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Home Articles Flashpoints Australian Nuclear Weapons Will Make Targets Of Us All

Australian Nuclear Weapons Will Make Targets Of Us All

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Recently, there have been ill-advised (some might say 'bonkers') calls for Australia to acquire nuclear weapons. The most recent was on Yahoo news where Rod Lyon of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has suggested that nuclear weapons might be a solution of some kind to a looming Australian security problem.


Far from making us safer, an Australian nuclear deterrent will degrade, not improve, Australia's security. The same can be said (in spades) for so called 'extended deterrence'. Both in effect, paint bullseyes on Australia's backside (actually on select strategically significant targets and then on Australian cities), making Australia less, not more, secure.

Rod never explains by what magical process either nuclear weapons (or for that matter extended nuclear deterrence which they are supposed to replace) makes Australia safer. The application of basic commonsense shows that neither extended deterrence nor a putative Australian nuclear deterrent makes Australia safer, while both make Australian sites (Northwest Cape, Pine Gap) targets for other peoples nuclear weapons where they otherwise would not be, and in addition open the possibility that Australian cities might themselves become targets, endangering every Australian.

Rod himself lists a number of reasons that would make an Australian nuclear weapons program a decidedly problematic solution to any threat to our security.

These include: 

--Australia is a signatory of the NPT. That means we have agreed not to obtain nuclear weapons. 

--An Australian nuclear weapons program would be highly visible for years if not decades before there were any actual deliverable Australian nuclear weapons. 

--The cost of such a program would be horrendous, not just in monetary terms but in terms of the damage done to our standing in the world. 

What Rod doesn't mention however is that an Australian 'nuclear deterrent' wouldn't 'deter'. In fact it would do precisely the opposite, convincing a possible opponent (not necessarily a current enemy, just someone who wanted to hedge their bets) that they in turn should either go nuclear if they hadn't done so already, or if they had that they should reinforce their own nuclear deterrent and should put us in its cross-hairs (or put the relevant coordinates into targeting systems). 

It is arguable that our existing 'extended deterrence' relationship with the US may already do that, making that relationship also a strategic liability not a strategic asset.This means that Australia, far from desperately trying to preserve its extended deterrence relationship with the US (of which Pine Gap and Northwest Cape are the physical manifestations and the most obvious nuclear targets), might be better off without extended deterrence – that is, more secure not less secure. 

Calls for Australia to acquire its own nuclear weapons are like telling someone s/he is more secure with a suicide vest than without one. All the acquisition of an Australian 'deterrent' (so – called) will do is make it more, not less, likely that millions of us perish in a nuclear firestorm....or starve and freeze to death in the ensuing nuclear winter. 

Australia's security is best served by: 

--Eliminating nuclear weapons so that the risk of an (accidental or otherwise) nuclear apocalypse disappears, leaving climate change (and maybe very large incoming asteroids) as the only apocalypses we realistically have to think about. 

Australia should sign, ratify, and press others to sign and ratify, the TPNW (Ban Treaty). 

--Pressing for immediate-term nuclear risk reduction measures (De-alerting, No First use, improved Mil-to-Mil communication, strategic data exchange) that make the whole world safer. Australia already does something to press for risk reduction measures, but we need to do much more and to do it much more publicly. 

As things currently stand the risk of nuclear war, most likely accidental, is as high as it has ever been and is the single largest risk to civilization and human survival. What global warming does in 150 years can be achieved by nuclear weapons in roughly 90 minutes. 

The nostrums of Mr Rod Lyon and others like him are dangerous in the extreme, and make the world a more perilous place. 

Rod suggests that the question of whether Australia should acquire nuclear weapons is one that 

'....demands careful handling, not least because it’s an invitation to the incautious respondent to take a length of rope and hang themselves in the corner. And all too often, respondents do exactly that, burdening the argument for a domestic nuclear arsenal with poor judgement, strategic paranoia and moral insensibilities.' 

Indeed so!


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group Co-Convener

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 18:31