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Australia

Umbrella state (bilateral arrangement with the United States)

Australia observed the second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in November and December 2023, with a federal parliamentarian, Susan Templeman, as the head of its delegation.

TPNW Status

SIGNATURE
DEPOSIT WITH UNSG
ENTRY INTO FORCE
DECLARATION
TPNW Article 1(1) prohibitions: Compatibility in 2022
(a) Develop, produce, manufacture, acquire Compatible
Test Compatible
Possess or stockpile Compatible
(b) Transfer Compatible
(c) Receive transfer or control Compatible
(d) Use Compatible
Threaten to use Compatible
(e) Assist, encourage or induce Non-compatible
(f) Seek or receive assistance Compatible
(g) Allow stationing, installation, deployment Compatible
TPNW voting and participation
UNGA resolution on TPNW (latest vote) Abstained (2023)
Participated in 1MSP (2022) Observer
1MSP delegation size (% women) 3 (100%)
Adoption of TPNW (7 July 2017) N/A
Participated in TPNW negotiations (2017) No
Negotiation mandate (A/RES/71/258) Voted no
Other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) treaties
Party to an NWFZ Yes (Ratified 1986, Rarotonga)
Party to the NPT Yes (Ratified 1973)
Ratified the CTBT Yes (Ratified 1998, Annex 2 state)
Party to the BWC Yes (Ratified 1977)
Party to the CWC Yes (Ratified 1994)
IAEA safeguards and fissile material
Safeguards agreement Yes (10 Jul 1974)
TPNW Art 3(2) deadline N/A
Small Quantities Protocol No
Additional Protocol Yes
Enrichment facilities/reprocessing plants No
HEU stocks 1–10 kg
Plutonium stocks No

Latest developments

While Australia did not make a statement at the meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, issued a media release on the decision to observe. This decision, she said, ‘illustrates Australia’s renewed commitment to a world without nuclear weapons’. ‘Although Australia is not a State party to the TPNW, we share this goal with parties to the Treaty and are engaging constructively to identify realistic pathways for nuclear disarmament and to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons. Australia is considering the TPNW systematically and methodically as part of our ambitious agenda to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.’1

The government said that it was especially eager to gain insights into how States parties intend to address questions relating to verification and enforcement under the Treaty, how the Treaty will interact with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and how States parties ‘will work to achieve universal support’ for the Treaty.

In April 2023, Wong said, in response to questions from a journalist, that the TPNW has ‘substantial normative value’, and if it ‘can spur more progress [under the NPT], that is a good thing’. But she declined to offer a timeline for Australia’s signature and ratification.2

Australia abstained from voting on the 2023 UN General Assembly resolution on the TPNW, which called upon ‘all States that have not yet done so to sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to the Treaty at the earliest possible date’.3 All other States under the so-called US ‘nuclear umbrella’ voted against the resolution.

Documents obtained under freedom of information laws in February 2023 showed that foreign ministry officials had advised Wong against sending an observer delegation to the first TPNW Meeting of States Parties in 2022, warning that it would carry ‘significant risks’. But Wong disregarded that advice.4

Recommendations

  • Australia should renounce the possession and potential use of nuclear weapons on its behalf, and ensure that nuclear weapons do not have a role in its defence posture.

  • Australia should comply with its existing obligation under Article VI of the NPT and pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament.

  • Australia should urgently adhere to the TPNW. Until it is in a position to do so it should welcome the TPNW as a valuable component in the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, work with the Treaty's states parties on practical steps towards disarmament, and attend the meetings of states parties as an observer.

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