The end of the Australian government’s opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons should pave the way for others and not be met with intimidation by nuclear weapons states, CND has said.

In October, the Labor government made the landmark decision to abstain from a UN vote on the TPNW – which implements a blanket ban on developing, having, stockpiling, or assisting others in obtaining nuclear weapons – after five years of the previous Coalition government firmly siding with the US against it. This included opposition to starting negotiations on the treaty, boycotting the negotiations, and subsequently voting against annual resolutions in the UN General Assembly.

In September 2021, the Coalition government signed the AUKUS military pact with the US and UK governments. Initially intended to supply conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, the pact has already expanded to other realms such as hypersonic missile development.

Despite opposition to the TPNW, 91 countries have signed up to the treaty, with 68 now states parties. While Australia’s decision was welcomed by neighbouring New Zealand and Indonesia, the US embassy in Canberra told The Guardian Australia that signing the TPNW risked reinforcing global divisions and “would not allow for US extended deterrence relationships, which are still necessary for international peace and security.”

It added that while the US shared a desire for nuclear disarmament, it didn’t “believe that progress toward nuclear disarmament can be decoupled from the prevailing security threats in today’s world.”

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said Australia shouldn’t be threatened by the US intervention: “Australia should be rightly commended for dropping over half a decade of blanket opposition to the TPNW – and for understanding that nuclear weapons don’t make the world any safer. It should not face intimidation from so-called allies under the auspices of defence cooperation. The TPNW offers the best chance for lasting global peace and security and a clear road map for nuclear disarmament.”