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Australian Senate Follows NZ On Disarmament

An Australian Senate motion on the upcoming Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, based on Helen Clark's recent Parliamentary Motion on the need for the elimination of nuclear weapons, was adopted by 33 votes to 27 yesterday morning.

(For more on the New Zealand initiative see... Parliamentary Motion Proposed On Disarmament and New Zealand ready for disarmament talks.)

The Australian Liberal Government voted against the motion and, according to reports from Canberra, adopted a very negative and partisan attitude.

They also made the most substantive statement to date about their differences with the New Agenda Coalition.

New Zealand is a member of the New Agenda Coalition on disarmament which includes several “centrist” nations such as Ireland, Mexico and Egypt and which is pushing for a renewed effort in disarmament. Notably the US, Canada, Australia and UK – NZ’s principal allies – are not members of the coalition.

The following is a press release on the passage of the motion from the Labour – opposition – foreign affairs spokesman.

Scoop thanks the Disarmament and Security Centre of Christchurch for forwarding us this news.


30/00 9 March 2000


The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today welcomed the motion adopted by the Australian Senate on the forthcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The motion was adopted by a vote of 33 for to 27 against.

"Today's Senate motion on nuclear disarmament sends a valuable message to the international community and especially to the nuclear weapon states in the run-up to next month's NPT Review Conference", Mr Brereton said. "It is a great shame that the Howard Government would not support Labor's Senate motion which properly deserved unanimous support."

"This year will be critical for progress towards nuclear disarmament and strengthening international prohibitions on weapons of mass destruction. The NPT Review Conference is likely to be very difficult. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month rightly highlighted the parlous state of nuclear disarmament efforts. The failure to make progress on disarmament increases the risks of nuclear proliferation with adverse consequences for Australia's national security."

"Leadership from non-nuclear middle powers, especially Australia, is vital to help rebuild momentum towards nuclear disarmament. We should be putting all our efforts into breaking the impasse on nuclear disarmament, not sitting on the sidelines apologising for the nuclear weapon states. It is a matter of great regret that the Howard Government has effectively abandoned Australia's previous leading role on nuclear disarmament issues and risks becoming little more than an apologist for the nuclear weapons states."

"The Howard Government made no real effort to promote the work of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and has walked away from any advocacy of efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Australia has conspicuously declined to support the New Agenda Coalition of small and middle powers working at the United Nations to encourage the nuclear weapon states to take positive steps to fulfil their obligation to move towards nuclear disarmament."

"Labor's motion today draws its inspiration directly from the Canberra Commission and the New Agenda Coalition. It provides an opportunity for Australia to again give some international leadership in this vital area of foreign policy."

"The Howard Government's refusal to support Labor's motion is very clearly at odds with the United Nations Secretary-General. Indeed its response in the Senate today was positively embarrassing. The Government's approach could not be more short-sighted."

A copy of Labor's Senate motion is attached.


Motion by Senator Peter Cook (Australian Labor Party)

(1) That the Senate-

(a) notes:

(i) the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will be held at the United Nations (UN) in New York from 24 April to 19 May 2000, and

(ii) the declaration of the UN Secretary-General (Mr Kofi Annan) in February 2000 that the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda is in a state of `deplorable stagnation', that it is difficult to approach the NPT Review Conference with optimism `given the discouraging list of nuclear disarmament measures in suspense, negotiations not initiated and opportunities not taken', and that a dangerous nuclear arms race `looms on the horizon';

(b) recalls:

(i) the conclusion of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons that, `The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used - accidentally or by decision - defies credibility' and that `the only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again', and

(ii) the Commission's observations that, `Nuclear weapons are held by a handful of states which insist that these weapons provide unique security benefits, and yet reserve uniquely to themselves the right to own them. The situation is highly discriminatory and thus unstable; it cannot be sustained. The possession of nuclear weapon by any state is a constant stimulus to other states to acquire them';

(c) notes the unanimous finding of the International Court of Justice in its 1996 Advisory Opinion that, `There exists a clear obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control';

(d) affirms that the nuclear weapon states have an obligation to fulfil promptly their undertaking under Article VI of the NPT to pursue negotiations in good faith to eliminate their nuclear arsenals;

(e) in the light of the above, urges that the nuclear weapon states reject the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and policies based on their possession, unequivocally commit to the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required to achieve this goal;

(f) calls on all parties at the NPT Review Conference to urge the nuclear weapon states to commence and bring to the earliest possible conclusion negotiations to bring about the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons and the full safeguarding of militarily-useable nuclear material; and

(g) urges that the practical steps toward nuclear disarmament outlined by the commission and the Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, and advocated by the New Agenda Coalition of non-nuclear weapon states, be used as a basis for immediate negotiations and action.

(2) That the text of this resolution be conveyed to the UN Secretary-General, to the Presidents of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, to the Chairperson of the NPT Review Conference, to the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan and Israel, and to the foreign ministers of all non-nuclear weapon NPT signatory states.


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