Empty rhetoric on nuclear weapons, Canberra Times, 1 July 2018

The Australian government is backing moves to name and shame those who violate the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons (“Chemical culprits on UK hit-list”, CT 28 June). This is of course the right thing to do, as long as pronouncements as to who has used the weapons are based on rigorous impartial investigations and not on knee-jerk politicised accusations.

However our government’s stance yet again highlights its complicity with those who prepare to use weapons that are, notwithstanding the inhumane nature of chemical weapons, even more
catastrophic – nuclear weapons. Australia has refused to sign the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

In relation to chemical weapons, the Australian government representative at the meeting in The Hague this week said that without holding perpetrators to account, the ban would become “empty rhetoric”. Indeed it would, just as Australia’s claim to be working for a nuclear weapons free world, while being complicit with some of the worst offenders, is empty rhetoric.

At the chemical weapons talks, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose country voted in 2016 to renew its ridiculously provocative Trident nuclear weapons program, referred to the ban on chemical weapons as “a signal achievement of democracy” which must not be eroded away. Very true, but his country boycotted last year’s TPNW negotiations, which were another huge victory for democracy.

Naming and shaming is exactly what prohibition treaties do. The Australian government and others are still trying to protect their preferred weapon of mass destruction.

Dr Sue Wareham