Mal­colm Turn­bull chided for 'silly' snub to No­bel peace prize-win­ning group

The Guardian Australia - - News - Oliver Laugh­land in New York

When the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons was awarded the No­bel peace prize last week, the ad­vo­cacy group re­ceived mes­sages of con­grat­u­la­tions from around the world.

But in the cho­rus of praise for the or­gan­i­sa­tion – which was launched in Mel­bourne in 2007 – one voice was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent: that of Aus­tralia’s prime min­is­ter, Mal­colm Turn­bull.

It was a snub that the group’s direc­tor, Beatrice Fihn, has de­scribed as both “dis­ap­point­ing” and “silly”.

“Aus­tralia claims to be com­mit­ted to a world with­out nu­clear weapons and here’s an Aus­tralian-born cam­paign that has won the No­bel peace prize for the fight against nu­clear weapons; it seems a bit silly that they can’t even con­grat­u­late us,” Fihn told the Guardian dur­ing a visit to New York on Tues­day.

The prize fol­lowed a ma­jor vic­tory for the cam­paign in July, when 122 coun­tries signed a UN treaty on the pro­hi­bi­tion of nu­clear weapons, the first legally bind­ing in­ter­na­tional agree­ment to pro­hibit nu­clear weapons.

Aus­tralia – along with dozens of oth­ers, in­clud­ing the eight coun­tries with nu­clear arms – boy­cotted the ne­go­ti­a­tions, and did not sign the treaty. None­the­less, Fihn ar­gued: “They [the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment] should at least welcome peo­ple mo­bi­liz­ing against nu­clear weapons, be­cause what are the other op­tions? That we mo­bilise peo­ple in favour?”

The de­ci­sion to award the prize to Ican this year was in­ter­preted by many as a re­buke to Don­ald Trump’s bel­li­cose rhetoric over North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gramme.

But Fihn ar­gued the prize was “re­ally a re­but­tal to ev­ery­one who par­tic­i­pates in de­fend­ing nu­clear weapons”.

“[Trump] makes peo­ple un­com­fort­able with the idea of nu­clear weapons. But at the same time, if you’re un­com­fort­able with Trump hav­ing the sole author­ity to launch US nu­clear ar­se­nals, then you’re re­ally un­com­fort­able with nu­clear weapons in gen­eral.

“It means that you recog­nise that the de­ter­rence isn’t fool­proof, that there are mo­ments where peo­ple will make ir­ra­tional de­ci­sions.”

Two days be­fore the prize was an­nounced, Fihn la­belled Trump a “mo­ron” on Twit­ter, fol­low­ing re­ports that the US sec­re­tary of state, Rex Tiller­son, had used the same lan­guage in pri­vate ear­lier in the sum­mer.

She con­ceded that the prize had brought with it “a whole new re­spon­si­bil­ity”, adding: “I have to stop tweet­ing so much.”

“It [the tweet] is still up. I can’t delete it now. And ob­vi­ously it was a joke.”

Fihn also wel­comed what she de­scribed as the “ten­sion and fric­tion” in the UK over nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, ar­gu­ing such de­bate was “where you make progress”.

The Labour party leader, Jeremy Cor­byn, who in con­trast to Turn­bull is­sued a state­ment con­grat­u­lat­ing Ican on the prize, has long sup­ported dis­ar­ma­ment, de­spite his party’s con­tin­u­ing sup­port for the Tri­dent nu­clear de­ter­rent sys­tem. While Ni­cola Stur­geon, Scot­land’s first min­is­ter, sent a ring­ing en­dorse­ment of the treaty on the pro­hi­bi­tion of nu­clear weapons in July, de­spite the UK boy­cott.

If Cor­byn were elected prime min­is­ter, Fihn said, the coali­tion would urge him to re­con­sider Bri­tain’s po­si­tion.

But, she said, “you can’t just sit around and wait for them [politi­cians] to do it, that’s not how it works any more. You have to push the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Pho­to­graph: Jewel Sa­mad/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Beatrice Fihn: ‘They should at least welcome peo­ple mo­bi­liz­ing against nu­clear weapons, be­cause what are the other op­tions? That we mo­bilise peo­ple in favour?’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.