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MON 24 MAY 2010


Disarmament groups have been urging the government to 'drive the nuclear disarmament agenda'(As Rudd himself promised) as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference struggles toward a conclusion next week in New York. PND and ICAN and other Australian disarmament groups, wrote to Foreign Minister Smith last week urging him to be pro-active, especially with respect to the idea of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, an idea that has been prominently pushed by other governments and by UN Secretary - General Ban Ki Moon at the review conference. More recently, the government has been soft-pedalling the idea,  even as other governments get behind it.

According to PND Nuclear Flashpoints campaigner John Hallam, who was part of the Australian delegation last year,  and who returned from the conference in New York last Tuesday after holding a panel at the UN on accidental nuclear war,
"After getting of to a good start, the NPT Review  Conference is now struggling. Government after government has made it clear that nuclear weapons are a continuing threat to human existence and to civilisation - in one half - hour period I heard three governments taken quite at random say that nuclear weapons are a threat to our continuance as a species - and even our government pays lip - service to this idea, yet it is plainly unwilling to do what is necessary to rid the planet of the most immediate short - term threat to human and other life. The government needs to grasp the urgency, and the importance,  of getting to zero nuclear weapons. It says it does, but it must walk the walk.

We are particularly concerned that the government has retreated from its advocacy of a nuclear weapons convention, in spite of the fact that this is an idea that has gained increasing currency with most other governments round the world and has been strongly pushed by Ban Ki Moon.

We got off to a good start with the ICNND (Evans/Kawaguchi Commission). We need to keep on following through, and right now we are not doing that.

We call on the Rudd government to use its not inconsiderable standing as a middle power both to drive the agenda of a fast track to zero nuclear weapons, to call for a nuclear weapons convention as an immediate diplomatic goal, (and not as some faraway nirvana) and to use its influence at the UN over the next five days to bring about a final declaration that will itself be a fast track to zero nuclear weapons"

Mr Hallam was instrumental in getting the UN to pass resolutions on the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems in 2007 and 2008, and has attended every UN meeting on nuclear weapons since 2006. In 2009 he was part of the Australian delegation together with Prof. Tilman Ruff. This year there are no NGO representatives on the Australian delegation.

John Hallam, PND Nuclear Flashpoints,
h9810-2598 (leave message)


Letter to Foreign Minister Steven Smith re Aust Govt Participation in NPT Review Conference
Australian Delegation

Dear Foreign Minister Steven Smith/DFAT:

I wish to draw your attention to the letter written to you by ICAN on Tuesday, to which PND Nuclear Flashpoints is a signatory.

I also draw your attention to:
--The recent declaration by parliamentarians worldwide in favour of a nuclear weapons convention
--Resolutions in a number of parliaments worldwide supporting a nuclear weapons convention
--Statements made in the last month by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon strongly supporting a nuclear weapons convention, both at an NGO gathering in the Riverside Church and at parliamentary gatherings as well as at the NPT review Conference itself.
--Similar statements by conference chairperson Ambassador Libran Cabactulan.

You are reminded of your own statements in support of that same nuclear weapons convention, not as a heavily qualified aspiration for the very long term but as an immediate and practical object for action.

In the previous (2009) NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in New York, I was together with prof. Tilman Ruff, honoured to be a member of the Australian delegation.  At that time, there was less (though nonetheless substantial) support for a NWC in the international community, but our own attitude was significantly better: though I believe that even then, there were signs of a retreat from our initial enthusiasm, and a seeking for reasons to down-play our commitment.

The determination to eliminate nuclear weapons not only from civil society and the NGO community but also from governments worldwide has in my view never been greater.

As I attended the review conference this time, in an approximately 15 minute period in main committee -1, I counted not less than three statements from governments taken entirely at random to the effect that nuclear weapons are a threat to the survival of civilisation and the human species.

While in the past such talk has often been diplomatic boilerplate, repeated without much thought, there is an increase in the number and intensity of such statements that indicates that governments are taking very very seriously the very very real threat that nuclear weapons and their large-scale use would indeed pose to human survival.

The Australian government from time to time does talk the talk but does not make the priority decisions that ought to follow from such talk.

You made a considerable contribution by instituting the Evans/Kawaguchi Commission, whose practical contribution to the debate has been immense. Evans Kawaguchi has stressed the importance both of eliminating nuclear weapons, and also of lowering the operational readiness of existing US and Russian deployed weapons, saying that accidental nuclear war is not a fantasy but a fearful and very real possibility.

Australia needs both to talk the talk - that nuclear weapons are indeed a threat to the survival of humans - and to walk the walk, that is to make their elimination and the creation of a fast track to nuclear zero, a topmost  diplomatic priority.

If nuclear weapons are indeed (at least potentially) about extinction as a species, then their elimination simply trumps all other diplomatic priorities including so - called 'national interest' and even so called 'national security' priorities. To place these first is simply to get it upside down. And if we are to say that even national security is trumped - or else that eliminating nuclear weapons is a topmost national security goal - then what are we to say about lesser priorities?

In the past you have pledged to 'drive the agenda' on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Australia has been and still is, well placed to drive that agenda. We still have a good reputation  and at times our contribution has been substantial.

But our contribution at this revcon is as far as I and other NGO observers have seen, a trifle underwhelming. The contributions that have been noticed have come from other countries such as Switzerland and New Zealand.
We should at least aspire to join their distinguished company, but we don't even seem to wish to do that.

Australia needs to take a much more pro-active role, and needs to fulfil its earlier promise to really, 'drive the agenda' down a fast track to zero nuclear weapons.

I hope and trust that next time I write it will be to congratulate you on the contribution that Australia has made to this utterly vital goal.

John Hallam
People for Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints Campaign
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Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 03:28