Australia’s early ambitions to acquire an atomic arsenal ended when it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1973. But it has not yet become a strong and consistent supporter of nuclear disarmament. Australia has resisted calls by civil society to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as the government believes that US nuclear weapons enhance Australia’s security.
The Australian Government’s position on the TPNW is set out briefly on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. This position is addressed in a 2020 resource For the Record… Addressing the Australian Government’s misrepresentation of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Australia also contributes to global nuclear dangers through the export of uranium to most of the nuclear-armed nations. Safeguards offer only the illusion of protection against the diversion of Australian uranium for weapons production. Furthermore, many Australian financial institutions, including the government-owned Future Fund, invest in foreign companies that manufacture, maintain and modernise nuclear arsenals. It is time for Australia to end its complicity in the nuclear problem.
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY POLICY
The Australian Labor Party committed to signing and ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons when in government.
The policy commitment took place at the 2018 Labor Conference, where party members voted unanimously in favour of the resolution put forward by Anthony Albanese MP and seconded by Richard Marles MP. The platform commitment was reaffirmed at Labor’s Special Platform Conference in March 2021.
The move reflects the broad support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty among Labor’s base. Since the treaty was adopted in July 2017, three-quarters of federal Labor parliamentarians have pledged to work for Australia’s signature and ratification of the landmark agreement. Their endorsement built momentum for today’s platform commitment. The trade union movement has also rallied behind the treaty, and other influential supporters include Australian Red Cross, the Australian Medical Association, the National Council of Churches, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and major environmental and humanitarian organisations. Finally, an Ipsos poll in November 2018 showed that 83 per cent of Labor voters want the next Labor government to sign up to the treaty.
ICAN applauds this move as a major breakthrough that heralds a more constructive Australian approach to nuclear disarmament, entirely compatible with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the US Alliance. Australia has taken a firm humanitarian stand against landmines and chemical weapons. Now we must do the same for the most indiscriminate and destructive weapons of all.
PARLIAMENTARY FRIENDS OF THE TPNW
Parliamentary Friends of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a forum for federal parliamentarians to meet and interact with nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation advocates on matters relating to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and to discuss ways to ensure the Treaty’s success into the future. It is co-chaired by Ged Kearney MP (Australian Labor Party), Senator Jordon Steele-John (Australian Greens) and Ken O’Dowd MP (The Nationals), and was launched on 30 June, 2020.
- Sharon Claydon MP
- Libby Coker MP
- Steve Georganas MP
- Patrick Gorman MP
- Senator Nita Green
- Helen Haines MP
- Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
- Chris Hayes MP
- Ged Kearney MP (co-chair)
- Andrew Leigh MP
- Ken O’Dowd MP (co-chair)
- Graham Perrett MP
- Fiona Phillips MP
- Tanya Plibersek MP
- Senator Louise Pratt
- Senator Janet Rice
- Rebekha Sharkie MP
- Senator Jordon Steele-John (co-chair)
- Zali Steggall MP
- Maria Vamvakinou MP
- Andrew Wilkie MP
- Josh Wilson MP
- Tim Wilson MP
Parliamentarians played a major role in realizing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Now we are seeking their help to promote the signature and ratification of the treaty by all nations. The Parliamentary Pledge is a commitment by parliamentarians around the world to work for their government to join the treaty.
Please visit the Parliamentary Pledge page to view the list of signatories in Australia’s federal, state and territory parliaments and the text of the Pledge:
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Since 2013, ICAN Australia has used freedom of information laws to obtain documents from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence in an effort to enhance public understanding of Australia’s role in undermining global efforts to advance nuclear disarmament. Many of the documents reveal the government’s active behind-the-scenes campaign to prevent the negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Please visit the FOI page to access the documents and ICAN’s analysis.