Human rights lawyers call on Morrison Government to support Nuclear Ban Treaty

January 22, 2022

Today marks the first anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) coming into force. The TPNW establishes a comprehensive set of international legal prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. Human rights lawyers are using today to call on the Morrison Government to support the Treaty.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Kerry Weste explains, “The TPNW marks the potential for a new global chapter for nuclear disarmament – one which acknowledges the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapon use. While 86 countries around the world have signed up to the TPNW, Australia has not. Consequently, we are missing an important opportunity to remain in step with significant developments in international law.”

Countries who have ratified the TPNW have agreed to binding undertakings to not develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, or to assist other countries in doing so. The TPNW also prohibits countries from allowing others to conduct these activities, or to deploy nuclear weapons, on their national territory or territory under their control. Importantly, it also obliges countries to provide adequate assistance to individuals affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, as well as to take necessary and appropriate measures of environmental remediation in areas contaminated as a result of the testing or use of nuclear weapons.

Australia has joined every other treaty that prohibits indiscriminate or inhumane weapons, as well as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, yet the current Federal Government has not yet signed or ratified the TPNW. Indeed, Australia did not participate in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in 2017 and, as recently as October 2020, the Government voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution welcoming the adoption of the treaty. 

Ms Weste continued, “As outlined by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in their “For The Record” report, the TPNW is consistent with Australia’s obligations under the NPT which require it to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. As such, the TPNW builds on and reinforces the NPT.”

“A year on from its entry into force more than 250 Australian Federal, State and Territory parliamentarians have declared their support for the TPNW. ALHR calls on the Morrison Government to urgently reconsider Australia’s position and to engage with this important new piece of international law.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.