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Issue #1800      October 25, 2017

“Our” Nobel Peace Prize

Council for Peace with Justice with Sydney Peace Foundation

Australia should be proud of our association with the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize but so far Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have made no comment.

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

ICAN is now an international organisation but it started with a group of Melbourne peace campaigners in 2005. The Prize was announced on October 6. The Greens and Labor have offered their congratulations but so far there’s been no comment from the government.

ICAN has worked with the United Nations and other agencies on developing a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Many nations support this treaty, but so far Australia is not among them.

“I think that the government must be deeply embarrassed by ‘our’ Nobel Peace Prize,” said Professor Stuart Rees, veteran peace activist, founder of the Sydney Peace Prize and member of the Council for Peace with Justice.

“The government’s support for nuclear disarmament has been lukewarm to say the least. Julie Bishop did not even attend the signing ceremony of the Prohibition Treaty at the United Nations last month. Australians like to regard themselves as good world citizens, but with our current cruel policy on refugees and the vacuum in our policy on climate change, at present we do not rank highly on the international scale as humanitarians.

“The fact that there has been no official celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize must only further reduce our status.

“Most Australians want to see the end of the nuclear threat. We should not be embarrassed, but rather be proud of the Australians who have achieved so much in working to abolish nuclear weapons” Professor Rees noted.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was endorsed by 122 countries at the United Nations headquarters in New York in July earlier this year despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed states and their allies (including Australia).

Under the treaty, signatory states must agree not to develop, test, manufacture or possess nuclear weapons, or threaten to use them, or allow any nuclear arms to be stationed on their territory.

Once the treaty has been ratified by 50 states it passes into international law. The international law banning landmines did not have universal support when first enacted but has since proved highly effective.

The Council for Peace with Justice and the Sydney Peace Foundation have urged the Australian government to immediately reverse its decision to oppose the prohibition treaty. The treaty does not (as argued by the government) undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but reinforces it and makes it meaningful.

Next article – Taking Issue – Requiem for a democracy

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