Nurses and midwives say no to nukes

Sunday 2nd May, 2010

The Australian Nursing Federation is urging Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith to lobby for the elimination of nuclear weapons at this month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review meeting in New York.

ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney said nurses and midwives are frontline health workers who understand that no medical or nursing response is possible in the event of a nuclear explosion. “Everything is obliterated,” she said. “Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar that could have been spent on preventing disease and starvation which results in the deaths of millions of people around the globe each year.”

A fresh opportunity to achieve nuclear disarmament has arisen with the NPT Review. Ms Kearney said the ANF’s 175,000 members hope Minister Smith will negotiate for the abolition of the world’s nuclear stockpile.

“This is an opportunity to really make a difference. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is the only internationally binding agreement committing nations to abolish their stockpile of nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear disarmament may seem like one of the world’s intractable problems but Ms Kearney says there is reason to be optimistic. “While the current stockpile of 23,300 nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable threat to life on earth, this amount represents a reduction from the 68,000 weapons which existed at the height of the Cold War. The aim should be the total elimination of the remaining weapons of mass destruction. This can happen quickly if the internationally community show the political will to make it happen.”

The ANF is running an online petition directed to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith supporting the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) call for a nuclear weapons convention. The petition is on the website at


Nuclear weapons, the deadliest and most destructive of all weapons, need to be abolished. This May, signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will meet in New York for the five-yearly NPT Review. The NPT which came into force in 1970 is a legally binding treaty signed by 189 nations including major nuclear powers, Russia and the USA, committing to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The weakness of this agreement however, is that while it commits nations to non-proliferation, it does not prescribe the actions needed or provide a timeframe for action to reduce the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The NPT requires nations to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament by establishing a further agreement at the earliest possible date. This agreement, which ICAN refers to as a Nuclear Weapons Convention, would prohibit the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and provide for their elimination, and set a timeframe for disarmament. Despite many of the reviews of the NPT this has not yet occurred.