The Guardian November 12, 2003


Australia dumps nuclear disarmament at the UN

At the United Nations, Australia has voted against a 
resolution calling for a new agenda to achieve a nuclear weapons-
free world. Australia's representative objected to a key 
paragraph that opposed missile defence and the weaponisation of 
outer space.

The paragraph in question expressed concern that the development 
of missile defences could impact negatively on nuclear 
disarmament and non-proliferation, and lead to a new arms race on 
earth and in outer space. The paragraph emphasised that no steps 
should be taken that would lead to the weaponisation of outer 
space.

Australia later abstained from a vote against non-strategic 
nuclear weapons.

It took this pro-nuclear weapon stance despite a recommendation 
from the Australian Senate to vote in favour of the resolutions.

Australia has a proud record of promoting nuclear disarmament and 
non-proliferation initiatives, from 1973 to 1996. However, the 
latest moves are part of a new pattern of Australia voting 
against any such initiatives.

In the recent past Australia has also voted against a resolution 
from the non-aligned movement promoting nuclear disarmament, and 
another from India concerning reduction of nuclear dangers.

In 1996, the International Court of Justice brought down a 
judgement that nuclear weapons are illegal, but at the UN 
Australia recently voted against a Malaysian resolution in 
support of that judgement.

A joint statement from Friends of the Earth Australia and the 
Australian Peace Committee (SA) subsequently declared:

"Australia's vote shows that we are not really serious in 
supporting nuclear disarmament in the UN or elsewhere. . we have 
failed yet another opportunity to send a powerful signal to our 
allies that they must take nuclear disarmament seriously.

"The Australian Government has concluded that nuclear disarmament 
means monstering the DPRK [North Korea], not in pushing the 
established weapons states to abide by their long-standing 
disarmament obligations."

The Western world's media has focused much of its attention on 
the nuclear program of the DPRK. It says little about the nuclear 
capability of other nations, including that of Israel, which has 
a highly advanced nuclear weapons program.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy 
Agency recently told a French newspaper that between 35 and 40 
countries are now believed capable of manufacturing nuclear arms 
within a very short period of time.

ElBaradei stated that a new version of the Nuclear Non-
proliferation Treaty was needed. "We have to reach agreement on 
limiting the construction, in civilian programmes, of nuclear 
material for military ends by confining this to installations 
under multilateral control."

He also advocated the creation of a new nuclear safety system 
which would treat the causes of international insecurity, not 
just their symptoms, and which would be based "not on dissuasion 
but on fairness and universality".

Back to index page