Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Letter in Support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

24 Jun 2022 - by Lauren Bartley

Fifty-five former Australian Ambassadors and High Commissioners have signed an Open Letter to the Prime Minister in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The letter welcomes the ALP’s pre-election commitment to sign and ratify the Treaty and hopes to see this commitment swiftly realised. It takes the view that Australia is “at its best when it pursues a principled foreign policy” and looks forward to the reinstatement of the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world as an Australian foreign policy priority.

The letter, coordinated by the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Australia, was timed to coincide with the First Meeting of States Parties (1 MSP) to the TPNW in Vienna (21–23 June). The new Australian government sent Susan Templeman MP as an observer to 1 MSP, marking Australia’s first engagement with a treaty that it, together with the nuclear weapon states and their allies, had hitherto firmly opposed.

There is a wealth of support for the Treaty in Australia. Most Australians, and 100 Federal Parliamentarians, are in favour of Australia becoming a party to the TPNW. But there is also significant opposition to this from those who claim that the TPNW poses a threat to the established nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament framework; that it lacks the support of the only states that can make it work; and that joining the treaty would make Australia less safe and complicate its alliance relationship with the United States. These claims are at best misleading and mainly wrong, but they are entrenched and will not easily be overcome.

Meanwhile, the world remains awash with nuclear weapons more than half a century after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force in 1970. These weapons, as the letter says, “pose an existential threat to human life. That threat is again underlined now by Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling over Ukraine and, more generally, by the abysmal state of relations between the United States and its two most powerful nuclear-armed rivals. Unless we chart a new course, nuclear weapons will almost certainly be used again, with predictably catastrophic consequences.”

One of our Research Fellows, Peter Hooton, participated in the drafting of the letter, and was the first to sign it.

Read the full letter here