Warrnambool called upon to sign ICAN cities appeal

May 19, 2023 | News

Warrnambool called upon to sign ICAN cities appeal
By Aaron Smith
May 10 2023, The Standard

Australia needs to sign a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons, a Warrnambool activist says.

Jemila Rushton, a leader in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), this week spoke with Warrnambool U3A members about engaging with their local representatives and urging them to work for the nation’s ratification of the nuclear weapon ban treaty.

ICAN is a global organisation first started in Melbourne in 2007.

Ms Rushton said the presentation at the city’s library aimed to raise awareness of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first legally binding international agreement to ban nuclear weapons.

“Currently Australia is not a signatory but most of our regional neighbours are,” Ms Rushton told The Standard.

“We have signed every other treaty in relation to nuclear weapons and disarmament, so it is an important piece of the puzzle that’s missing for Australia at the moment.”

Australia has never possessed nuclear weapons of its own but Ms Rushton said it’s still important the country signs the treaty.

“We currently have a defence policy which includes ‘extended nuclear deterrence’, meaning we’re reliant on the nuclear weapons of the United States,” she said.

Russia and the United States possess over 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear warheads, with 1300 belonging to China, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea.

A total of 68 countries have signed the treaty so far, committing to not supporting or possessing nuclear weapons.

“We are already seeing increased stigmatisation of nuclear weapons from these countries but we need the nuclear armed states to get on board,” Ms Rushton said.

“One of the most powerful things Australia could do to convince them would be to join this treaty because it would build pressure around what is the accepted norm.”

Ms Rushton said international concerns surrounding nuclear war were on the rise.

“We’ve seen nuclear weapons mentioned more and more in the news,” she said.
“Especially in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it doesn’t feel like it’s a thing of the past at all.”

Ms Rushton said residents can take action for nuclear disarmament by asking the Warrnambool City Council to endorse the ICAN Cities Appeal, which has attracted 45 signatures from towns and cities across Australia.

The Labor Party committed to signing and ratifying the treaty in 2018, with 78 per cent of the party in favour.

“We have a good opportunity now to move Australia into a position to sign this treaty,” Ms Rushton said.

Warrnambool U3A president Bill Gardner said the talk had hardened his attitudes towards nuclear weapons.

“I think it’s alerted me to the fact that I should be paying more attention,” he said.
“We worry about other things at the moment and yet ICAN seem to be doing a very good job. It’s amazing to see we’ve got one of their people in Warrnambool.”