In 1995 Prime Minister Keating established the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. He did this because he was appalled at the intensity of the, mainly US/USSR, nuclear arms race. He wanted to find a safe way in which nuclear weapons could be eliminated, to which international agreement might be given. The Commission was composed of 16 eminent persons from relevant fields. Keating appointed me as Convenor of the Commission.
In 1996, Keating having lost the national elections, I presented the completed Commission Report to Prime Minister Howard. His demeanor was as if I was handing him a funnel web, but I had taken with me to the meeting, Commission member Sir Josef Rotblat, 1995 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. I asked Joseph to make the speech. Howard was obliged to be polite to him.
A month or so later, in New York, Australia broke a deadlock on the text of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which was then adopted by the General Assembly. It makes illegal the conduct of all nuclear explosions, in all environments, for all time.
A month later it was signed by all Permanent Members of the UN Security Council – the recognized Nuclear Weapon States. I was present at the table when President Clinton signed for the US. Although its terms are being observed by all signatories, CTBT has not yet formally entered into force because it has not been ratified by a few essential states, including the US.
Last week, in Geneva, a negotiation involving all state members of the UN Conference on Disarmament, came to an end. The agreed report, to be sent to the UN General Assembly, proposed that the Assembly institute a multilateral negotiation on a Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons.
It had been understood in Geneva that the report would be adopted by consensus. It had been the subject of much negotiation and compromise. At the last moment, Australia’s representative, objected and insisted that there be a vote. The vote had the following result: 69 in favour, 22 against, (all 7 nuclear weapon states ),13 abstentions. Although there was deep concern, indeed some anger, that Australia had insisted on a vote, the result was considered to be clear enough. So, the proposal of a Ban negotiation will go to the General Assembly. It is considered certain that the Assembly will adopt the proposal and establish a negotiating mechanism to commence work, next year, on a Ban Treaty. Continue reading