia could not support and join such an instrument. Indeed, it is not obvious why any state that is legally obliged by Article VI of the NPT to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament could not vote to ‘convene a United Nations conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons’. But Australia’s reliance on extended nuclear deterrence evidently poses a problem.
Australia has been curiously reluctant to engage honestly with other governments about its true objection to the ban treaty. Instead of frankly expressing their concerns about the implications that an absolute prohibition of nuclear weapons might have for Australia’s defence doctrine, Australian officials have continued to trot out one flimsy and transparent pretext after another. Ambassador John Quinn told the First Committee that a ban treaty ‘would not rid us of one nuclear weapon. It would not change the realities we all face in a nuclear-armed DPRK’. This is a ludicrous criticism from a country that supports the ‘step-by-step’ or ‘building blocks’ approach to nuclear disarmament. A fissile material cut-off treaty would also ‘not rid us of one nuclear weapon’, but Australia (rightly) supports it as one of a range of measures needed to move closer to a world without nuclear weapons…….
Australia has also joined the US and other opponents of the ban treaty in incorrectly and disingenuously portraying it as ‘abandoning’ their preferred ‘step-by-step’ approach. Proponents of the ban treaty have been careful to emphasise that it is not a replacement for existing measures (such as pursuing a fissile material treaty, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-ban Treaty, further bilateral stockpile reductions, etc), but, rather, is intended to support and reinvigorate them. There is no choice to be made: any country that supports, negotiates and joins the ban treaty can and will continue to work cooperatively with all states to strengthen the NPT and pursue the ‘practical, realistic’ measures that Australia advocates……
Contrast this with other countries that share some of Australia’s concerns. Sweden’s decision to vote yes came after months of careful deliberation by a commission specially established by the government to examine the implications of the ban treaty for Sweden. Japan’s government commissioned an extensive study by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The Clingendael foreign policy institute produced a study back in May 2015 on the implications of a ban treaty for the Netherlands, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation produced a similar study for Germany.
However Australia casts its vote in the First Committee, negotiations on the ban treaty will commence at the UN next year. Australia is manifestly unprepared for this. It would be totally unprecedented (and unconscionable) for Australia to fail to participate in a UN-mandated negotiation of a multilateral disarmament treaty. But if Australia does choose to participate, its record of disingenuous and at times dishonest opposition to the ban, coupled with a dire lack of substantive policy analysis, will leave it poorly placed to steer the negotiations in its national interest. http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2016/10/20/Australia-digs-itself-deeper-into-nuclear-disarmament-policy-hole.aspx
Australia will not support negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons Senate estimates to question foreign affairs department officials on Thursday on nuclear disarmament stance, Guardian, Ben Doherty 20 Oct 16, Australia will not support a resolution to begin negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons, as it grows increasingly isolated from a global disarmament push.
A resolution is before the United Nations general assembly to “convene a United Nations conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons”.
The resolution has 39 co-sponsoring nations and will be voted on by the general assembly later this month, or next. The conference is slated for March next year.
Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will appear before Senate estimates on Thursday to face questioning on Australia’s nuclear disarmament position.
Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.
Australia has spent months in negotiations over the proposed negotiations, seeking to stymie the push for a ban on nuclear weapons, and has sought to press the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.
Australia has consistently maintained that while nuclear weapons exist, it must rely on the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal, the second largest in the world.
In August, with nations at a UN disarmament meeting set to unanimously pass a report recommending negotiations on a ban start in 2017, Australia forced a vote on the issue, which it lost 68 to 22.
The move upset opponents and allies alike, resulting in the adoption of a report with stronger language in favour of a ban. Australia was marked as the most strident opponent of a ban treaty.
But diplomatic cables obtained under freedom of information laws now show that Australia, despite its resolute opposition, is increasingly pessimistic about stopping ban treaty negotiations progressing.
“We are concerned that the [open-ended working] group [on nuclear disarmament] is tracking towards recommendations supporting a nuclear weapons ‘ban treaty’ which we do not support,” a cable sent to Canberra from Geneva in June this year said.
A so-called “humanitarian pledge” to eliminate nuclear weapons has been signed by 127 states around the world. Australia is particularly isolated in the Asia-Pacific region – ASEAN nations, New Zealand, and almost all Pacific Island states, support a ban treaty……….
Associate professor Tilman Ruff, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said that with a ban treaty likely to be concluded next year, the world stood at an historic turning point.
A ban would, he argued, “fill the existing legal gap which currently makes the most heinously destructive of all weapons the last weapon of mass destruction not explicitly outlawed by international treaty”.
“For other indiscriminate and inhumane weapons … the world has first established a clear moral and legal norm of prohibition. For biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel land-mines and cluster munitions, establishing an unequivocal norm of prohibition has … been the basis for subsequent progress towards their elimination.
“Prohibit, then eliminate. That is the proven, logical path. For nuclear weapons it is also the only feasible, practical option at this time.”
The Australian government’s position, he said, was becoming increasingly untenable globally, and falling further out of step with Australian public opinion.
Politically, support for Australian reliance on America’s extended nuclear deterrence, is no longer bipartisan. At its national conference in 2015, Labor formally adopted a policy of “firm support” for an outright ban on nuclear weapons.
Lisa Singh spoke at a UN side event in New York last week – in her capacity as a Labor Senator, not as a representative of the Australian government – arguing the “doctrine of nuclear deterrence … is based on a willingness to inflict violence indiscriminately and on a massive scale”……… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/20/australia-will-not-support-negotiations-to-outlaw-nuclear-weapons
New submarines could ultimately be nuclear, say experts AFR, by Mark Abernethy, 30 Sep 16 As far as government spending goes, it could be the largest capital project ever undertaken in Australia. The Future Submarines Program (FSP) aims to build 12 submarines at a cost of what could be more than $36 billion, taking the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s estimate of each sub costing up to $3.04 billion (some public estimates have been higher).
The prime contractor for the 12 submarines – intended to replace the Collins-class subs after 2025 – is French shipbuilder, DCNS, whose winning design is a diesel-electric variant on its Barracuda nuclear sub, now labelled the Shortfin Barracuda for the Australian project.
The requirement of the process was to deliver a regionally superior submarine, meaning the subs should be state-of-the-art, with a modern hull and a combat system from the United States.
However concerns about the new sub’s ability to convert from nuclear to diesel-electric may be ill-founded. In fact, the nuclear-centric design of the Barracuda class may be the point of the exercise, not the problem. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the later builds are nuclear,” says Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
He says the broadening range of Australia’s defence outlook could also be a driver of a switch to the ultra-long range of nuclear submarines. The acceptance of the “Indo-Pacific” as Australia’s strategic theatre increasingly means simultaneous long-range deployments, in different oceans, with different intensities.
“It’s probably a good bet to say that the reason we’ve gone with the Barracuda is that some of the 12 builds can be nuclear, giving the ADF more options in how these submarines are used, ” says Jennings……..
Dr Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, says the Japanese submarine in the tender was smaller than the Barracuda, and the Japanese contractor didn’t commit to building in Australia. However, the Japanese bid had the crucial advantage that its submarine is proven operationally…….http://www.afr.com/news/special-reports/defence-and-national-security/new-submarines-could-ultimately-be-nuclear-say-experts-20160926-grohze.
Fallout from British atomic tests at Maralinga continues, Liz Tynan – The West Australian on September 27, 2016 “……… the most damaging chapter in the history of British nuclear weapons testing in Australia. The British had carried out atomic tests in 1952 and 1956 at the Montebello Islands off WA and in 1953 at Emu Field north of Maralinga.
The British had requested and were granted a huge chunk of South Australia to create a “permanent” atomic weapons test site, after finding the conditions at Montebello and Emu Field too remote and unworkable.
Australia’s then prime minister, Robert Menzies, was all too happy to oblige. Back in September 1950 in a phone call with his British counterpart, Clement Attlee, he had said yes to nuclear testing without even referring the issue to his Cabinet…… Continue reading
Pine Gap: Secretive spy base’s role in drone strikes putting Australia in danger, expert warns http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-23/pine-gaps-actions-could-endanger-australian-security/7872190?section=environment The World Today By Brendan Trembath An expert on Pine Gap has raised concerns about the spy base’s role in supporting drone attacks on suspected terrorists overseas.
Officially called The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, the site is jointly run by the Australian and United States governments and is one of Australia’s most secret sites. The facility has been in operation since 1970 and is located half-an-hour’s drive south-west of Alice Springs.
Professor Richard Tanter, from the University of Melbourne, says Pine Gap contributes targeting data to American drone operations, including assassinations. “One of Pine Gap’s two key functions is as a control station and a downlink station for signal intelligence satellites 36,000 kilometres up in space,” he said. “They are picking up a very wide array of radio transmissions, including cell phones, satellite phones and so forth. “And that provides the data, both the contents and the geolocation data for targets of interest through the United States military.”
He said Pine Gap was also used for counter-terrorism and wider intelligence programs, as the site was able to contribute data “pretty directly — for example into drone targeting operations.”
Professor Tanter acknowledged that those type of programs were part of the alliance between the US and Australia, and Australia’s interest in the global fight against terrorism
But he said the question was whether it could be considered a good idea on a political level, seeing the potential for creating “further terrorism” if a strike were to go wrong.
“At a legal and moral level do we really want to be involved in operations which are frankly illegal under international law. In countries where we’re not at war, such as Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, these are simply assassinations.”
“We won’t like it very much when it’s done back to us I suspect.”
Base also a likely target for nuclear missiles Professor Tanter said the site continued to be a “pretty high priority nuclear missile target” in the event of a major conflict between the United States and Russia or China.
“It would be, as they say in the military, a lucrative target of many benefits,” Professor Tanter said . “Secondly it is itself involved in nuclear war planning. I think that’s a totally awful thing for us to contemplate — you can’t use nuclear weapons except in a fairly genocidal way.”The Defence Department said that “the facility makes an important contribution to national security.”
A spokesperson said: “It provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments. “It also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements, and provides ballistic missile early warning information.”
Dick Smith questions submarine project, says plans are ‘ludicrous’ and ‘we’re being conned’ 891 ABC Adelaide, 14 Sept 16
A group of prominent businessmen, including Dick Smith and John Singleton, have taken out a full-page ad in The Australian newspaper, suggesting the public is being conned over the submarine project.
French company DCNS won the $50 billion contract to build Australia’s next fleet of 12 submarines in Adelaide, which will replace the current Collins Class fleet. The company won the contract to build a modified version of its nuclear submarine, called the Shortfin Barracuda.
The Australian Government stipulated that the winning contract would need to use conventional power, ruling out larger, nuclear-powered submarines. The lead up to the submarine contract has involved election promises, business and political campaigns and lots of speculation.
Mr Smith said the re-designed version of the submarine would have to be converted to a diesel engine.
But he told 891 ABC Adelaide that was a ludicrous plan and he believed it would never happen.
“So the plan is for us to buy a nuclear submarine design and then convert it to a piston submarine,” he said. “Now no-one has ever done that in the world and in fact when I talk to submarine experts they say it is so ridiculous, so we’re being conned.”
Mr Smith said if the Government’s real agenda was to use nuclear technology, it should be up front about it……….
More details on subs project needed: Xenophon South Australia Senator Nick Xenophon said more detail about the submarines project was needed…..Senator Xenophon said he was concerned about the lack of certainty surrounding the project. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-13/dick-smith-questions-submarines-project-over-nuclear-power/7837946