Butler, Richard: Nuclear disarmament – Australia’s profound and cynical failure

Butler, Richard

Nuclear disarmament – Australia’s profound and cynical failure‘, Pearls and Irritations, 23 August 2016 updated

The author looks at Australia’s distinguished history in nuclear disarmament negotiations, before commenting on the recent decision by Australia to insist that there be a vote on a report proposing that the United Nations General Assembly commence a multilateral negotiation on a Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons. The vote still passed, 69 in favour, 22 against (including all seven nuclear weapons states), 13 abstentions.

‘Twenty years later [that is, 20 years on from our earlier efforts in disarmament] we have become a virtual pariah amongst the significant collection of states that have stuck at the task of reducing and aiming towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.’ This attitude has been bipartisan in Australian politics.

All sides have been involved, all have concluded that their political survival depends on their complete affirmation of the alliance with the US, and to justify this they say that the alliance relationship ensures that US nuclear weapons will be deployed to preserve our national security.

No-one was fooled by Australia’s stated rationale that an attempt at a ban would actually lead to increased production of nuclear weapons. ‘Australia stepped forward and self identified as the key surrogate of the US.’

They [our politicians] will not speak the truth to the electorate including, in particular, the immense cost of the Alliance to Australia in money and lives by our becoming virtually automatically involved in all of the US’ misadventures (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria), the current pressure on us to make an enemy of China, the fantastic cost to us of defence procurements interoperable with the US, the shocking deception involved in insisting that the US will defend us with their nuclear weapons.

Richard Butler AC is a former senior diplomat, United Nations official and Governor of Tasmania. He was Australian Ambassador to the United Nations. He is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters.

Dimity Hawkins and Julie Kimber along similar lines in The Conversation. ‘After 22 years of [Australian Defence] white paper reliance on END, it is no longer a temporary aberration. The risk is we normalise both the need for and use of nuclear weapons.’

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