facebookArtboard 1twitteryoutube

REMARKS AT MAKING WAVES EVENT WELCOMING THE PEACE BOAT TO HOBART - HOBART PARLIAMENT LAWNS - FRIDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2018

Thank you, and good afternoon members of the peace movement who have turned out here at Hobart's Parliament Lawns to welcome the Peace Boat to Hobart.

Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, and pay my respects to their associated traditions and customs, and elders both past and present.

Can I also thank today's hosts of the Peace Boat, the guests speakers that we've heard so far – Mr Tanaka Terumi, Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, Karina Lester, former Senator Scott Ludlam, whom we are yet to hear from and who I'm really pleased is our ICAN ambassador but he was also a former Senator as you well know, and someone I worked with on these nuclear disarmament issues in the Australian Senate. Scott was a great advocate, and continues to be a great advocate for the elimination of nuclear weapons. So welcome Scott to Hobart.

Also I want to acknowledge the Australia Institute, and the Medical Association for the Prevention of War-Tasmania who have also made the trip for the Peace Boat possible, but a big acknowledgement for ICAN. ICAN, as you know, last year won the Nobel Peace Prize! That is no small feat. And yes they are an Australian-born organisation, and as Australians we should all be very proud of their effort in winning that Nobel Peace Prize. I have to say a pride that we share that has not been properly acknowledged and congratulated however, by the Australian Government – which is shameful in itself.

Can I also acknowledge Alderman Anna Reynolds, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, and also Rob Valentine MLC, who as a former Lord Mayor of Hobart actually was a strong advocate for Mayors for Peace. So thank you Rob for also being here. And also our Greens member Miss Woodruff is here as well. As you all know at the moment there is a state election going on, so I would like to give my apologies for our Labor leader Bec White who is out there somewhere on the campaign trail in Tasmania today.

So firstly just to welcome the Peace Boat and its fellow passengers that have come here to Hobart. I drove this morning into work, and the first thing I saw was the Peace Boat. And I have to say it really lifted my heart to see that Peace Boat docked in Hobart's waterfront, finally as it's made its journey all over Australia it's come here to our capital city.

But thank you to the Peace Boat for promoting human rights, for promoting peace, and sustainable development and respect for our environment. What we have just heard are some really moving stories of struggle, of survival. I think a major part of the importance of the peace boat is ensuring that one day we have an end to nuclear weapons.

Mr Tanaka gave me this booklet called ‘Hibakusha’. Hibakusha meaning ending nuclear weapons, suffering and the like. When I had a look inside this very special publication which Mr Tanaka gave me, there are some harrowing stories in here from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with images beyond belief of what people have suffered and obviously what Mr Tanaka as a young thirteen-year old boy had suffered and witnessed himself. I just want to thank you Mr Tanaka for giving me this copy, I know these are limited in numbers. If anyone would like to look at it and share it I will leave it in my Hobart office so it can be shared with the Hobart community. To help get a pictorial understanding  but also a deeper understanding of what it was like for those who were there during those terrible moments in our history – the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – devastating beyond belief.

One of the other people who shared his past with me of what it was like, was former Labor minister Tom Uren. Tom Uren witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki and he said, "I will never forget as long as I live, the colour of the sky on the day the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on that city.”

Now you would think from that time that we would have learnt a lot. Well a lot of us have learnt a lot. And there has been so many people campaigning for so many decades now to end nuclear weapons, for nuclear disarmament and we have come some way. So much so that last year there was a new treaty put on the table at the United Nations and countries are now signing on to that treaty. A treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons, to put an end to nuclear weapons. Although the Australian has not signed this treaty, I want to assure the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the second-generation survivors of nuclear testing that there are so many of us advocating for Australia to join the nuclear weapons ban treaty. I know that you are here today as part of that but there are also members of the Australian parliament that are part of that. 

More members of the Australian Labor Party in the Australian Parliament have signed the pledge to ban nuclear weapons than haven't. So that is a fantastic thing – that we have an alternative government in Australia whose members have signed this pledge.

Now it is going to take a number of countries before we can ensure that this moves forward. That is why Australia's role is so crucially important. But unfortunately when I was at the UN in 2016, when the negotiations were taking place for this particular treaty, Australia did not just refuse to support it, it didn't even have a seat at the table. It didn't even have its voice heard. I've never known, in the history of Australia's involvement on nuclear disarmament, a time when we haven't even allowed our voice to be heard. 

That is absolutely shameful. And it is also shameful for a democratic nation like ours to not be participating in this debate. Just like former Senator Scott Ludlum, I also have asked a number of questions at Senate Estimates about this issue. About why Australia is taking this stance. A number of us – including ICAN – have been absolutely gob-smacked by the responses. This ongoing, bizarre and pathetic argument that nuclear weapons make us safe. It is just ridiculous. It is a joke beyond belief.

And we need to lobby and ensure the Australian government moves from this position, this embarrassing position, to a position that is now being supported by so many members of the Australian Parliament and also of the Australian community – that it wants its government to actually be a part of the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear war, as we know, means the end of everything. It is movements like the Peace Boat, groups like ICAN, and individuals like all of you and all the other Australians across the nation who contribute so much to helping prevent that outcome. So let's continue to work for an end to nuclear weapons. Please lobby your Australian government MPs to ensure that they do move from their current position to a position of listening to the stories – the stories that we've heard today from Mr Tanaka, from Mr Hasegawa and from Karina Lester. That for the future survival of our planet, and for peace amongst nations, we need to eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: TAIMUS WERNER-GIBBINGS 0429 820 344