Australia must play an active role in ending the nuclear arms race, multi-party MPs urge

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Australian MPs across the political spectrum have called on the Albanian government to join the landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons, declaring that the weapons “fundamentally undermine our peace and humanity.”

In a statement given to Guardian Australia, a cross-party group of MPs warned of “escalating nuclear threats and provocations from nuclear weapons states” and said Australia must play an active role in ending the nuclear arms race.

According to Labor MP Josh Wilson, Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and Green Senator Jordon Steele-John, the new treaty is an opportunity for Australia to side with its neighbors in South East Asia and the Pacific.

Related: Australia withdraws opposition to nuclear weapons ban treaty in UN vote

Speaking on the second anniversary of the UN treaty’s entry into force, MEPs said the agreement was supported by “the vast majority of our regional neighbors with whom we share a common goal of peace, cooperation and security.”

They called for “timely signature and ratification” by Australia.

“Members of this cross-party group stand ready to work constructively with the Government of Albania to have Australia become a party to the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty,” the MPs wrote.

The United States and other nuclear weapons countries strongly oppose a treaty that imposes an absolute ban on developing, testing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons – or assisting other countries in doing so.

But the treaty now has 92 signatories, 68 of whom have formally ratified it, and is strongly supported by neighbors such as Indonesia and New Zealand.

In opposition, Labor pledged to sign and ratify the treaty, but only “after considering” several important factors, including the need for an effective verification and enforcement architecture and working to gain popular support.

Gem Romuld, Australian director of the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the organization hoped the bipartisan statement would “stimulate the Albany government to deliver on its pre-election commitment.”

“Nuclear disarmament is an urgent humanitarian issue, more important than party politics,” Romuld said.

“We cannot trust any nuclear-armed leader to take a responsible step and disarm; pressure from most countries in the world applying the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty is essential to move forward.”

MEPs said the treaty aims to create a new international standard on the illegal possession of nuclear weapons. They said history shows that “weapons of mass destruction banning treaties are essential to facilitate progress towards their elimination.”

Wilson, who is chairman of the Joint Standing Treaties Committee, said Australia’s peace and security “has improved tremendously as we help build and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament framework.”

He said the Albanian government “wasted no time seriously and permanently re-launching” both the long-standing nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the newer banning treaty.

Related: The US warns Australia against joining a treaty banning nuclear weapons

Australia attended the key meeting in Vienna in June as an observer. In October, in a symbolic move, Australia changed its stance in the vote on the annual UN resolution on the treaty, going to “abstain” after five years of “no”.

In November, the U.S. Embassy in Canberra warned that the banning treaty “would not allow for a prolonged U.S. deterrence relationship that is still essential to international peace and security.”

This was a reference to Australia relying on US nuclear forces to deter any nuclear attack on Australia – the so-called “nuclear umbrella” – despite Australia having no nuclear weapons of its own.

But Indonesia’s ambassador, Siswo Pramono, said Australia’s positive treaty change would “encourage others to believe we are on the right track” in the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the UN general assembly last year that Australia would “reduce our efforts” on disarmament because “the weak and desperate nuclear threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin highlight the danger that nuclear weapons pose to us all.”

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