Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The second inconvenient truth of our time

By Tilman Ruff and Tim Wright - posted Friday, 15 February 2008

Today the world faces two inconvenient truths: both are frightening and incontrovertible. Yet only one of them - global warming - has made its way to the fore of public consciousness. The other, while even more stark, has somehow escaped our attention. But there’s no denying that we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age.

The infamous Doomsday Clock is fast approaching midnight. All five original nuclear weapon states - the same powers that control the UN Security Council - are actively re-arming. Most have even threatened to unleash nuclear catastrophe upon non-nuclear states.

On top of this, North Korea has joined Israel, India and Pakistan in acquiring the “bomb”. And without drastically restricting access to enriched uranium or spent nuclear fuel the world seems powerless to prevent Iran, and others, from following suit.


Alas, these are testing times for the global community. But we mustn’t despair. A growing number of nations are calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and many army chiefs have publicly questioned the military utility of these worst weapons of terror.

The coming weeks present a prime opportunity to advance nuclear disarmament - and to steer the world towards sanity and survival. Diplomats and ministers from across the globe last week descended on Geneva for the first session of this year’s Conference on Disarmament (CD). And hopes are running high.

Opening the proceedings, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon urged delegates to “make this a breakthrough year”, after lamenting that the conference’s successes - among them the formation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty - have become “distant memories”. He remained confident that the principal multilateral disarmament negotiating body in the world could move beyond its stalemate and revive progress towards complete nuclear disarmament.

On top of the agenda for 2008 is the negotiation of a treaty to ban the production of fissile material used in nuclear weapons - a vital step to curb proliferation. Providing assurances to non-nuclear states that they will not be attacked with nuclear weapons is also a priority.

Australia could be instrumental in transforming conference rhetoric into prompt action. Whereas the Coalition Government was always cautious to toe the US line and say as little as possible, the new Labor Government has already shown - with the promised withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq by mid-year - that it’s able to make up its own mind on international issues.

Our disarmament ambassador, Caroline Miller, proclaimed at the conference last week that it’s high time we “walked the walk” instead of just “talking the talk” - a shift from the previous government’s do-nothing approach.


During the election campaign, Labor undertook to re-establish the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and to advance negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention - that is, a treaty to ban nuclear weapons - if it won.

The new government should also reconsider our status as a nuclear “umbrella” nation. Though we don’t permanently host US nuclear weapons on our soil (unlike six west European countries), we provide bases, ports and other infrastructure to support the US nuclear war-fighting apparatus.

This situation is patently unacceptable. It says: we will help you to use nuclear weapons whenever you choose. It severely undermines our credibility in promoting a nuclear-weapon-free world and lends credence to the misguided view that nuclear weapons enhance - rather than threaten - security.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in the Geelong Advertiser on February 14, 2008.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

18 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Authors

Tilman Ruff is Associate Professor in the Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne and Australian chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Tim Wright is president of the Peace Organisation of Australia, which is based in Melbourne.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Tilman Ruff
All articles by Tim Wright

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 18 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy