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Home Articles Flashpoints Letter to ScoMo, Dutton, Marise Payne re No First Use of Nuclear Weapons

Letter to ScoMo, Dutton, Marise Payne re No First Use of Nuclear Weapons

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Scott Morrison, Prime Minister
Senator Marise Payne, Foreign Minister
Peter Dutton MP,Minister for Defence
Anthony Albanese
Senator Penny Wong
Senators/HoR members
Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Defence Minister Peter Dutton MP, and Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne,
This is to urge the Australian Government to support the adoption by the US Biden administration, of policies of No First Use (NFU). Such policies and postures are already, with whatever caveats, in place in India and in China. In both cases, they seem to be built into actual force structures and postures, the recent flurry of news regarding silos construction in NW China notwithstanding.
Proposals for the adoption of NFU policies, and their implementation through confidence-building and operational measures, are attracting increasing political, media and public attention.
This is reflected, for example, in an Open letter signed by 1200 prominent individuals including former prime ministers, generals, and diplomats, promoting No First Use, which was sent to Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden just prior to their June 16 Summit in Geneva.
In addition, there are initiatives supporting No First Use policies in a number of legislative/parliamentary bodies including the US Congress and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
A letter has recently been sent to the Government of Japan, signed by nuclear weapons experts and former US defence secretary William Perry amongst others, urging that Government support the adoption by the Biden administration of a No First Use policy.
DFAT has expressed its concern over the growing risk of nuclear war, whether by deliberate intent, or (far more likely) via madness, miscalculation, malfunction, or malware.
With the Doomsday Clock at an unprecedented 100 minutes to metaphorical 'midnight', closer than it has ever been even in the depths of the Cold War,  concern by DFAT over 'strategic stability' is well-placed. Australia must do more to reduce nuclear risks, worldwide and to ourselves.
In this context, the commencement of strategic stability talks by the US and Russian Governments, and the reaffirmation by Presidents Putin and Biden of the Reagan-Gorbachev statement of Geneva (1985) that 'A Nuclear War Cannot be Won and Must never be Fought' is very welcome.
A letter was also sent to participants in the Strategic Stability talks urging that they prioritise No First Use.
A wide menu of nuclear risk reduction measures ranging from de-alerting to data-sharing to improved or resumed mil to mil hotlines communication, to avoidance of potentially provocative military exercises with nuclear-capable forces, is on the website of the Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction.
In December 2020, that working group wrote to President-Elect Biden with a series of such recommendations: 
As Vice-President Biden said in Jan. 2017, “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats—it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense.” Biden wrote in March 2020 in Foreign Affairs article that: “I believe that the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As President, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the US military and US allies.” The Democratic Platform he ran on for President also featured NFU.
There are crucial reasons that No First Use is the front-runner amongst nuclear risk reduction measures. They apply with equal force to Australia.
It is profoundly in Australia's interest to do what it can to decrease the risk of global or regional nuclear war. NFU would not mean an end to 'extended deterrence' only the type of deterrence which the US extends. Clinging to nuclear-war-initiating options simply prolongs and intensifies Australia's exposure to potential global or regional nuclear war which poses a critical existential risk to Australia. Nothing is more important than avoiding nuclear war. There simply cannot BE more important geopolitical considerations than this. A First-Use posture does nothing to decrease that risk and manifestly increases it.
At a very minimum, US ('joint') installations at Pine Gap and Northwest Cape will vanish in the first minutes of a large-scale nuclear confrontation, both because they are direct nuclear targets of the highest priority, and via HEMP. (High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse). It is highly likely that, when further escalation follows, major Australian cities will also be targeted, putting at risk most of Australia's population. No possible interpretation of Australia's national interests can risk such an outcomeNFU postures and policies will do much to diminish the probability of this catastrophe. Discouraging NFU will increase, not decrease, the likelihood of this outcome.
Support for No First Use as well as for a wide menu of nuclear risk reduction measures, and for the abolition of nuclear weapons are more than profoundly in Australia's interest. They are of existential import for all Australians and for the whole world.
(Institutional Affiliations for Identification purposes only)
John Hallam
Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner, People for Nuclear Disarmament
Human Survival Project
Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group,
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Nick Deane, Marrickville Peace Group (identification purposes only)
Prof. Frank Hutchinson, Human Survival Project,

Chris Hamer, Scientists for Social Responsibility,

Dr Alison Broinowski AM Acting President, Australians for War Powers Reform

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