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Memo to ALP National Conference on Nuclear Weapons Policy

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 PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT
LABOR PARTY CAUCUS

RE: ALP NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY

ALP SHOULD ADOPT A CLEARLY ABOLITIONIST POLICY
ALP GOVERNMENT SHOULD SIGN/RATIFY BAN TREATY
ALP GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE URGENT STEPS TO REDUCE NUCLEAR RISKS

Dear Labour Parliamentarians:

I am writing to urge you to support the 'Ban Treaty' (Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or TPNW), and to urge that any future ALP Government take steps with the utmost urgency, and the very highest priority, to reduce the risk of an (accidental or otherwise) nuclear war.

The risk of nuclear war is currently estimated by the worlds most distinguished nuclear experts, to be as high or higher, than it has ever been. Contributing factors include the possibility of erratic decision-making at the very highest levels, (both in the US and in Russia) confrontational rhetoric and confrontational postures taken by nuclear-armed forces, provocative exercises taken in what Russia particularly regards as its 'backyard' or 'front yard', the jettisoning of the INF treaty, allowing missiles that necessitate ultra-short decision-times to be stationed in Europe once more, and a forgetting of what were once road-rules that were taken for granted even during the Cold War.

The result of this is an unprecedentedly dangerous situation.

The ALP has already responded to this situation, with a speech by Penny Wong on nuclear risk reduction.
https://www.pennywong.com.au/speeches/foreign-policy-challenges-facing-australia-what-to-do-about-them-university-of-adelaide-adelaide/

That speech outlines measures broadly similar to those preferred by the nuclear disarmament movement:
http://www.abolition2000.org/en/nuclear-risk-reduction/

PND's/HSP's reaction to it has been broadly positive, and we have urged all Parliamentarians (but obviously ALP ones) to make the prevention of nuclear war an 'existential' priority, for such it is.
http://www.pndnsw.org.au/articles/features/396-this-should-be-at-the-top-of-your-political-agenda.html

Many of our positions and attitudes are echoed or duplicated by a highly distinguished alumnus of the ALP, Gareth Evans, in a speech last Sunday:
http://johnmenadue.com/gareth-evans-australia-in-the-world-its-time-to-punch-our-weight/

Evans noted that (amongst other things):
“I don’t disagree with Penny and Richard Marles when they say that the recently negotiated UN Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty – the Nuclear Ban Treaty – is aspirational rather than remotely operational in its present form, and is never likely to win the support of any of the present nuclear-armed states. But I do think we should be more prepared to knowledge the normative – moral, if you like – significance involved in two-thirds of the world’s countries participating in its negotiation, and not in any way accept that support for the Ban Treaty somehow undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): it does not.”

This last point is critical, as it is perhaps the most powerful criticism directed against the Ban Treaty or TPNW. The Ban treaty reinforces, rather than undermines, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (NPT). Gareth is quite right – that the TPNW 'undermines' the NPT is a canard.

Evans also makes the point (above) that the significance of the Ban Treaty (TPNW) is in its moral or normative, effect. Like it or not (and the nuclear weapons states do NOT like it), the TPNW makes it clearer that nuclear weapons are Ultra Vires – beyond the pale. The nuclear weapons states claim that the TPNW establishes no new norms in customary law. In a wider, political and moral sense the opposite is true – the overwhelming majority of the worlds Governments regard nuclear weapons as completely unacceptable and that matters.

Gareth could perhaps have also noted that in a number of nuclear weapon states, (US, UK) – substantial majorities of the population think that nuclear weapons should be eliminated, and consequential bodies such as the State of California have adopted resolutions to that effect, urging that the US both adopt nuclear risk reduction measures and that they sign the TPNW.

Closer to home, in recent months both the Sydney City Council, the Melbourne City Council, and the newly- created Inner West Council have adopted resolutions urging both nuclear risk reduction measures and urging that Australia sign and ratify the TPNW.
https://innerwest.infocouncil.biz/Open/2018/11/C_13112018_AGN_AT_WEB.htm

I will conclude by borrowing words from the formidable Gareth Evans:
“….we just have to do something to reduce the salience and legitimacy of the most indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented, and the most immediate risk to life on this planet as we know it. The other great existential risk is, of course, climate change: but nuclear weapons can kill us a lot faster than CO2. Nuclear disarmament is core business for any Labor government worth the name.”

John Hallam
UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner
People for Nuclear Disarmament
Human Survival Project
Co-Convener, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction
Australian Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND)
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