Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear WeaponsSpeech
I rise to support the motion of the member for Adelaide. We have just passed the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear blasts. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of those bombs, including Australian prisoners of war and troops sent in immediately after VP Day. Of course, the testing of nuclear weapons, whether in Western Australia, at Woomera or in the Pacific also led to many deaths from radiation induced disease.
Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction, and should not be present on the face of the earth. Australia has a proud history of opposing such weapons, especially those which are used on civilians. Out of the ashes of the war, we led the way, through Dr Evatt and the Labor Party in establishing the United Nations in the 1940s. We led the way in negotiating and ratifying conventions against chemical weapons in 1972, and then landmines and cluster munitions in more recent times.
Gough Whitlam ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1973. That treaty is still important in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. However, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty does not say that possessing nuclear weapons is unacceptable. Its sole purpose is that weapons shouldn't spread from those already possessing them, the nuclear hub, to those who seek to acquire them.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was concluded in July 2017, with the support of 122 states. Unfortunately, Australia was one of those few countries that did not vote for that treaty. Worse still, under this government, we didn't even participate in the negotiation of the treaty, and we voted against the 2016 UN General Assembly resolution that established the mandate for the negotiations. Even earlier, our diplomats were instructed to derail a special UN working group on nuclear disarmament in Geneva which recommended that a treaty be negotiated. It isn't a proud record.
Despite that, the treaty now has many signatories and will hopefully reach the 50 ratifications needed to bring it into force in the near future. I for one argue that Australia should work towards signing and ratifying the treaty. It sends a message to the world that possession of nuclear weapons is not acceptable. I congratulate Nobel Peace Prize winners International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN—an Australian-initiated NGO—on the wonderful work they have done in initiating this treaty. The ALP is committed to working towards the ratification of the treaty. The ultimate environmental and human disaster would be a larger scale nuclear war. I'm horrified about the spread of nuclear weapons. I note the ramping up of Cold War rhetoric between the US, Russia, China and other countries—behaviour not seen for several decades. The Morrison government needs to show the leadership that ICAN has shown, and we need to show leadership in a less rational world.
At our national conference last November, Labor committed that Labor in government would sign and ratify the treaty, after taking into account the need to 'ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture; ensure the interaction of the ban treaty with the longstanding nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and work to achieve universal support for the ban treaty.'
Critics of the treaty say that ratification will affect our strategic alliances, especially our US alliance. This should not be the case, and any issues should be able to be worked through. The US alliance is very important to Australia and to the Australian Labor Party. We should be able to continue with our military alliances and, at the same time, express our opposition to nuclear weapons.
Support for this treaty will not affect our ability to host or participate in exercises. It will not affect our capacity to host bases, whether listening posts or military bases—these are separate questions. What our support will do is indicate that Australia can stand on its own two feet. We can stand on the right side of history with those who don't have nuclear weapons and say that possession of nuclear weapons is no longer acceptable.Share Tweet