Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Nuclear Weapons

7:53 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The denuclearisation imperative has rarely been more urgent than it is right now, and it is incumbent upon the government to make all possible efforts towards its achievement. One of the best instruments we have against the ever-present threat of nuclear weapons is the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The former coalition government resisted signing on to the TPNW for years, but while in opposition Anthony Albanese committed Labor to signing the treaty. Indeed, in 2018 the Labor Party even adopted a resolution that committed to signing and ratifying the TPNW in government. This is what the opposition leader at the time then said:

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created.

Today we have an opportunity to take a step towards their elimination.

…   …   …

… Labor in government will sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

I'd like to repeat that for the record. The quote was, 'Labor will sign and ratify the treaty.' Former foreign minister Gareth Evans also said that nuclear disarmament is 'core business of any Labor government worth the name'.

Yet since taking office in May, the Prime Minister's historic opportunity to follow through on this particular moment in time seems to have gone nowhere. Save for a flimsy statement in June that Australia 'shares the ambition' of the TPNW and that state parties of the world should work together for 'a world without nuclear weapons', the government has been troublingly quiet. To their credit, the statement was made as the government sent an observer to the first meeting of the state parties to the TPNW. But this is an infuriatingly empty gesture in the broader context of the Albanese government's unwavering support for AUKUS.

The AUKUS pact is provocative and poses a grave risk to global nuclear non-proliferation. Questions are now even being raised about whether it violates the non-proliferation treaty to which Australia is a party. Just this week, Indonesia voiced their concerns that it may undermine the non-proliferation treaty itself. That doesn't appear to concern the PM, who has repeatedly affirmed that Labor's strong backing of AUKUS will continue, as well as affirming an appetite for expanding the US alliance. That is completely antithetical to the principle of denuclearisation. The TPNW and AUKUS are fundamentally incompatible. You either support denuclearisation or you don't, so I am forced to ask the question of the Prime Minister: which is it? The only workable answer here is to decisively denounce nuclear weapons by signing the very treaty that you yourself have vocally and repeatedly committed to supporting. That is our duty as responsible global citizens.

Australia must play a constructive role towards global disarmament, and we must not delay any longer. Almost 80 per cent of Australians back signing the treaty. The Labor Party's membership back signing the treaty. The Greens have absolutely and unwaveringly backed the treaty from the beginning. I am calling on the Albanese government to act on the will of the community and the mandate of its own party and sign the treaty as a matter of urgency. We have the overwhelming support of the Australian community, we have the numbers in parliament and we know that it is the right thing to do. Let's get it done.