PRESS RELEASE : Health Professionals urge Australia to join UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty talks


Sydney : Friday 10 February 2017: Over one hundred health professionals have signed an open letter calling on the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to ensure Australia participates in the impending UN negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

There negotiations will being in late March in New York, and so far the government has not committed to whether Australia will be represented or not.

The letter was initiated by the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW). “If Australia fails to send a delegation it calls into question their commitment to the United Nations.” Said MAPW Vice President Dr Sue Wareham, who will deliver the letter to the PM. “Australia has been an active contributor at other weapons treaty negotiations, and these are the very worst weapons of mass destruction.”

A Neilson poll in 2014 showed 84% of of Australians thought nuclear weapons should be banned. Given the overwhelming support for a ban, Australia should be at the forefront of global efforts to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.

MAPW President Dr Margaret Beavis said, “With Donald Trump now in possession of the nuclear codes, the risk of nuclear weapons use has significantly increased. We have bans on biological weapons, chemical weapons, cluster munitions and landmines – nuclear weapons are worse than all of these. A global ban is a powerful factor in delegitimising whole weapons systems.”

“Any use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian disaster, with appalling initial destruction followed by possible nuclear winter and global famine. Australia’s failutre thus far to pull its weight in getting rid of nuclear weapons is a matter of deep shame for our nation.”


For comment, please contact;

Dr Sue Wareham 0407 924 152

Dr Margaret Beavis   0401 995 699


The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House, Canberra

Friday 10 February 2017


Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, call on the Australian government to support the banning of nuclear weapons, the world’s most destructive and inhumane weapons, and to participate constructively in ban treaty negotiations in 2017.

As health professionals, we recognise the catastrophic effects that any use of nuclear weapons would have on human populations and the environment. Our professions would have very little to offer any survivors of such an event; no meaningful medical or disaster relief response would be possible.  No other weapons can cause as much death, suffering and destruction as quickly, or leave such widespread and persisting toxicity in the environment.

We join with health professionals around the world in declaring that the only way to prevent these horrific devices ever being used again is to abolish them.  We therefore strongly support the global efforts of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the World Medical Association, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Council of Nurses, the Red Cross/Crescent movement and many other bodies that call for a new treaty to explicitly prohibit nuclear weapons, just as chemical and biological weapons have been prohibited. 

Thus far Australia has actively opposed current UN resolutions supporting negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty. This places Australia out of step with rapidly growing global momentum to achieve such a treaty, with 123 nations supporting this at the UN First Committee of the UN General Assembly.

Australia is ignoring the overwhelming evidence that these weapons will be used again, with catastrophic consequences, unless they are abolished.  It places us on the wrong side of history.  As health professionals we regard such opposition as irresponsible in the extreme.

We ask you to ensure that the Australian government works constructively towards the negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Your sincerely,


Dr Margaret Beavis

National President