Australian news, and some related international items

Menzies, Australia’s Maralinga shame, Aboriginal impacts – and can it happen again?

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.

text-historyChapter 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.

Montebello atomic test 1952The 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.

Continue reading

October 24, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

One Aboriginal family – devastated by Maralinga nuclear bomb testing

hydrogen-bomb-460Chapter 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)…….

October 24, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, weapons and war, history, South Australia, personal stories | Leave a comment

The role of Professor Ernest Titterton in deceiving Australians about nuclear weapons testing

text-historyChapter 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)………

October 23, 2016 Posted by | weapons and war, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australia desperately needs to discuss our poisoned military role – Pine Gap and other targets

map-Australia-targets-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.

US military bases in Australia: Protecting us or putting us at risk?    Emma Reynolds @emmareyn OCTOBER 2, 2016 THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

We are providing the US with extra capacity to make that happen, says Prof Tanter.


Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.

The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

Prof Tanter says Pine Gap rivals Uluru as the symbolic centre of Australia, with its strange, mysterious power.

“It’s the poisoned heart of Australia and it is increasingly having an effect on our defence policies and the way in which we conduct our foreign policy,” he says.


The establishment of Pine Gap heralded the start of the American early warning system, which involved powerful infra-red telescopes staring at the earth looking for the heat bloom of nuclear weapons. And it continues to grow in strength long after the Cold War, with the number of antennae growing from two or three in 1970 to 33 today.

It has also grown in capability — picking up satellite and mobile phone transmissions that are important for conducting war in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitoring people allegedly carrying out terrorist activities. It spots jet aircraft in the sky and explosions on the ground.

If a North Korean missile takes off, its trajectory can be rapidly beamed to the US, triggering a possible drone assassination. Prof Tanter says such behaviour makes Australia a target.

“Do we really want to be implicated in that?”

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND   Continue reading

October 22, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s deplorable nuclear disarmament policy

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.

October 22, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia continues to try to scuttle international moves towards a nuclear weapons ban !

exclamation-Australia will not support negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons  Senate estimates to question foreign affairs department officials on Thursday on nuclear disarmament stance, Guardian,  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”………

October 20, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s $36 billion splurge on submarines, intended for nuclear later on

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…….

October 1, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

PM Robert Menzies ‘ approval of Maraling nuclear bombing, without consulting Parlaiment

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

September 28, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Pine Gap endangers Australia – a likely target for nuclear missiles

Map-Aust-Target1Pine Gap: Secretive spy base’s role in drone strikes putting Australia in danger, expert warns  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.”

September 24, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, safety, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Is Australina government secretly planning nuclear submarines?

submarine,-nuclear-underwatDick 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.

September 14, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia trapped in its status as Nuclear Umbrella State

Aust-weaponsThe great nuclear disarmament divide,   “……On the one hand, there are umbrella states that are addicted to their nuclear protection, and on the other, there are umbrella states that clearly feel trapped by it, Livemint, 29 Aug 16 W.P.S. Sidhu,  Austria, which remained neutral and nuclear weapon-free during the Cold War, has become the leading anti-nuclear crusader in the post-Cold War era. Last year, Austria, along with a group of non-nuclear countries—mostly from the southern hemisphere and Africa, which is entirely covered by nuclear weapon-free zones—proposed several United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions including on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. One of the significant Austrian co-sponsored resolutions proposed an open-ended working group (OEWG) to take forward multilateral disarmament negotiations.

Although this resolution was overwhelmingly supported by 138 countries, the five permanent nuclear weapon states of the UN Security Council plus Israel voted against it. While India and Pakistan abstained, North Korea, curiously, supported the resolution. Significantly, 34 states—mostly members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) and those protected by the US nuclear umbrella—also abstained.

Subsequently, while all nine nuclear-armed states (including India) stayed away from the OEWG deliberations in Geneva, the group made substantial progress. By 19 August, the group’s final report had drafted far-reaching recommendations, including a call to initiate negotiations in 2017 on a legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons—unlike biological and chemical weapons, nuclear weapons have never been banned. There were indications that this report would be carried by consensus among the states participating in the OEWG. Clearly, a consensus report recommending a treaty to ban nuclear weapons outright would be anathema not only for the nuclear armed states but also the so-called ‘umbrella states’, which depend on the nuclear protection particularly of the US. Thus, the nuclear-armed states sought to influence the OEWG process by proxy.

Enter Australia. In the past, Australia played a leading role in pushing disarmament initiatives, for instance, when it resurrected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 and co-sponsored an International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament in 2008. However, this is at odds with its dependence on nuclear weapons.

As an umbrella state, it depends on the perceived security of US nuclear weapons. In the OEWG, Australia became a proxy of nuclear weapon states and a disarmament spoiler: it called for a vote on the group’s final report even though it was evident that the majority would support the report’s recommendations.

Australia’s objective was two-fold: first, to break the emerging consensus and, second, to close ranks among all the umbrella states. Australia almost succeeded in its second goal. Although 19 Nato states plus Australia and South Korea voted against the report, several other Nato members plus Japan abstai-ned, indicating that not all umbrella states are willing to sustain nuclear weapons and deterrence in perpetuity.

The OEWG process reflects a great disarmament divide not only among the nuclear haves and have-nots, but also among the umbrella states. On the one hand, there are umbrella states that are addicted to their nuclear protection, even though it is not apparent that such security is omnipotent. On the other hand, there are umbrella states that clearly feel trapped by the protection provided, but are unsure how get out of this situation. This debate will now play out on the floor of the UNGA…..

August 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia makes itself unpopular at Geneva with unintelligent nuclear weapons diplomacy

The real reason for Australia’s opposition to a ban treaty (that a ban will make it more difficult for Australia to continue its reliance on extended nuclear deterrence) was never mentioned. The transparent dishonesty in Australia’s rhetoric only increased scepticism of Australia’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
thumbs-downAustralia writes itself out of nuclear disarmament diplomacy 23 August 2016 

On Friday at the United Nations in Geneva, Australian diplomats called a vote they knew they would lose, split their already modest support base in half, and enraged more than 100 other countries that had been ready to agree to a painstakingly negotiated compromise. For its trouble, Australia gained precisely nothing, and seriously damaged its credibility and influence. If it sounds like a diplomatic train wreck, it was. What on earth was going on?

The drama unfolded on the final day of the UN Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. This group has met intermittently throughout 2016; the principal goal for Australia and around 28 other countries in nuclear alliances (also known as ‘umbrella states’ or, more colourfully, ‘nuclear weasel states’) was to ensure that the group did not recommend the negotiation of a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (Tim Wright covered the ban treaty proposal and the associated dilemmas for Australia in The Interpreter in June).

Australia’s manoeuvres on Friday were merely the latest in a series of ill-conceived efforts to try to stop the ban treaty, but which have only fuelled support for it. Continue reading

August 27, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Australia’s weasel words at United Nations Nuclear Disarmament Conference

Australia has steadily retreated from the push for universal nuclear disarmament that Bill Hayden, notably, inserted into policy when he was foreign minister in the Hawke government to provide moral balance to the alliance with the US.

weasel-words1As we’ve noticed before, the new Defence White Paper this year dropped all that. “Australia’s security is underpinned by the ANZUS Treaty, United States extended deterrence and access to advanced United States technology and information,” it stated. “Only the nuclear and conventional military capabilities of the United States can offer effective deterrence against the possibility of nuclear threats against Australia.”

Julie Bishop is all for nuclear weapons, gushing that “the horrendous humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are precisely why deterrence has worked”. In Geneva, her diplomats have been hard at work trying to derail efforts for a United Nations ban on nuclear weapons.

…..much bad will towards Australia. But Bishop can be sure of brownie points in Washington, no doubt.

People’s tribunal finds Australia guilty over nuclear weapons, The Saturday Paper, HAMISH MCDONALD, AUG 27, 2016

Weasel words at UN working group Malcolm Turnbull is getting accused of many things as he text-relevantheads towards the first anniversary of his snafu-prone prime ministership. But aiding and abetting the planning of genocide, ecocide and even omnicide (that is, the destruction of everyone and all living things)?

Well, yes. The University of Sydney was recently the venue for an international people’s tribunal, a kind of volunteer court, in which the leaders of the nine nuclear powers were on trial for planning the above crimes through their explicit threats to use their weapons. Turnbull, as our current leader, was up for facilitating the use of American weapons. The judges were New Zealand’s former disarmament minister Matthew Robson and Sydney politics academic Keith Suter, who duly found the accused guilty, in absentia of course.

They ruled that nuclear weapons violate the accepted principles of international humanitarian law in wartime because they cannot discriminate between military and civilian targets; go far beyond proportional response and military objectives; don’t protect non-combatants; cause unnecessary suffering by spreading poison, disease and genetic damage; cause massive environmental damage; threaten future generations; threaten death on a scale amounting to genocide; and involve massive collateral damage to neutral countries.

The United States, France, Russia, Pakistan and Britain refuse to rule out first use of their nuclear weapons, “but all indicted leaders have military plans and exercises that demonstrate that they are ready to use nuclear weapons if they deem it necessary”, the tribunal found. …….

The gesture comes as nuclear powers are expanding or modernising their arsenals. India and Pakistan are in a nuclear arms race: even use of 100 Hiroshima sized-bombs in that theatre would plunge the Earth into its coldest climate for a thousand years, University of Missouri expert Steven Starr told the tribunal. An exchange between the big powers would, aside from the immediate casualties, create a new Ice Age and result in most surviving humans and large animals dying of starvation……

Nuclear ‘weasels’ Continue reading

August 27, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s betrayal of the global nuclear disarmament movement -theme for August 16

This week, sadly, I, and many others have to report that Australia’s history of doublespeak on nuclear disarmament  has now gone even further down the path of promoting nuclear weapons.

The Australian government did this by sabotaging the final day of the UN Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.  It did this by attempted to derail a ban on nuclear weapons at a UN meeting on disarmament, by single-handedly forcing a vote on a report that had been expected to pass unanimously.

thumbs-down Australia’s contribution.  More detail on this can be found in several recent articles quoted on this website

August 27, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina themes, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Time that Australia ended its reliance on Extended Nuclear Deterrence (END)

The revival of concern about the humanitarian impacts of these weapons is shifting old assumptions.

Australia’s reliance on END keeps us on the wrong side of history. And it has led previous governments and the current government to actively oppose the growing calls for a ban on nuclear weapons.

Instead of blindly following US nuclear policies into whatever a future president might envisage, Australia should carefully consider its non-nuclear defence and challenge all claims, surrogate or otherwise, to nuclear weapons.

highly-recommendedAustralia’s stance on nuclear deterrence 26 August 2016

IN SUMMARY Analysis for The Conversation by Swinburne PhD candidate text-relevantDimity Hawkins and Swinburne senior lecturer Julie Kimber.CONTACT Lea Kivivali  +61 3 9214 5428  

For Australia, the US election should provide an opportunity to rethink defence relationships, especially as they relate to nuclear weapons.

There has been much hand-wringing at the thought of Donald Trump becoming US president. If, by some miracle, Trump succeeds in November, he will have his hand on the nuclear trigger.

But this concern, while great political fodder, is dangerously simplistic. It presupposes there are “safe hands” when it comes to nuclear weapons. There are not.

The US has around 7,000 nuclear weapons. Hundreds of these can be launched within minutes. While the global community has outlawed other indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are yet to be banned.

The Cold War’s MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine has morphed over the years into a framework of nuclear deterrence. Many governments globally have played a double game: supporting nuclear disarmament on the one hand, while relying on a nuclear defence on the other.

One such government is Australia’s. Despite consecutive governments insisting they support nuclear disarmament, Australia’s reliance on Extended Nuclear Deterrence (END) means it is frustrating attempts at a total ban.

August 27, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment