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Home Articles Flashpoints Why wasnt Australia amongst the 50 govts that signed the prohibition treaty yesterday at the UN?

Why wasnt Australia amongst the 50 govts that signed the prohibition treaty yesterday at the UN?

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 THURS 21 SEPT 2017
Yesterday at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, otherwise known as the 'Ban Treaty' was opened for signature.
By now, some 50 governments have signed it, the 50th being Ecuador.
Australia was not amongst them. We should be.
Australia doubtless refused to sign the treaty because it thinks that its nuclear alliance with the US makes it safer, and it doesn’t want to imperil that security guarantee.
But this is delusional. In reality it makes us less safe not more safe. We are better off without it. The nuclear alliance simply makes us a target for Russian, Chinese, and now North Korean nuclear missiles. Targets in Australia such as Pine Gap and North West Cape are amongst the highest priority targets in the world, and will be hit in the first minutes of any nuclear exchange. Australian cities such as Sydney with millions of inhabitants are put in danger by our US nuclear connection. With statements like 'joined at the hip' the Turnbull Government puts all our lives in jeopardy.
Australia's signature on the Ban Treaty would be a powerful reminder to our 'great and powerful ally' that they too should sign the treaty and eliminate their nuclear arsenals, as per their Art VI NPT obligations.
Another argument that is often used is that the Ban Treaty somehow 'undermines' the NPT.
This is absolute nonsense. Far from undermining it it aims to fulfil the aims of the NPT and to reinforce it. Refusal to sign the Ban Treaty actually puts in doubt Australia's (and other governments that have a similar position) commitment to the aims of eliminating nuclear arsenals as per their NPT ArtVI obligations.
Nuclear weapons are more than ever an existential threat to humans as a species and to what we call 'civilisation'. The need to take steps to eliminate them was never more pressing. The likelihood that nuclear weapons will actually be used is as great or greater than it has ever been. More weapons and involvement in nuclear alliances just makes the situation worse not better.
Australia would be serving both its own real security interests, and those of the planet as a whole if it reversed its current policy and signed and ratified the Ban Treaty and urged others to do likewise.
John Hallam

(See also releases from ICAN, article by Tilman Ruff, below)

What a day! 

At 08:00 EST this morning, we surpassed our donation campaign goal and reached a total of $18,410 for our work to get states to sign and ratify the treaty. Wow!! 

A few moments later, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations emphasised that this was a historic day and uttered those magic words, "I declare the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons open for signature". 
50 states have already signed the Treaty on this first day. Our Treaty. And more are expected in the coming days. 
Check the list of signatures and ratifications here
This has been a really great day for the campaign and it's all because of the hard work of committed people all around the world. 

The funds raised will go towards organising meetings to convince governments to sign and ratify the treaty, producing campaign materials to be used around the world and doing outreach to parliamentarians and other decision-makers nationally. These are the kind of activities needed in order to make this treaty a success. 
Today, we put nuclear weapons in the same category as other unacceptable weapons. You can read ICAN's statement on this historic moment here

It has been a really amazing day, and I just want to thank you all again for the outpouring of support from people. 

Together, we are making this treaty work! 


Beatrice Fihn
Executive director
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Australia must sign the prohibition on nuclear weapons: here’s why
September 20, 2017 11.30am AEST
Protesters outside the Trump Tower in New York earlier this year. Reuters
Tilman Ruff
Associate Professor, International Education and Learning Unit, Nossal
Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health,
University of Melbourne
Disclosure statement
Tilman Ruff does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive
funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this
article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the
academic appointment above.
University of Melbourne provides funding as a founding partner of The
Conversation AU.
On Wednesday a historic ceremony will take place in the UN General
Assembly – the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibition
of Nuclear Weapons.
The treaty will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have
ratified it. More than 40 are expected to sign today, and more will
sign over the coming weeks and months. As it was adopted by a vote of
122 to one, it can be expected that close to 100 countries will sign
before year’s end and it will enter into force in 2018.
The agreements is long overdue. It is 72 years since the nuclear
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and 71 years since the first
resolution of the newly formed UN General Assembly called for “the
elimination from national armaments of the atomic weapons”.
It comes at a time of deeply disturbing resurgent nuclear threats and
risks of nuclear war, which are considered by most experts – such as
the 15 Nobel laureates among the custodians of the Doomsday Clock – to
be as high as they have ever been.
It will provide the first comprehensive and categorical prohibition of
the world’s most destructive weapons. The treaty makes clear that the
catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of these weapons
means they can never be used again, and consequently should be
eliminated. It affirms that as the risks concern the security of all
humanity, all countries share this responsibility.
Read more: Three good reasons to worry about Trump having the nuclear codes
Countries that join the treaty must not develop, test, produce,
possess, transfer, receive, station, deploy, use or threaten to use
nuclear weapons. There are provisions outlining a pathway for those
that have nuclear weapons now, had them in the past, or host nuclear
weapons, if they can verify they are rid of their nuclear weapons,
related programs and facilities.
The treaty is carefully crafted to complement other disarmament
treaties, in particular the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Not only is the content of the nuclear weapons treaty historic, but
the process of its genesis has also transformed the moribund nuclear
disarmament landscape. For the first time, a nuclear disarmament
treaty has been led by the countries without the weapons, and has an
unequivocal humanitarian basis.
The level of involvement of civil society was unprecedented,
particularly Japanese hibakusha(those who survived the atomic bombs)
and nuclear test survivors, including from Australia.
The UN was used for the first time in 21 years to negotiate a nuclear
disarmament treaty, because it’s most inclusive and democratic forum,
the General Assembly, is able to adopt substantive measures by vote.
This is in stark contrast to the NPT conferences and the Conference on
Disarmament, which are paralysed by a requirement for consensus.
The treaty was able to be completed from negotiating mandate to
adoption in eight months, with only four weeks of actual negotiations.
This was because of a widespread determination to seize this landmark
opportunity on the part of many states, who were more willing to put
aside parochial agendas than I have ever witnessed in a nuclear forum
over the past 35 years.
Protestors hold banners during a protest condemning Australia’s
absence at current nuclear weapons treaty negotiations. AAP
Fierce opposition came from nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent
countries (including Australia), as a US document to its NATO allies
demonstrates. Strong political and economic pressure exerted on many
countries by the US, UK, France and Russia, despite peeling off some
smaller and weaker countries, proved ineffective.
Pressure on countries not to sign, most publicly US Secretary of
Defence James Mattis’ admonition to Sweden, will likely ramp up.
However, the treaty is a triumph of the interests of common humanity,
and is not going away.
The dangerous brinkmanship and extreme threats traded between Donald
Trump and Kim Jong-un are only the latest explicit threats to use
nuclear weapons by a succession of leaders, including Theresa May,
Vladimir Putin, and leaders in India and Pakistan.
Relations between the US and Russia are at their worst in 30 years,
with a resurgent Cold War escalating. Relations between the US and
China are at their lowest point in decades. Pakistan and India are
expanding their nuclear arsenals faster than anywhere else. Both sides
are implementing deployments and policies for early use of nuclear
weapons if war erupts.
Read more: Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambition: what is North Korea’s endgame?
North Korea’s escalating development and testing of both nuclear
weapons and long-range ballistic missiles demonstrate that any
determined nation can develop both.
The fundamental problem is what South African ambassador Abdul Minty
described as “nuclear apartheid”, with the countries possessing
nuclear weapons busy modernising and determined to retain them, rather
than fulfil their obligation to disarm. This is an inevitable driver
of nuclear proliferation.
As former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said:
There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.
No human should have the power to end the world in an afternoon. If
nuclear weapons are retained they will eventually be used. The crisis
relating to North Korea, for which there is no military solution,
highlights again that our luck could run out any day.
The countries that have foresworn biological and chemical weapons now
need to do the same for nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition
of Nuclear Weapons provides a credible pathway to the verified,
time-bound elimination of weapons posing the most acute existential
threat to people everywhere.
All countries – including North Korea, the US and Australia – should
join the treaty.