Australia’s reluctance to support the global campaign for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by 116 nations is causing its global isolation, particularly among its anti-nuclear neighbours. This was highlighted by internal e-mails sent to Canberra by Australian diplomats working under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The e-mails carry many references to the 116-nation push, led by Austria, for banning nuclear weapons.

The e-mails also discuss the weakness in the existing Nuclear non-proliferation regime framework and look at the emerging demand for a new regime, seeking total elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The e-mails were made public under the freedom of information act. The diplomatic communications amply highlighted Australia’s concerns about the Austria-led push, The Guardian reported.

Briefings to Julie Bishop

The briefings were sent to foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop by DFAT, wherein Australian diplomats noted that the “prospects are bleak for meaningful progress in multilateral arms control”.

Australia does not favour any new treaty that seeks a ban on nuclear weapons because of its reliance on the nuclear deterrent capability of the United States, the report noted.

“Like the US, Australia is worried about the Austrian pledge,” a DFTA note mentioned. Noting that Australia’s policy on nuclear disarmament bears heavy influence of the deterrent capability of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S., the briefings note Australia's continued reliance on the U.S. in the matter of nuclear deterrence.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, Australia will continue to rely on the U.S. nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia,” the DFTA briefing note said.

Austrian pledge

The Austrian pledge, supported by 116 countries, proposes to “fill the legal gap of the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

In December 2014, Austria called for an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, as a “humanitarian pledge” and to cooperate “in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences.”

Meanwhile, Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties took a serious view of the government’s proposal to sell Australian uranium to India. The panel found issues of unresolved safety, security, legal matters relating to nuclear weapons to be addressed before uranium could be sold or supplied to India, the Australian Financial Review reported.

The Committee recommended that “Australian uranium should not be sold to India” and the federal government should not advance uranium sales or supply until key checks and balances are put into practice.

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