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How Australia -- and the US -- Undermined a Global Nuclear Disarmament Bid


March 20, 2014
iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand & The New Zealand Herald & Sydney Morning Herald & The Dominion Post

Newly released documents reveal how Australia's newly elected Tony Abbott Government applied secret diplomatic pressure to undermine a New Zealand-led push towards nuclear disarmament -- a 125-nation joint statement at the United Nations highlighting the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons. Australia refused after taking exception to the statement's wording that it was in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again "under any circumstances".

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11217199

Australia Undermined NZ Nuclear Disarmament Bid
iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand

(March 11, 2014) -- Below are four news stories -- three illustrating the coverage of this in New Zealand -- regarding the recently declassified ministerial submissions, cables and emails from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) which indicate Australian diplomats worked to counter nuclear disarmament moves on humanitarian grounds by 16 countries:

* The first from the New Zealand Herald reporting the SMH story;

* the second is from the NZ Herald which includes the NZ Prime Minister's response;

* The third is from The Dominion Post (Fairfax NZ) which includes the response from the NZ Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and opposition politicians; and

* The fourth is the original story from the SMH.

Curiously, the NZ Prime Minister has, among other things, attributed this to Australia being part of the ANZUS military alliance, which NZ is part of too .... However, he is also reported as saying: "He could not see a scenario where the use of nuclear weapons to defend New Zealand could ever be justified."



Australia Undermined Nuclear Disarmament Bid
Adam Bennett / The New Zealand Herald

(March 10, 2014) -- Australia's newly elected Abbott Government applied secret diplomatic pressure to undermine a New Zealand-led push towards nuclear disarmament last year, newly released documents show. Australian diplomats worked to counter nuclear disarmament moves on humanitarian grounds by 16 countries including New Zealand according to recently declassified ministerial submissions, cables and emails from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Following the election of Australia's Tony Abbott, New Zealand in October requested Australia endorse a 125 nation joint statement at the United Nations highlighting the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons.

However Australia refused after taking exception to the statement's wording that it was in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again "under any circumstances".

The New Zealand led campaign seeks to apply a similar international prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons as already exists for chemical and biological weapons. But Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has been reported as saying that approach was counterproductive. "The reality is that disarmament cannot be imposed this way", the Sydney Morning Herald reports her saying. "Just pushing for as ban would divert attention from the sustained, practical steps needed for effective disarmament."

But the recently declassified documents reveal the Australian Government's main concern was that a nuclear weapons ban would "cut across" Australia's dependence on the US nuclear arsenal as a key part of its defence position.

An Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade department document endorsed by Ms Bishop last year says a nuclear weapons ban "conflicts with Australia's long standing position that, as long as a nuclear weapons threat exists, we rely on US nuclear forces to deter attack on Australia". The documents cited by the Sydney Morning Herald show the Australian Government was frustrated when Japan decided to back the New Zealand led statement at the UN and indicate Washington reprimanded Tokyo over that decision.


PM Says Uranium Sector, Defence Strategy also
Factors in Reluctance to Back NZ on Disarmament

Adam Bennett / The NZ Herald

(March 10, 2014) -- Prime Minister John Key says Australia's uranium industry and close United States defence ties are factors behind reports Australian diplomats under Tony Abbott's Government worked to undermine a New Zealand-led push for nuclear disarmament.

New Zealand has been at the forefront of a 16-country push for a ban on nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds. Australia has refused to back that on the grounds it would be counterproductive to other disarmament initiatives. But Australian diplomatic cables, documents and emails obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald suggest the country's reliance on the US nuclear deterrent as a major plank of its defence strategy was the major factor in its opposition.

"It's kind of inevitable we might take a slightly different stance to a country like Australia that produces uranium and is part of Anzus," Mr. Key said yesterday. "It's just one of those things where they come from a slightly different perspective. They are part of Anzus, there's just different factors that might play into their thinking when it comes to nuclear disarmament."

Australia in October refused a New Zealand request to endorse a 125-nation joint statement at the UN highlighting the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons. Australia took exception to the statement's wording that it was in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again "under any circumstances". But Mr Key said it was "dangerous" to interpret that as a tacit statement from the Australian Government that the use of nuclear weapons could be justified in some circumstances.

"I don't think the Australians are arguing a nuclear war is in anyone's interests anywhere but they have a slightly different perspective on matters." He could not see a scenario where the use of nuclear weapons to defend New Zealand could ever be justified.

The New Zealand-led campaign seeks to apply a similar international prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons as already exists for chemical and biological weapons. But Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has been reported as saying that approach was counterproductive.

"The reality is that disarmament cannot be imposed this way," the Sydney Morning Herald reports her as saying. "Just pushing for a ban would divert attention from the sustained, practical steps needed for effective disarmament."

But the recently declassified documents reveal the Australian Government's main concern was that a nuclear weapons ban would "cut across" Australia's dependence on the US nuclear arsenal as a key part of its defence position. An Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Department document endorsed by Ms Bishop last year says a nuclear weapons ban "conflicts with Australia's long-standing position that, as long as a nuclear weapons threat exists, we rely on US nuclear forces to deter attack on Australia".


Australia Sought to Stymie Anti-nuke Moves
Fairfax NZ News

(March 11, 2014) -- Australia led secret diplomatic efforts to frustrate a New Zealand-led push for nuclear disarmament, according to documents released under freedom of information laws. The move has been attacked by Opposition politicians here but New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully downplayed the split with Australia.

Declassified ministerial submissions, cables and emails from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show Australian diplomats worked energetically against nuclear disarmament efforts by other countries, because "we rely on US nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia".

In October last year, following the election of the Coalition government, Australia refused a New Zealand request to endorse a 125-nation joint statement at the United Nations highlighting the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It objected to a sentence declaring that it was in the interest of humanity that nuclear weapons were never used again, "under any circumstances".

Key said Australia was in "a slightly different perspective … and used "different language" on the issue. It was not arguing that nuclear war was in anyone's interest anywhere.

New Zealand had a long and proud history of being nuclear free. It was inevitable it would have a different position from Australia, which was a part of the Anzus alliance with the United States and produced uranium, Key said. It would not be in New Zealand's best interest for the US to ever deploy nuclear weapons to protect this country.

"The times in history when nuclear weapons have been deployed ... there have been horrific outcomes as a result of that. Whatever the motivations or reasons, (it would) not be in the world's best interests." McCully said the Government respected Australia's right to take a different stance. "We were pleased with the overwhelming support for our resolution Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and respect Australia's right to an alternative view."

But Greens foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said it was "more of the same" from Australia and was in line with the stance it had taken in the 1980s. "It's sad but not a surprise ... They are saying they are safer with nuclear deterrence, we are saying we are safer without it."

He said the logic, if you reversed it, was that the Abbott government believed there were circumstances when it would be in the global interest to use nuclear weapons. "If you turn the logic that way it's a pretty extraordinary statement."

Labour spokeswoman Maryan Street said Australia's actions struck a jarring note in trans-Tasman relations. "Australia has every right to take a different position from us on these matters. However, the argument that possession of, or access to, nuclear warheads is a modern deterrent, is so outdated now it would be laughable if it were not so serious," she said. "How can it profit the world for nuclear weapons to exist as the ultimate threat? We seek to rid Syria of chemical weapons, minimise Iran's nuclear capability, and yet somehow think it is okay to retreat behind a nuclear shield which could destroy us all."

A group of 16 nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, have been working to highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.

This diplomatic campaign was intended to lay the ground for negotiation of a convention that would prohibit nuclear weapons-putting them in the same category as chemical and biological weapons which were already prohibited under international law.

Australia's foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has argued this approach was simply counterproductive. "[The] argument 'to ban the bomb' may be emotionally appealing, but the reality is that disarmament cannot be imposed this way," she said last month. "Just pushing for a ban would divert attention from the sustained, practical steps needed for effective disarmament."

However, declassified documents have revealed the government's primary concern was that a nuclear weapons ban would "cut across" Australia's reliance on US nuclear deterrence as part of its defence posture.


Federal Government Worked to Scuttle
New Zealand Statement against Nuclear Weapons

Philip Dorling / Sydney Morning Herald

(March 10, 2014) -- "The argument 'to ban the bomb' may be emotionally appealing, but the reality is that disarmament cannot be imposed this way": Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. The federal government led secret diplomatic efforts to frustrate a New Zealand-led push for nuclear disarmament, according to documents released under freedom of information laws.

Declassified ministerial submissions, cables and emails from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show Australian diplomats worked energetically against nuclear disarmament efforts by other countries, because ''we rely on US nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia''.

In October last year, following the election of the Coalition government, Australia refused a New Zealand request to endorse a 125-nation joint statement at the United Nations highlighting the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

Australia objected to a sentence declaring that it is in the interest of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, ''under any circumstances''

A group of 16 nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand have been working to highlight the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons. This diplomatic campaign is intended to lay the ground for negotiation of a convention that would prohibit nuclear weapons-putting them in the same category as chemical and biological weapons which are already prohibited under international law.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop argues this approach is simply counterproductive. '[The] argument 'to ban the bomb' may be emotionally appealing, but the reality is that disarmament cannot be imposed this way,'' she said last month. ''Just pushing for a ban would divert attention from the sustained, practical steps needed for effective disarmament.''

However, declassified documents have revealed the government's primary concern is that a nuclear weapons ban would ''cut across'' Australia's reliance on US nuclear deterrence as part of its defence posture.

A Foreign Affairs and Trade department submission endorsed by Ms Bishop last October argued that a nuclear weapons ban ''conflicts with Australia's long-standing position that, as long as a nuclear weapons threat exists, we rely on US nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia''.

Foreign Affairs and Trade head Peter Varghese bluntly observed that the New Zealand-led humanitarian initiative ''runs against our security interests''.

Australia's diplomacy suffered a blow when Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed that Japan would sign the New Zealand-led statement. Australian diplomats consulted closely with the US State Department. Email exchanges between Australian diplomats reveal Washington reprimanded Tokyo over its decision.

Anti-nuclear campaigners labeled Australia's intervention a ''weasel statement ... a last-minute rival announcement ... seemingly in an effort to undermine the efforts of pro-ban activists''

ICAN Aotearoa New Zealand c/o Peace Movement Aotearoa
The national networking peace organisation
PO Box 9314, Wellington 6141, Aotearoa New Zealand
Tel +64 4 382 8129, email icanz@xtra.co.nz http://www.icanw.org.nz
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
PO Box 1379, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia. tim@icanw.org
www.icanw.org. Like ICAN? www.facebook/icanw.org

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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