Media Release: Labor re-commits to signing nuclear weapon ban

Aug 18, 2023 | News

A promise that now needs to be progressed: Labor re-commits to signing treaty banning nuclear weapons

18th August, 2023

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) welcomes the reaffirmation of Labor’s commitment to sign and ratify the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), but regrets that no timeline has yet been given for acting on this long standing party pledge.

At its national conference in Brisbane, Labor reaffirmed its commitment to join the TPNW, which was first agreed by the party in 2018 at the initiative of Anthony Albanese, who said at the time that it represented “Labor at our best”.

The reformulated policy, approved by conference delegates on Friday: 

  • Reaffirms Labor’s commitment to sign and ratify the TPNW in government, after taking account of three matters.
  • Commits Labor to consider steps on assistance for affected communities and environmental remediation in relation to the British nuclear tests in Australia, and nuclear testing in the Pacific, consistent with Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW.
  • Welcomes the positive steps that have been taken by the Labor Government to engage with the TPNW, including by attending the First Meeting of States Parties and ending Australia’s opposition to the treaty at the UN First Committee in 2022.

Federal member for Fremantle Josh Wilson MP moved the amendment, saying Labor’s updated policy “demonstrates that Labor values the TPNW and takes it seriously as a new and promising form of international agreement that seeks to shift the otherwise dangerous status quo on nuclear weapons.” 

At an event hosted by ICAN, Wilson confirmed that Australia will attend the Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW from 27 Nov – 1 Dec 2023 at the UN in New York.

“We welcome this reaffirmation of Labor’s longstanding commitment, but it’s not enough to keep promising to sign the treaty without acting. We want to see the Prime Minister put pen to paper, without delay. Labor’s commitment on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation will be hollow if Australia fails to do so,” said ICAN International’s newly appointed Executive Director, Melissa Parke, a former Labor MP for the federal seat of Fremantle.

“Signing the TPNW is especially important given regional concerns about Australia’s acquisition of nuclear attack submarines under the AUKUS partnership with the United States and United Kingdom, which have nuclear arsenals,” said Parke. “The TPNW would prevent current and future Australian governments from engaging in or assisting with nuclear-weapon-related activities in any way.”

“Australia has a proud history of championing nuclear disarmament – Labor has a proud history of championing nuclear disarmament,” Parke said. “It’s time for the Australian government to honour our history, as well as our future, and sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty.”


Statement in Detail

Nuclear Disarmament

1. Acknowledges the growing danger that nuclear weapons pose to us all and the urgent need for progress on nuclear disarmament.

2. Acknowledges the deep and ongoing consequences of nuclear testing in Australia, which have been borne disproportionately by our First Nations peoples, as well as testing in the Pacific.

3. Commits itself to redoubling efforts towards a world without nuclear weapons and strengthening the non-proliferation regime.

4. Congratulates the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on its work in returning to global prominence the cause of nuclear disarmament;

5. Acknowledges the value of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the Ban Treaty) which came into force on 22 January 2021,and its aspiration to rid the world of nuclear weapons for all time; 

6. Welcomes the positive steps taken by the Albanese Labor Government to engage with the Ban Treaty, including by sending an observer to the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in Vienna, June 2022 and changing Australia’s vote on the annual UNGA resolution on the TPNW in 2022 from ‘oppose’ to ‘abstain’ and encourages attendance at the second Meeting in New York, November 2023.

7. Acknowledges the centrality of the US Alliance to Australia’s national security and strategic policy.

8. Labor in government will sign and ratify the Ban Treaty, after taking account of the need to:

a) Ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture;

b) Ensure the complementary interaction of the Ban Treaty with the longstanding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty;

c) Work to achieve universal support for the Ban Treaty.

9. Labor will take urgent action to reduce the risk of nuclear war by continuing its proud record of seeking nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation by:

a) Contributing to global progress towards addressing the matters outlined in paragraph 8 by;

b) Advocating to the United States that it actively negotiateswith Russia, China and other nuclear armed states to develop a follow-on treaty to the New START treaty with a view to realising the objective of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non -Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), namely, a world free of nuclear weapons; 

c) Seeking to work with partners and allies to build upon the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament to develop an initiative which proposes a way of working with states possessing nuclear weapons to achieve Article VI of the NPT and encouraging transparency among all states with nuclear weapons in relation to their use doctrine and the composition of their arsenals, while continuing to strengthen non-proliferation goals in the Indo Pacific region; and

d) Considering steps that can be taken with respect to further assistance for affected communities and further environmental remediation in relation to the British atomic tests that occurred on Australian territory, consistent with Article 6 of the Ban Treaty, and considering further collaboration and assistance to Pacific Island communities affected by nuclear testing in the Pacific, consistent with Article 7 of the Ban Treaty.