The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Remarks to the event “Celebrate a Nuclear Weapons Free Future with WILPF”.

By Terri Butler MP

22 January 2021

Thank you Aunty Sue for an important contribution, and for reminding us of the tests on Australian soil. For my first half decade in the parliament I had hanging on my wall in parliament a photograph from Emu Field. It was important to be reminded that as Australian parliamentarians we must take responsibility not just for defence but also for peace, and that we must remember the impact of those tests.

I visited Nagasaki a few years ago and while there visited the site of the Fat Man bomb’s epicentre and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. It was horrific to see the images and artefacts of the blast that killed tens of thousands and affected the lives of many more there, and to think of the destruction at Hiroshima as well. 

Some have argued that nuclear disarmament would undermine deterrence and thereby reduce security. 

We should not accept that reasoning. History provides us with a foundation for understanding the imperative for peace. Australians should not have to suffer the horror of world war and nor should we have to rely on allies’ deployment of nuclear weapons to obtain or maintain Australians’ freedom.

We must work towards a safer world. This is not ‘righteous abolitionism’ or naivete but a pragmatic approach that says that nuclear weapons make the world less safe, and that nations should work towards disarmament as a priority. 

There are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons globally, the Atomic Scientists are telling us it is 100 seconds to midnight, and the UN Secretary General recently described “the total elimination of nuclear weapons” and “the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.”

So on this significant day, I congratulate our homegrown Nobel Laureates at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and all who seek a safer world, for supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons. 

I anticipate today’s important milestone of the treaty coming into force will prompt reflection in our national parliament. Labor members have spoken in the parliament about the treaty already, and I anticipate that is likely to happen again.

Labor has greatly appreciated your work. You will recall that our now Leader Anthony Albanese tabled ICAN’s Open Letter to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, calling on his government to support the treaty negotiations, back in October 2017.

Significantly, our 2018 national conference resolved, on Anthony Albanese’s motion, to, in government, sign and ratify the treaty after taking account the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, interaction of the Treaty with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and achieving universal support.

Labor MPs have continued to support your ambition of a world without nuclear weapons, and many have signed the Parliamentarians’ Pledge to work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty, “as we consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order and an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples.”

Labor’s disposition towards this new treaty is consistent with our history of opposing nuclear weapons.  In 1973, when he announced that Australia was ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Seabed Arms Control Treaty Gough Whitlam, himself an ex-serviceman who had seen active service in World War II, said the ratification reflected “the Government's strong and unequivocal support for efforts to check the spread of nuclear weapons, and for the principles of arms control contained in the two Treaties."

Today, our leader and shadow foreign minister are people of principle who stand up for peace and security. And they have a thoughtful approach to our most important alliance, the alliance with the US. Anthony Albanese made a significant foreign policy speech this week, on the eve of the Inauguration of now US President Joe Biden.

In his speech Anthony said that for Australia, “the arrival of the Biden Administration presents an opportunity to expand alliance cooperation on the challenges before the world and our region,” and he reminded Australians that the alliance was forged in World War II under Labor Prime Minister John Curtin.

He said that Labor’s support for the alliance would remain stronger than ever under a government he leads, and that the two nations need to “constantly discuss and renew” and sometimes even argue about our shared values and aligned interests. And that where interests are not completely aligned, we must be able to disagree and know that the relationship can none the less be sustained.

Anthony welcomed now-President Joe Biden’s strong commitment to US leadership in the world. And he cited Joe Biden’s April Foreign Affairs article in which the now President said 

“...diplomacy should be the first instrument of American power. …Diplomacy is not just a series of handshakes and photo ops…It requires discipline, a coherent policymaking process, and a team of experienced and empowered professionals. As President, I will elevate diplomacy as the United States’ principal tool of foreign policy.”

Anthony’s comments on the alliance and his approval of now President Biden’s view that diplomacy should be the principal tool of foreign policy demonstrate Labor’s pragmatic and principled approach. An Albanese Prime Ministership would stand Australia in good stead for relationships between our two countries on the important issues of peace and security, and so many others.

Congratulations again on today’s milestone. I hope you feel great pride in what you have achieved. And thank you for allowing me to be with you today. I feel honoured to have been invited.

 

FRIDAY 22 JANUARY 2021

 

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