Senator Jordon Steele-John
This year marks 75 years since atomic weapons were first tested and used to end human life. A significant, and terrible, milestone.
It also marks 30 years of the Greens in Western Australia, a state with a long history of peace and anti-nuclear activism. Jo Vallentine was our first senator, and also the first Australian senator to be elected on the platform of peace and nuclear disarmament.
To this day peace and disarmament is a core priority of the state party and, although I never dreamt of becoming a senator at 22, it is a tradition I am proud to continue.
Like Jordon, I never thought I'd find myself in Canberra. I ran for the Senate in 1984 because, like so many in our community at the time, I was deeply worried about the prospect of nuclear annihilation that was the everyday reality of the Cold War.
I was also worried about the expansion of nuclear energy, its purported viability as an alternative to coal and what this might mean for the nuclear supply chain. More mining of atomic minerals would naturally lead to greater availability. That was, and is, extremely worrying.
Prior to entering politics I was active in the anti-nuclear movement in WA, and we had some wonderful successes. In 1977 we stopped the Court government from building a nuclear reactor in Wilbinga, 70 kilometres north of Perth, and in the 1980s we fought back against plans to build a radioactive waste dump in the Goldfields.
Even back then, we couldn't escape the fact that the common thread binding together these projects and many others - from nuclear testing in Maralinga to uranium mining in Kakadu - is the shameless mistreatment and displacement of First Nations people.
Senator Jordon Steele-John
Now more than ever, we urgently need to rethink our alignment with the United States and the barrier it poses to the creation of an independent and peace-focused foreign policy.
In his 2014 book Dangerous Allies, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser - an unexpected radical - called for an end to the alliance. In the context of Trump's presidency, and an increasingly overbearing US military presence in northern Australia, this is a discussion we must have.
In the age of intercontinental missile capabilities, Pine Gap in central Australia is arguably one of the United States' most important strategic assets in the pacific. If Donald Trump, as commander in chief, wanted to use Pine Gap to deploy any of the United States' weapons systems, he wouldn't need to ask our permission.
During his presidency, it's been widely reported that Donald Trump has been on the verge of significant global military engagements on more than one occasion. But the risk of our alliance is not limited to Trump; he has just revealed to us the reality of the danger we've been in for decades.
The threat of nuclear disaster is more real today than it ever has been before. I've dedicated my life to the peace movement, and now that I have two young grandchildren, peace is more necessary than it ever has been before.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of human-made global catastrophe. Invented in 1947, less than a year after I was born, the clock's original setting was just seven minutes to midnight. That's pretty dire.
When the Iron Curtain fell in 1991 and I was in the Federal Parliament as a Greens senator, the clock was wound back to 17 minutes to midnight; this remains the furthest it's ever been from catastrophe.
In January of this year, the clock was brought forward to a new record - just 100 seconds to midnight. The trifecta of potential nuclear destruction, the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us to this point.
I don't want my grandkids to grow up in danger. In a world where Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un have direct access to nuclear weapons. There is a solution: the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, created as a result of the work done by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
The treaty provides a framework for the elimination of these weapons and the recognition of the impact they've had on First Nations peoples around the world. Now that it's poised to become international law, Australia must sign and ratify this treaty.
Senator Jordon Steele-John
Seventy-five years on, it is time to put down these inexcusable weapons - weapons so dangerous that if deployed they would change the face of our planet forever - embrace our common humanity and work together to solve the problems that confront us all.
In 2019 alone, the world's nine nuclear powers spent $73 billion, or $139,000 a minute, on the expansion and maintenance of their nuclear arsenals.
Given we are right now experiencing a global pandemic, where so many around the world are struggling against poverty, and the ongoing threat of the climate crisis, we know there are better ways to spend these resources.
By signing and ratifying the treaty Australia can help make that future a reality.
- Jordon Steele-John is a WA senator and the Australian Greens' spokesperson on Peace and Disarmament.
- Jo Vallentine is a former WA senator for the Nuclear Disarmament Party and was the first Greens senator in Federal Parliament.