NGOs lobby govt to support nuke ban

  • Posted on: 25 October 2016
  • By: Staff Writers

Over fifty Australian civil society organisations have called on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to support UN negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Organisations representing medical professionals, foreign aid workers, conservationists and clergy signed the letter, which was delivered to Ms Bishop yesterday.

Former independent senator Jo Vallentine, who delivered the letter to Ms Bishop, said that the major world powers were still not complying with international nuclear laws, despite an international treaty that came into force over four decades ago.

She said: “We’ve waited a long time for the Nuclear Weapons States to fulfil their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and they have failed. It is time for Australia to do an about-turn and get on to the right side of this historic decision”.

The letter, inititated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), called upon the government to overcome pressure from the United States to oppose the negotiations. It cited a 2014 Nielsen survey that found around 84% of Australians favoured such a ban.

The UN General Assembly motion - sponsored by the governments of Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa calls for the UN to convene a conference in 2017, which would “negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

The organisations which signed the open letter to Ms Bishop included the Australian Medical Association, Oxfam Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, Environment Victoria and clergy from Pax Christi, the Uniting Church and the Quakers.

The current non-proliferation legislation, the treaty for which was presented to UN member states in 1968, has since been signed by 190 countries. Passed into international law in 1970, the NPT is the most widely supported multilateral disarmament agreement.

Three nuclear powers - India, Israel and Pakistan - are not parties to the NPT. North Korea (DPRK) announced it would withdraw from the treaty in 1993, which it eventually actioned in 2003.