Australian election 2016: responses to ICAN survey

June 28, 2016

Australians will head to the polls on 2 July to decide who should form government for the next three years. ICAN wrote to the three main political parties to ask whether they would work for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Below are their responses, together with excerpts from statements made on the campaign trail.

Since 2013, Australia has had a Liberal–National coalition government, which has opposed global efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons, arguing that US nuclear weapons are necessary for Australia’s security. The Labor party, which is in opposition, adopted a new national platform last year expressing firm support for a ban.

Of the three parties included in our survey, only the Greens explicitly oppose the military construct of a “nuclear umbrella” for Australia. While they will not win enough seats to form government in their own right, they have said that they are open to entering into a coalition with the Labor party.


Australian Greens

Full response →

“I would like to congratulate you on the brilliant work that ICAN does in this area. I’m aware of the profoundly important work your organisation has been doing internationally … The Greens are also proud to support and advocate for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

Speech on 17 May:

“Australia has repeatedly refused to rule out nuclear weapons use, instead emphasising the security benefits of nuclear weapons. It’s among the most active nuclear-allied states seeking to oppose and undermine moves through the ‘open-ended working group’ on nuclear disarmament toward a much-needed nuclear ban treaty. This kind of dangerous position not only undermines Australia’s safety but that of the world.”

“There’s real progress being made towards the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. It’s happening right now. The Humanitarian Pledge, which recognises the need for nuclear weapons to be explicitly prohibited under international law, has been supported by 127 countries since the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014 – but Australia is not one of those 127 countries.”


Australian Labor Party

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“In 2015, the Australian Labor Party national conference reviewed and unanimously resolved its position on this important issue … The Liberals have described a goal to rid the world of nuclear weapons as ‘utopian’. Labor disagrees with this position. Labor’s policy is ambitious and realistic, and recognizes the humanitarian imperative for global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

“Prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is a humanitarian imperative. Civil society and non-government organisations in Australia and internationally who form the global movement to secure a ban on nuclear weapons do important work. Labor will act with urgency and determination to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

“Given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, Labor firmly supports the negotiation of a global treaty banning such weapons and welcomes the growing global movement of nations that is supporting this objective.”

Speech on 31 May:

“Labor today remains committed to strengthening non-proliferation regimes and pursuing responsible nuclear disarmament. Disarmament efforts have been described by the coalition as utopian, but we believe, as President Obama said in Hiroshima, that we need a ‘moral revolution on nuclear weapons’.”


Liberal–National Coalition

Full response →

“The Coalition is highly concerned about weapons of mass destruction including the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the global community.”

“Australia has historically been a strong supporter of international efforts to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Coalition is committed to continuing this practice. We also support the United Nations Security Council’s comprehensive plan of action on Iran’s nuclear programme.”

“The Coalition remains committed to our alliance with the United States and the ANZUS Treaty. Only the nuclear and conventional military capabilities of the United States can offer effective deterrence against the possibility of nuclear threats against Australia.”


Media coverage

Fairfax newspapers, 17 May:

“Labor has made an intriguing pledge in its party platform to ‘firmly support’ a ban on nuclear weapons. So what, you might say? There has been a drive to abolish nuclear weapons ever since the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But a ‘ban’ is something very different – and new. It stems from an effort by non-nuclear armed countries in the UN, and supported by activist groups, to negotiate a treaty that would declare the very existence of nuclear weapons illegal under international law because of the catastrophic humanitarian cost, similar to the way chemical and biological weapons are prohibited. The goal is to create moral pressure on the countries with atomic arsenals.”

Fairfax newspapers, 27 May:

“A growing number of nations are pushing for a new global treaty that would outlaw the very existence of nuclear weapons – with negotiations potentially to begin as early as next year … The proposed ban on the bomb has the potential to flare as a local election issue in Australia, with Labor pledging it ‘firmly supports’ negotiations of a global treaty. The Greens also support a ban. But the Coalition has dismissed a ban as emotionally appealing but impractical.”

The Guardian, 27 May:

“The Coalition government has fervently opposed the ‘ban the bomb’ movement, arguing that the so-called US ‘nuclear umbrella’ guarantees Australia’s ‘security and prosperity’. Labor, by contrast, has declared its firm support for ‘the negotiation of a global treaty banning [nuclear] weapons’, welcoming ‘the growing global movement of nations that is supporting this objective’. This was an important addition to its revised national platform in 2015.”

Lowy Interpreter, 17 June:

“Sooner or later, Australia’s opposition to a ban will become untenable. A large majority – 84 per cent of Australians – want the government to support a prohibition. And it will eventually do so, just as it begrudgingly joined the processes to outlaw anti-personnel landmines in the 1990s and cluster munitions a decade later. The Australian Labor Party, in its national policy platform adopted last July, declared its support for a ban.”

  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

  • sheen

    “If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, they would be part of ICAN.”

    Martin Sheen Actor and activist

  • bankimoon

    “I salute ICAN for working with such commitment and creativity.”

    Ban Ki-moon Former UN chief

  • yokoono

    “We can do it together. With your help, our voice will be made still stronger. Imagine peace.”

    Yoko Ono Artist

  • jodywilliams

    “Governments say a nuclear weapons ban is unlikely. Don’t believe it. They said the same about a mine ban treaty.”

    Jody Williams Nobel laureate

  • desmondtutu

    “With your support, we can take ICAN its full distance – all the way to zero nuclear weapons.”

    Desmond Tutu Nobel laureate

  • herbiehancock

    “Because I cannot tolerate these appalling weapons, I whole-heartedly support ICAN.”

    Herbie Hancock Jazz musician

  • dalailama

    “I can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and I support ICAN.”

    Dalai Lama Nobel laureate