Making waves on journey to nuclear treaty - by Sally Attrill, Convenor MAPW Tasmania

Published by the Hobart Mercury,31 January 2018 

This is the 96th voyage of the 'Peace Boat', since its first trip in 1983. During that time it has visited over 120 ports in more than 80 countries. The current ship, the Ocean Dream, carries 800-1000 passengers on a different type of cruise to normal. During the trip guests have the opportunity to participate in lectures and workshops on a wide range of peace related topics, to  learn languages and to study the culture of the places visited ,as well as more traditional cruise activities such as music, dancing, and sport. The passengers on the Peace Boat are a diverse group of people from different cultures, ages and professions. The boat is run by a Japanese based international non-government organisation working towards peace, human rights, sustainable development and respect for the environment. The Peace Boat was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

The Peace Boat is a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANi ) which has recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work towards successfully negotiating  the new United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was passed by 122 countries in July 2017.The treaty bans signatories from developing or possessing nuclear weapons, in the same way that other indiscriminate and devastating weapons such as land-mines, chemical and viral warfare have been banned.

Australia hasn't signed this treaty as our politicians regard us as being protected by the US nuclear umbrella, and believe that nuclear weapons in certain hands only, act as a deterrent and reduce the chance of war. The current increased nuclear threat from the posturing between North  Korea and the US affects us all. Australia has been suggested as a potential target by North Korea. The presence of nuclear weapons in any hands, would appear to be a threat our entire international community and removal of these weapons is important. Atomic scientists have just re-set the nuclear time bomb Doomsday Clock at 2 minutes to 12-the highest risk since the peak of the cold war in 1953. Today it is very evident that being the leader of a country does not make one a safe person to control that nuclear trigger button.  None of the nine countries known to own the known 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence, have signed the treaty. This may gradually change with international pressure from   powerful civil society movements. Recent polls have suggested that more than 70% of Australians favour nuclear abolition.

The money spent on nuclear weapons could be used for health and education. It would be wonderful to see Australia sign this new UN treaty. One of the current projects the Peace Boat is undertaking is promotion of this new UN treaty. The Peace Boat will be spending Friday 2nd February in Hobart and staff are co-ordinating a public lecture in Hobart at 12.30 pm on the parliament house lawns to promote this new UN Treaty for nuclear prohibition. Speakers include those affected by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear power disaster at Fukushima, and the nuclear testing on aboriginal land in South and West Australia. This should be an interesting and powerful meeting which you may wish to attend.