Council push for nuclear weapons ban treaty

Adelaide City Council has joined the Cities Appeal, calling on the federal government to sign and ratify a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Jun 13, 2024, updated Jun 13, 2024
Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom joined Deputy Lord Mayor Keiran Snape to show their support for the council's endorsement of the Cities Appeal. This photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily.

Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom joined Deputy Lord Mayor Keiran Snape to show their support for the council's endorsement of the Cities Appeal. This photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Deputy Lord Mayor Keiran Snape asked the council to formally endorse the Cities Appeal, which is run by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The Cities Appeal rallies councils to encourage Australia to sign the 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and outlines a path for their total elimination.

The Cities Appeal has been endorsed by 45 Australian councils, including Mount Barker, Port Adelaide Enfield, Port Augusta, Prospect and West Torrens councils in SA.

Snape said this was an opportunity for the council to contribute meaningfully to the push for global disarmament.

“This matter is especially important to SA considering our tragic and brutal history with atomic testing,” he said.

Medical Association for Prevention of War National Vice President Dr Amanda Ruler spoke at the council meeting detailing SA’s history of nuclear testing and encouraging the council to endorse the Cities Appeal.

Nuclear testing particularly impacted Aboriginal people in South Australia, with Maralinga, the traditional land of the Anangu people, used as a testing site between 1952 and 1957. The extent of the site’s contamination was only discovered by Australian authorities in 1984.

“This caused untold health problems for local Indigenous people who were at the highest risk of radiation,” Ruler said.

“We may never know the full impact of these explosions, but we can listen to the survivors and their stories and learn from them.”

The treaty to ban nuclear weapons has 93 international signatories, Australia is not one of them though the federal Labor government has expressed its in-principle support.

In June 2021, Adelaide City Council supported the National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association calling on the Australian Government to sign and ratify the treaty.

Councillor Mary Couros said she was happy to endorse the Cities Appeal given it is “something we’ve always supported”.

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The council first formally declared the City of Adelaide a nuclear-free zone at a meeting in February 1995 and reaffirmed this in July 2000.

In March, the Lord Mayor wrote to Steve Georganas MP asking that he support Australia’s signing the Treaty after the council received letters from the Medical Association for Prevention of War and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh said while he commends the advocates who came to the council meeting, this matter “would be more effective in federal parliament rather than the council chamber”.

“As someone that has fled a war-torn country I completely understand and appreciate the devastation that any weapon brings, whether it is nuclear or otherwise,” he said.

“At this stage, I won’t be supporting this because I don’t see it as local government business, but I’ll be more than happy to put my own personal email to the federal MPs as they’re the ones that are ultimately making that decision.”

Councillor Henry Davis said the motion seemed designed to boost Snape’s profile for Greens party preselection.

Davis, who is bidding for Liberal preselection in the federal seat of Mayo, said this was “wasting council time”.

“I did wonder which category of roads, rates and rubbish this falls into… [Snape] must have completely misunderstood what we meant by rubbish, clearly this motion fits perfectly into the third category, it’s rubbish, I believe it’s garbage,” Davis said.

The council voted to endorse the Cities Appeal, with only councillors Abrahimzadeh and Davis against it. Community members in the gallery applauded the result.

Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith said while she was not explicitly asked to do so, writing to the prime minister is “the only rational response” to share the result with him.

“I think he would be keenly interested,” she said.

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