East Gippsland, Australia shire council passes motion against nuclear weapons

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The East Gippsland Shire Council, a local government body in Australia which governs towns such as Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance and Mallacoota, on Tuesday passed a motion supporting the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The motion originated from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a global campaign supporting implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The motion called upon the council to write to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in indication of their support for the treaty.

A global appeal for a nuclear-weapon-ban treaty; 2016.
Image: ICAN Global Parliamentary Appeal.

The motion was moved at Tuesday's council meeting by Councillor Tony Crook, and seconded by Councillor Jane Greacen. While Crook acknowledged "clearly this forum has very little influence over the use or production of nuclear weapons", he acknowledged Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle, stating nuclear weapons "have bought untold misery to communities around the world". Councillor Arthur Allan opposed the motion, saying while he agreed with what Crook and Greacen had stated, the issue of nuclear weapons was a "federal issue" and the motion amounted to "virtue signalling".

Deputy Mayor Mark Reeves supported the motion, contending it was an issue of "moral standing" and representing the views of the community, quipping "nobody's said to me — 'You know what we need? A really good intercontinental ballistic missile in the shire.'" Councillor Trevor Stowe called the motion "feel-good stuff" and "an absolute waste of time".

The vote ultimately resulted in a tie, with Crook, Greacen, Reeves, and Mayor Mendy Urie voting in support, and Councillors John White and Kirsten Van Diggele, as well as Allen and Stowe, voting against. Councillor Sonia Buckley abstained. Mayor Urie broke the tie in favour of the motion.

The Australian government has previously boycotted prohibition treaty talks, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stating "a ban treaty risks undermining the [non-proliferation treaty] which Australia rightly regards as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture". The opposition Labor Party has pledged to sign and ratify the treaty if elected to government.