Archive for the ‘weapons and war’ Category

A very secret party in America’s very secret military base in outback Australia

August 2, 2017

What is more pressing for the Canberra apparatchiks is what a base like Pine Gap does in the context of spats with other powers which Australia shares ties with. The China rise is particularly problematic, given the teeth-gnashing belligerence being shown over maritime disputes.

Even as Chinese nationals purchase Australian real estate, tremors between Washington and Beijing can be felt as the base celebrates its half-century. A happy birthday it would have been, but only for some.

  The Pine Gap Anniversary Party    https://intpolicydigest.org/2017/07/30/pine-gap-anniversary-party, Blony Kampmark /30 JUL 2017 It all happened without much fuss, since fuss was bound to be the enemy. Dignitaries, guests and various partners lined up for a gathering at Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory on Saturday, commemorating the secret base’s half-century.

The Alice Spring News Online described it, not inaccurately, as a “stealth party.” The Convention Centre hosting the dinner was tight lipped throughout the week about the guest list. “Unfortunately the details of this weekend’s event are not available for public release.” Not for residents in Alice Springs; not for the electors, or even the politicians. This would be an imperial, vetted affair.

A sense about how the base functions in a defiant limbo, one resistant to Australian sovereignty, can be gathered in various ways. The local federal member, Chansey Paech, whose constituency hosts the base, was not invited. Senator Nigel Scullion’s query about the exclusion of media from the event was rebuffed by the Defence department, with the Defence Minister keen to hold the line against her own colleague.

The Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD), charged with supplying the indigenous “welcome to country” gathering at such bashes, seemed less than pleased to supply details. When the intrepid Alice Springs News Online dared ask, the CEO Kerry Le Rossignol responded with a dismissive “No comment.”

On July 25, a Defence spokesperson insisted that, “The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap is proud to commemorate its 50th anniversary. However, celebrations are restricted to site personnel and invited guests only.” Power without perusal; might, without scrutiny.

The Australian press corps haven been subjected to a drip feed process over the years about what, exactly takes place at the US base, hungrily consuming morsels like indigent urchins. This is a “joint” facility in name only, but it does have Australian personnel running the low-grade coffee errands. Vassals have their uses, and should be reminded of them.

The Nautilus Institute for Security and Instability has been keeping a keener eye than most on this, notably through the eagle-eyed Richard Tanter. In an introductory overview on Pine Gap, its ongoing, updated report on the base notes the following:

“Pine Gap is perhaps the most important United States intelligence facility outside that country, playing a vital role in the collection of a very wide range of signals intelligence, providing early warning ballistic missile launches, targeting of nuclear weapons, providing battlefield intelligence data for United States armed forces operating in Afghanistan and elsewhere (including previously in Iraq), critically supporting United States and Japanese missile defence, supporting arms control verification, and contributing targeting data to United States drone attacks.”

The report pegs Pine Gap’s role to three operational functions, with the original one still being primary: a station for geosynchronous signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellites developed under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency. Originally, these were intended to focus on the testing of Soviet missiles. One estimate puts the number of radomes and satellite dishes at Pine Gap at 38.

The second features a function acquired in late 1999, when the base became a Relay Ground Station for detecting missile launches, including Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) which now includes a Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).

The third is its interception function (foreign satellite/communications satellite), acquired in the first decade of 2000. The Nautilus report notes that two 23-metre dishes appropriate for COMSAT SIGINT Development (Sigdev) were installed within the 30-metre radomes at the end of 1999 and early 2000.

All this cut, dried and smoked material conveys the relevance of Australia’s continued geographical role as a dry goods merchant for Washington. It supplies the isolation and the means for the US imperium as officials in Canberra keep mum about the sheer extent Pine Gap operates. It also supplies the bloodied hand that assists US-directed drone strikes in theatres where neither Washington nor Canberra are officially at war. Australia remains America’s glorified manservant.

These are just a few points that have galvanised a small but vocal movement insisting on the closure of the base. Protests have also centred on disrupting, to use the words of James Brennan from Disarm, “the activities of the US war machine in Australia and on Aboriginal land.”

At various stages, prosecutions on charges of trespass under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 have also been mounted, though the effort in 2007 was laughed out of court by the presiding judge, Daynor Trigg, who deemed the statute “a bit of nonsense.” The defendants were duly acquitted by the Northern Territory Criminal Appeals Court, who quashed attempts by prosecutors to seek a retrial.

As late as last year, six self-proclaimed “peace pilgrims” received the attention of authorities for sporting musical instruments and pictures depicting war casualties onto the base. Their fate may be similar to those in 2007: to make the charges stick, evidence on the function of Pine Gap would have to be adduced. The veil would be lifted; secrecy would abate.

What is more pressing for the Canberra apparatchiks is what a base like Pine Gap does in the context of spats with other powers which Australia shares ties with. The China rise is particularly problematic, given the teeth-gnashing belligerence being shown over maritime disputes.

Even as Chinese nationals purchase Australian real estate, tremors between Washington and Beijing can be felt as the base celebrates its half-century. A happy birthday it would have been, but only for some.

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Senator Scott Ludlam probes the influence of USA on Australia’s negative approach to nuclear weapons ban treaty

June 12, 2017

Senator LUDLAM: …I want to turn to the opening day of the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, 27 March this year. Having failed to prevent these negotiations occurring, the Trump administration’s ambassador to the UN held a protest outside the UN General Assembly Hall. Did Australia participate in the protest?

Senator LUDLAM: So we just stood there in mute solidarity with the Trump administration? As 130 UN member states started serious work on negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, we were outside the room in a protest?

It is a shame that there will be no Australian representatives at the UN because these talks are scheduled to conclude at the end of June or early July

FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, UN – Nuclear Weapons Ban, 31st May 2017   http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/0a6ef7dd-2f88-423a-a01b-23b5c5b4e4c0/toc_pdf/Foreign%20Affairs,%20Defence%20and%20Trade%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_05_31_5055.pdf;fileType=application/pdf

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Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Mr Sadleir: Yes, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: It is good that you are here, Mr Sadleir, because I want to ask a couple of questions about a meeting that occurred between 4 and 8 July 2016 that I understand you were present at. You and Ms Jane Hardy travelled to Washington, DC to meet with a range of, I understand, quite senior State Department and National

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Security Council people to discuss what was then referred to as the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. Can you confirm for us on the record that that meeting occurred and that you were in attendance?

[Here it took an extraordinarily long time for Mr Sadleir to admit that he was at this meeting]

‘……..Senator LUDLAM: I have not asked what you discussed yet. Were you in attendance at that meeting?
Mr Sadleir

?
Mr Sadleir: I was certainly in Washington. I would need to check my diary to get the precise dates but I was certainly there around that time.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that what will happen when you check the dates is that you will come back and confirm that you were in fact there. I will let you check the record. I would appreciate that. What was the purpose of those meetings? (more…)

The ignoble history of Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the nuclear bombing of Maralinga

October 24, 2016

 

aboriginal-child-maralingaOne wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.


Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia  Published in:  Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.

The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.

On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement.   In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. ……..

…Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics…….

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests. From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest…….

….British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly………

In 1984, the South Australian Parliament passed the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act conferring freehold title to the Maralinga lands upon their traditional owners. But Aboriginal control over their land was not absolute. Mineral rights remained vested in the Crown, and the Act did not confer a right of veto on the Aboriginal owners. Rather, in the event of a dispute over whether the lands could be explored or mined, an Arbitrator would weigh the interests of the traditional owners against the economic significance of the proposed operations to the state and to Australia.

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture. http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

Just the mere $2000 for every single Australian – the cost of submarines purchase from France

May 4, 2016

text-my-money-2

4. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE  So we spend $2,000 each. That just gets us the big lumps of steel. If you actually want to use them, you’re paying more. It could be another $2,000 to $4,000 per Australian….

OPTIONS   The great thing about the way the acquisition will work is there should be the opportunity to cut back from 12 when the inevitable delays and cost blowouts happen. From here we can’t save the whole $2000 but maybe we can save some, for better uses.

Sub standard: why the $2,000 we are each spending on submarines will probably be a terrible waste http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/design/sub-standard-why-the-2000-we-are-each-spending-on-submarines-will-probably-be-a-terrible-waste/news-story/6922de6f6a72657c669fdc1a1248916f APRIL 30, 2016, Jason Murphy news.com.au@jasemurphy  AUSTRALIA is spending $50 billion to buy submarines. The biggest whack of money we’ve ever spent on a Defence project. It comes out at $2000 per person. And it’s probably a shocking idea.

1. STRATEGY  The strategic rationale for submarines is that an island needs trade lanes to stay open. Yep, we do. But the kind of war where a country lays siege to another whole country — think German U-Boats blockading Britain — is no longer likely at all.

Our non-nuclear submarines would have been handy in the past. And the generals are always “fighting the last war” strategically. Which is fine. But it would be better if we didn’t have to give them $2000 to do so.

2. AVAILABILITY We are buying 12 boats. Except — here’s the thing — you can’t use them all at once.   Subs need a lot of maintenance. Take the Collins Class submarines, of which we have six. Best-case scenario — if things are going splendidly — is they spend half the time in the water, half in maintenance. But those subs have big problems. Some recent years we’ve managed to have basically just one in the water on average.

 So with our very expensive new fleet, realistically you could end up with just five or six boats in the water at any time. All of a sudden the strategic value looks even dimmer.

3. COST BLOWOUTS   The Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program, which we bought into, is now many billions of dollars over Budget. Possibly hundreds of billions (reports vary). And it is hardly alone.

We consistently underestimate how complex defence equipment is because we, naturally, compare it to a vehicle. But not only is our new submarine custom-made (unlike my station wagon) it is also cutting edge technology.

It has to do many things perfectly. A submarine is a fortress, an IT hub, a weapons system, a vehicle and a temporary home all in one. Making all the things fit in together is hard. (Recently Spanish submarine builders had to send their sub back to the drawing board after they accidentally made it 75 tons too heavy and it was going to sink.)

When you face the inevitable problems you can either compromise or just spend that bit more to make it work. And if you cut corners on Defence equipment, you risk losing personnel and very expensive equipment… So of course you spend a bit more. And that’s how such laughably enormous cost blowouts happen.

4. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE  So we spend $2,000 each. That just gets us the big lumps of steel. If you actually want to use them, you’re paying more. It could be another $2,000 to $4,000 per Australian over the next 45 years. All that maintenance is expensive. And so are the crews.

The Navy has had enormous problems actually finding and training crew for submarines. A cook on a submarine can be paid an amazing $200,000 per year. Other personnel get more. Living in a big steel tube for 80 days with only other men for company is rubbish, apparently.

5. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  Australia is the 52nd biggest country in the world by population, 13th by size of economy, and sixth by land area. We spend 13th most on defence. And we are ramping up by $26 billion per year over the next 10 years.

It is a lot, given we have no land borders, the natural advantage of being surrounded by a giant moat, and are strategically not on the way to anywhere much (sorry NZ).

The main reason anyone would attack us is in the context of a global or regional conflict is we have a large military they might fear.

Our spending has an effect on our neighbours. Indonesia is not a rich country, but they have indicated they are also thinking about expanding their submarine fleet. Would limiting our spending help forestall a local arms race?

OPTIONS   The great thing about the way the acquisition will work is there should be the opportunity to cut back from 12 when the inevitable delays and cost blowouts happen. From here we can’t save the whole $2000 but maybe we can save some, for better uses.

Submarines chosen with the grandiose idea of Australia fighting China?

May 4, 2016

Coalition plans nuclear-powered submarine fleet over long term. Fin Rev, by Aaron Patrick and Phillip Coorey, 1 MAY 16

Some of Australia’s new submarines could be nuclear-powered by the time they enter service, making them much more potent against the huge Chinese navy.

One of the reasons French ship builder Direction des Constructions ­Navales Ser­vices, also known as DCNS, won the $50 billion contract was its ability to switch easily to a nuclear version of the submarines being designed for the Royal Australian Navy.

That is because the Australian diesel-powered Shortfin Barracuda will be a shorter, lighter version of a nuclear submarine already being manufactured by DCNS in Cherbourg on the English Channel.

Cabinet ministers and defence officials have already discussed the possibility of switching from diesel engines to nuclear power part-way through the construction contract, political, government and industry sources say.

The Coalition wants to keep the option open in case public opposition to nuclear power changes in the future. National polls taken from 2006 to 2009 found between 35 and 50 per cent of Australians supported introducing nuclear power, a study by the National Academies Forum showed.

DCNS, which is majority owned by the French government, is expected to start building the Australian submarines in Adelaide next decade. The last one might not be completed until 2050.

The other bidders for the contract, Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, don’t make nuclear submarines………..

The government, which has been criticised for opting to build the submarines in Australia, said it was not considering switching to a nuclear-powered version………

Another drawback of nuclear reactors is that, unlike diesel motors, they can’t be turned off to make the submarine silent.

Australia’s submarines are unusual. They would be the only conventionally powered ones that used pump jets for propulsion rather than propellers, Stephan Fruehling, a defence expert at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, said.

The Coalition government quietly supports developing a nuclear industry in Australia and on Friday proposed storing radioactive waste on a remote South Australian cattle station.

It has encouraged the South Australian Labor government to push ahead with a debate over storing spent nuclear rods from overseas. Given the submarines will be built in Adelaide and South Australia has some of the largest uranium deposits in the world, the state could one day become the centre of an Australian nuclear industry.   http://www.afr.com/business/manufacturing/coalition-plans-nuclearpowered-submarine-fleet-over-long-term-20160429-goieal

Australian govt chose submarine design so that they could later be transformed to nuclear submarines

May 4, 2016

Business SA says Future Submarine fleet could include nuclear-powered versions once local atomic industry is established, Adelaide Now April 30, 2016  State political reporter Daniel Wills, Paris, France, Sunday Mail (SA) AUSTRALIA’S future submarine fleet could be transitioned to include a potent mix of both intelligence gathering diesel boats and rapid, fast-moving nuclear-powered vessels once the state develops a sophisticated atomic industry based around storage, Business SA says.

The Federal Government is facing calls from across the strategic policy and business communities, as well as from an outspoken SA Senator, to strongly consider the nuclear option.

Premier Jay Weatherill visited DCNS’ Cherbourg shipyard last on Friday Adelaide time, just hours after SA was chosen as the likely site of a low-level nuclear waste dump and as former governor Kevin Scare puts the finishing touches on a Royal Commission due for release within days.

Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride, who joined the Cherbourg tour to observe the construction of a nuclear Barracuda sub that will become the template for Australia’s diesel fleet, said there was strong national defence reasons for having a mix of the two…..

Mr McBride told the Sunday Mail that building community confidence behind nuclear storage was crucial before the question of expanding the industry into defence capabilities.

“As we’ve gone around Europe and looked at their nuclear cycle, and take into account the likely final recommendations from the Royal Commission in regards to the storage of waste, we will as a nation and state soon come to a decision about if we participate or not,” he said…….

Mr McBride said storage was a “starting point” in a discussion about other applications.

The first future sub is set to hit the water in the early 2030s, about the time when Mr Scarce says the state could have a storage industry up and running if it moved to do so immediately……

“We walked around a facility today which had a significant nuclear threat, nobody even blinked. We walked around and took it for granted that it would be professionally contained,” Mr McBride said……

Senator Day said there was “no escaping” the strategic need for nuclear subs…….

“The winning DCNS bid links SA with a French nation with nuclear subs and nuclear power. This opens up great opportunities for SA to learn how to embrace all facets of the nuclear fuel cycle.”…….

Mr Thomson said diesel subs were valuable in “certain, specific circumstances”.

“But if you had to choose between 12 nuclear or 12 conventional subs, it’s a no-brainer. You’d have the nuclear subs every time…

Australian law currently bars the use of nuclear subs………http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/business-sa-says-future-submarine-fleet-could-include-nuclearpowered-versions-once-local-atomic-industry-is-established/news-story/9ae30cb1933a6119182944f6dbdcf09c

Australia’s regional isolation in its refusal to support new nuclear disarmament treaty

September 16, 2015

world-nuclear-weapons-freeAustralia’s earlier leadership on nuclear disarmament had diminished over the past four years.

“We know what Australia is saying ‘no’ to. It is saying ‘no’ to the humanitarian consequences pledge. Well, what is it saying ‘yes’ to?”

Australia resists new global push for nuclear disarmament, Guardian, , 16 Sept 15  Diplomatic cables reveal prospects for nuclear disarmament are ‘bleak’ as Australia becomes increasingly lonely in opposing 116-nation push for ban

Prospects for nuclear disarmament are “bleak” under the current non-proliferation treaty, Australian diplomats have conceded in cables back to Canberra, but the country will resist growing global support for a new treaty banning nuclear weapons because of a dependence on the nuclear deterrent capability of the US.

A tranche of internal government emails from within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reveals Australia’s opposition to a 116-nation push to ban nuclear weapons is leaving it increasingly isolated globally, and especially among anti-nuclear neighbours. The emails, released under freedom of information, reveal Australia is increasingly worried about an Austrian-led push for a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons.

“Like the US, Australia is worried about the Austrian pledge,” a Dfat note says.

Other cables to Canberra described the pledge as “a not-too-subtle attempt to build momentum for negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty” but also reported that “the Austrian pledge is fast becoming a galvanising focus for those pushing the ban treaty option”.

Australia says it needs the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal………

Australia has found it is particularly isolated in regional security meetings. At a meeting of Asia Pacific nations on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and prospects for a ban treaty, Australia was “the lone voice in the room on many issues”………

Prof Ramesh Thakur, director of the centre for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the Australian National University, said Australian diplomats had underestimated support for the humanitarian pledge.

“What is really clear from these cables, but not explicitly stated, is that Australian officials have been very surprised, they have been taken aback, by the strength of support for the humanitarian consequences pledge, and they are scrambling to explain that.
“Support for the humanitarian consequences pledge is making Australia’s position more difficult; it is galvanising public and political opinion, and Australia finds itself running against the domestic and international tide.”

Thakur said Australia’s earlier leadership on nuclear disarmament had diminished over the past four years.

“We know what Australia is saying ‘no’ to. It is saying ‘no’ to the humanitarian consequences pledge. Well, what is it saying ‘yes’ to?”…….

The FOI request that revealed the government correspondence was made by the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons (Ican), a coalition of NGOs from more than 95 countries, whose aim is a global ban on nuclear weapons.

Ican’s Asia-Pacific director, Tim Wright, told Guardian Australia the humanitarian pledge had developed an international momentum, and he was confident it would lead to new global negotiations towards outlawing nuclear weapons.

The Australian government’s argument that it required the protection of a foreign power’s nuclear weapons was “a long-held belief that has gone unchallenged”.

“Nuclear weapons undermine safety, they do not enhance it,” Wright said.

And a proposed ban treaty was not designed to replace the non-proliferation treaty.

“The NPT remains relevant, and will for the foreseeable future, as the only treat with a legally binding commitment towards disarmament. But we see a ban treaty as something not to replace the NPT, but as something to complement and strengthen it, like the comprehensive test ban treaty did in the 1990s.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond to inquiries about the cables from Guardian Australia. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/16/australia-isolated-in-its-hesitation-to-sign-treaty-banning-nuclear-weapons?CMP=twt_b-gdnnews

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) advises against uranium sales to India: more security needed

September 9, 2015
India-uranium1India uranium red-light a test for Tony Abbott, SBS News, 8 Sept 15, While Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Minister Bishop have been strong supporters of selling Australian uranium to India, many others, including key Australian diplomats and insiders, remain far more circumspect. By  Dave Sweeney
  The plan has drawn sustained opposition and concern, most recently from the federal Parliament’s influential Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), which has unambiguously stated that much more work is required before any Australian uranium makes a passage to India.

The JSCOT report followed a detailed examination and expert testimony and states that while the federal government can ratify the deal it must not advance uranium sales or supply to India before key checks and balances are put into practice and proven to work.

In short, the committee charged with advising the government on Indian uranium sales has reached the unambiguous conclusion that the government can sign but not sell.

The question now is whether the Abbott government will follow due parliamentary process and act in the public interest or will it ignore these concerns and JSCOT’s advice and seek to fast-track the agenda of the under-performing uranium sector?

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a uranium deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in September 2014, he praised India’s “absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record”. Yet India’s record on nuclear proliferation tells another story. India acquired its nuclear arsenal by breaking a promise not to use a Canadian reactor for military purposes. It remains outside the globe’s key non-proliferation frameworks and the region remains on nuclear high alert amid tensions with nuclear rival Pakistan.

Instead of addressing real questions about India’s nuclear weapons program and inadequate nuclear safety standards Mr Abbott resorted to cricketing clichés, declaring that Australia and India trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards because of “the fundamentally ethical principle that every cricketer is supposed to assimilate – play by the rules and accept the umpire’s decision”.

The JSCOT process received strongly critical submissions from a who’s who of nuclear arms control diplomats and experts including John Carlson (former long serving Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office from 1989 to 2010), Ron Walker (former Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Prof. Lawrence Scheinman (former Assistant Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency). These are veteran players in global nuclear diplomatic and regulatory regimes, not anti-nuclear activists.

Nuclear arms control expert Crispin Rovere noted that “this treaty appears less like the deepening of a bilateral partnership and more like one of a client state being dictated to in an expanded Indian empire. It is a major display of weakness on the part of the Australian Government, and a failure to stand up for Australia’s national interests in this area”.

8 SEP 201…….As it currently stands, the government has inked an agreement that puts absolutely no constraints on India’s nuclear weapons program, fails to advance non-proliferation outcomes and doesn’t even provide effective scrutiny of Australian uranium.

One thing we can all agree on is that Australia has a key role to play in supporting India’s legitimate energy aspirations, but this cannot be advanced by a retreat from responsibility on nuclear safeguards and security. The government must read and heed the JSCOT report and Australia’s uranium must remain away from India’s nuclear reactors and weapons – to do otherwise would be profoundly irresponsible.

JSCOT has just clean bowled this dangerous and deeply deficient sales plan. Mr Abbott must now heed his own words, “accept the umpire’s decision” and start the long walk back to pavilion for a serious re-think. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/09/08/comment-india-uranium-red-light-test-tony-abbott

Kow Towing to USA, Australia worked to prevent a Nuclear free Pacific

April 25, 2014

Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, including the 1985 Cabinet minute about the SPNFZ Treaty, show clearly that Australia designed the treaty to protect US interests in the Pacific, including the deployment of nuclear-armed warships and the testing of nuclear missiles.


Aust-two-faced-on-peaceInternational legal experts, including Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University, have raised concerns that uranium sales to India would breach Australia’s obligations under the treaty. Rothwell has prepared a legal opinion stating that the SPNFZ Treaty prohibits members from selling uranium to countries that do not accept full-scope nuclear safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is consistent with past Australian government policy. 

Delaying The Nuclear-Free Zone In The Pacific http://concernedyapcitizens.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/pacific-islands-report-delaying-the-nuclear-free-zone-in-the-pacific/ By Nic Maclellan At the height of the nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Union, a treaty to create a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, or SPNFZ, was opened for signature on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1985, at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Rarotonga.

Twenty-eight years after it was signed on that day by Australia, New Zealand and island nations, the United States still hasn’t ratified its protocols, in spite of a request from president Barack Obama to the US Senate more than two years ago.

Next week, as Forum leaders gather in the Marshall Islands – site of sixty-seven US nuclear tests at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls – the US government will be eager to keep nuclear issues off the agenda, as it has been since the Treaty was first mooted. Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, and US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, highlight longstanding opposition in Canberra and Washington to a comprehensive nuclear-free zone that might hamper US nuclear deployments in the Pacific.

The Forum meeting, and the US Senate’s continued stalling, coincide with on-going concerns that Australia’s decision to sell uranium to India threatens to breach Australian treaty obligations. As Conservative Australian governments in the 1960s debated the acquisition of nuclear weapons and purchased aircraft capable of delivering nuclear strikes in Southeast Asia, the labour movement across the region proposed a nuclear free zone designed to ban the bomb in this part of the world. The SPNFZ Treaty was finally negotiated in the 1980s after decades of campaigning by unions, Pacific churches and the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement.

Under the treaty, countries in the zone commit never to develop nuclear weapons. Under three protocols, nuclear states with territories in the zone (France, Britain and the United States) agree to apply the treaty to their territories. In accepting the protocols, all nuclear powers also undertake not to use or threaten to use any nuclear device against countries in the zone, and not to test nuclear devices in the zone.

Russia and China were first to sign the protocols, in 1986 and 1987 respectively, pledging not to store or test nuclear weapons in the region or use them against Australia, New Zealand or island nations. France, Britain and the United States refused to sign the treaty protocols for a decade, only signing on 25 March 1996 after the end of French nuclear testing at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls.

Until now, however, the US government has refused to ratify its signature by passing legislation through the US Senate. President Obama formally called on the US Senate to ratify the SPNFZ protocols the day after a US Special Forces unit shot and killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. “Ratification of Protocols 1, 2, and 3 to the Treaty would fully support US non-proliferation policy and goals,” he told the Senate, “and I am convinced that it is in the best interest of the United States to ratify these Protocols.”

But the Senate has failed to act on President Obama’s request. On 2 May 2011, the Senate referred the treaty to its Committee on Foreign Relations “pursuant to the removal of the injunction of secrecy.” The committee hasn’t yet discussed the legislation, even though Obama’s Democratic Party has held a majority of its membership since 2007. The US Embassy in Canberra has confirmed that no hearings are scheduled to discuss the ratification. “There is no time period for ratification,” said an embassy official. “For example, it took the Senate thirty years to ratify the Genocide Convention. The Committee has many other treaties under consideration, so there is no way to tell how long it will be before this treaty is approved by the Committee and referred to the full Senate for its advice and consent.”

The delay reflects longstanding American opposition to limits on its nuclear deployments in the region. US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show Washington’s opposition to SPNFZ dating back to the 1970s, when the New Zealand government considered taking up the issue.

After the unexpected death in 1974 of NZ prime minister Norman Kirk, a firm supporter of a Nuclear Free Zone, incoming prime minister Bill Rowling took up the issue. Rowling initiated discussions with Australia’s prime minister, Gough Whitlam, in early 1975, a decade before SPNFZ was finally signed by most Forum member countries.

In March 1975, the classified New Zealand SPNFZ proposal was leaked to the US Embassy in Wellington. A US diplomatic cable that month notes: “Source indicated he thought GoA [Government of Australia] Foreign Affairs and Defence officials remained opposed to SPNFZ, but allowed the possibility that proposal might find some acceptability at Cabinet level.” The cable goes on to note: “Without indicating US knowledge of latest GNZ [Government of New Zealand] proposal, Embassy believes Deputy Secretary Defence Clements should firmly impress upon GoA our opposition to SPNFZ.”

The March 1975 US Embassy cable highlights support in Australia’s Foreign Affairs bureaucracy for delaying any action. “Likely outcome of Rowling–Whitlam talks would be to refer agreement to officials for further study… If this is the case then GNZ expects little of it and would be quite willing to see it discussed by officials more or less ad infinitum.”

Further US cables from September 1975 show Whitlam supported the proposal in public but privately told the US Embassy that he only did so because he “feels obliged to give token support” to a “beleaguered” NZ government. The replacement of the Whitlam Labor government by Malcolm Fraser’s conservative Coalition after the November 1975 constitutional crisis saw the end of any discussion of SPNFZ until Labor was re-elected in 1983 under Bob Hawke. Hawke’s government revived the concept of a nuclear free zone at the 1983 South Pacific Forum leaders meeting in Canberra. The following year, meeting in Tuvalu, the Forum endorsed a set of principles proposed by Australia as the basis for establishing a zone. Forum leaders also appointed a working group to draft the treaty text, which met five times in Suva, Canberra and Wellington between November 1984 and June 1985.

Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, including the 1985 Cabinet minute about the SPNFZ Treaty, show clearly that Australia designed the treaty to protect US interests in the Pacific, including the deployment of nuclear-armed warships and the testing of nuclear missiles. As an April 1985 submission by Foreign Minister Bill Hayden to Cabinet notes, “The proposal is designed to maintain the security advantages afforded to the South West Pacific through the ANZUS Treaty and the United States security presence in the region.”

At the time, the Hawke government was embroiled in debate over a US proposal to test-fire two MX inter-continental ballistic missiles into Pacific waters east of Tasmania. Hayden’s cabinet submission includes details of Australian negotiating positions in the final months before the treaty was signed:

“(iii) Australia oppose the inclusion in the draft SPNFZ Treaty of a ban on missile tests.

(iv) Australia oppose the inclusion in the draft SPNFZ Treaty of a ban on the facilitation of the stationing of nuclear weapons, and limit the proposed non-facilitation provisions on the testing and acquisition of nuclear weapons to practical measures consistent with established Australian government positions.”

The archives include a draft version of the treaty dated 10 April 1985, just before a May 1985 working group meeting in Suva finalised the text for leaders to sign in August that year.

The draft text notes in article three that: “Each Party undertakes:… (b) not to [provide], seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture or acquisition of any nuclear explosive device.” The word “provide” was removed from the final text after Australia sought successfully to retain the right to provide support for the manufacture of nuclear weapons (such as the export of uranium to nuclear weapons states).

The Australian cabinet submission highlights divisions within the Forum, with Melanesian countries eager to create a more comprehensive nuclear free zone than many smaller Polynesian nations.

“In general,” says Hayden’s cabinet submission, “the Melanesians (PNG, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands) have supported a treaty which is broad in scope. They have expressed interest, for instance, in the possibility of including in the treaty bans on missile testing and ‘nuclear related’ facilities such as the Joint Facilities. Nauru has supported them. The Polynesians (Fiji, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue and Western Samoa) on the other hand support a treaty that is essentially limited to the principles endorsed by the Heads of Government in the communiqué of the [1984] Tuvalu Forum.”

At the time the treaty was negotiated in the mid 1980s, three Micronesian countries were still under US administration through the UN strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.

Because SPNFZ was finalised a year before the Micronesian states achieved self-government under a Compact of Free Association with the United States, they were not included within the zone. As well as protecting the crucial US missile testing base at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the US government was trying to overcome popular anti-nuclear sentiment in Palau, which had included a “nuclear free” clause in their Constitution (the clause was eventually removed, allowing Palau’s Compact with the United States to come into force in 1994).

Ratification of SPNFZ by the US Senate could open the way to review and extend the treaty north of the Equator. This would clearly match the aspirations of South Pacific countries at the time the treaty was drafted.

In June 1985, a report from the drafting team for the SPNFZ treaty was submitted to Forum leaders. Countries like Papua New Guinea argued that the treaty should be called the Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, to include territories north of the Equator. Instead, the report noted:

“Inclusion of the United States Trust Territory in the zone could complicate current negotiations on the constitutional future of these territories, especially since nuclear issues were a major element in these negotiations… Papua New Guinea, while acknowledging the reasons that had led the Working Group to settle for the northern boundary as described in the draft Treaty, asked that its continuing preference for the South Pacific Commission boundary be recorded. It was recognised by all delegations that the SPNFZ Treaty should allow for the inclusion in the zone of future members of the South Pacific Forum who wished to and were in a position to become parties to the Treaty.”

At the 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Marshall Islands foreign minister Phillip Muller told the United Nations that the Republic of the Marshall Islands has “eventual aspirations to join with our Pacific neighbours in supporting a Pacific free of nuclear weapons in a manner consistent with international security.”

Since the SPNFZ treaty was signed in 1985, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Palau have all joined the Pacific Islands Forum and the United Nations. Today, the Rarotonga Treaty could be amended to include them in its boundaries – if the United States allowed it.

THOSE decisions during the 1980s have important implications today, at a time when Australia is proposing to sell uranium to India, a country that has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Bill Hayden’s 1985 cabinet submission notes that the Department of Defence “considers that Australia should seek to have a withdrawal clause included in the treaty and that the right of withdrawal should not be limited to the situation where the Treaty has been breached by another party.” This advice was rejected in the final version of the treaty. Countries cannot withdraw from the SPNFZ unless there is a clear breach of treaty provisions by another party.

International legal experts, including Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University, have raised concerns that uranium sales to India would breach Australia’s obligations under the treaty. Rothwell has prepared a legal opinion stating that the SPNFZ Treaty prohibits members from selling uranium to countries that do not accept full-scope nuclear safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is consistent with past Australian government policy. In 1996, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer observed that “Article 4(a) of the SPNFZ Treaty imposes a legal obligation not to provide nuclear material unless subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1 of the NPT; that is full scope safeguards.”

In spite of this, the Gillard government commenced discussions on uranium sales to India in 2012, even though Delhi still refuses to open its nuclear facilities – civilian as well as military – to international inspectors, as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Rothwell’s legal advice concludes:

“If India does not agree to Article III.1 Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards and Australia were to export uranium to India, Australia would be in violation of its Treaty of Rarotonga obligations. If Australia’s action were in breach of the Treaty, Australia could be exposed to the complaints procedure of Annex 4 of the Treaty initiated by other state parties to the Treaty of Rarotonga.”

Since the SPNFZ was created in 1986, there has not been a formal review of the Rarotonga Treaty by Forum member countries, even though it includes provisions for a consultative committee to discuss “any matter arising in relation to this Treaty or for reviewing its operation.” This committee must convene “at the request of any Party,” so any Forum member country could call for a SPNFZ review conference.

Today, island governments are focused on climate change as the greatest threat to their national security. But with 17,000 nuclear weapons still held in arsenals around the world, maybe it’s time to revive longstanding regional opposition to the threat of nuclear war.

This article originally appeared August 27, 2013 on the website the “Inside Story” <http://inside.org.au/delaying-the-nuclear-free-zone-in-the-pacific/>. It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Nic Maclellan works as a journalist with Islands Business magazine (Fiji) and other Pacific media, and is co-author of three books on nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Australia’s hypocrisy on nuclear disarmament is showing through

April 14, 2014

Australian policy on nuclear weapons hopelessly conflicted http://www.smh.com.au/comment/australian-policy-on-nuclear-weapons-hopelessly-conflicted-20140410-zqt9l.html  April 10, 2014   At a meeting in Hiroshima of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group of 12 countries led by Australia and Japan, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made much of Australia’s supposed commitment to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

But Australian policy on nuclear weapons is hopelessly conflicted. With one hand, it promotes nuclear disarmament, yet with the other, it clings anxiously to US nuclear weapons for national security. Australia wants to get rid of nuclear weapons and keep them too.
There is no secret about this: Bishop wrote in February that Australia “has long and actively supported nuclear disarmament … and worked tirelessly toward the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons” and also that Australia “will continue to rely on nuclear deterrence” for its security as long as nuclear weapons exist. She is the latest custodian of a bipartisan policy that has been passed down through consecutive governments for decades.
As long as nothing much was happening with nuclear disarmament, Australia could safely advocate it. But the emergence of a global movement to examine the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and a related push for a treaty banning them, has put Australia on the spot.

International conferences held in Oslo last year and in Nayarit, Mexico, in February concluded that any nuclear detonation would completely overwhelm humanitarian and disaster response capabilities, and cause unacceptable long-term harm worldwide.

Australia cautiously participated in these meetings, but clearly with misgiving. And at the United Nations last October, when 125 countries, including Japan and five other NPDI members, made a joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, Australia baulked – and weaselled out.

Pressed to explain why Australia could not join the statement, officials said the sentence, “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances,” was incompatible with Australia’s reliance on nuclear deterrence.

Calls for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons have further exposed the contradictions in Australia’s policy. There is no legal reason Australia could not join such a treaty tomorrow: Australia has no nuclear weapons. As a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has sworn off them.

The official response, however, has been to oppose such a ban because it would not “guarantee” nuclear disarmament. This is a ludicrous excuse, given that none of the approaches Australia and the NPDI advocate will “guarantee” disarmament either (in fact most of them are hopelessly bogged down).

That a polished performer like Bishop would field such a flimsy rationalisation only shows how bare the intellectual cupboard at the Foreign Ministry is. They can’t find a better argument, because there isn’t one.

Despite the increasing visibility of its inherently contradictory policy, the government blithely continues to seek a high profile on nuclear disarmament.

The people of Hiroshima will surely welcome Bishop’s earnest undertakings to address the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and pursue nuclear disarmament. They will be less impressed by her extraordinary statement that “the horrendous humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are precisely why deterrence has worked” – in other words, that Australia depends for its security on the very humanitarian consequences it claims to be working to avoid.The contradictions emerge even within the NPDI. The purpose of the NPDI is to support implementation of the 64-point “action plan” on non-proliferation and disarmament agreed by the 189 members of the NPT. Australia is a prominent proponent of the plan. But the very first of these 64 actions requires Australia to “pursue policies that are fully compatible with the treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons”. How is relying on nuclear weapons compatible with the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons?
The circle simply cannot be squared. Follow the tortuous reasoning to its conclusion and it reduces to “Australia supports nuclear disarmament, just as soon as it has happened”.
As the humanitarian initiative gathers momentum, and as a ban treaty looms closer, Australia’s policy will become increasingly untenable. It will soon have to choose: nuclear weapons – yes or no. If the answer is yes, the only honest course is to drop the pretence of working towards a world free of nuclear weapons and leave the NPT. If the answer is no, then there are policy challenges ahead – but overcoming them would put Australia on the right side of history.
Richard Lennane is a former United Nations disarmament official and Australian diplomat.