I am grateful for Alison Broinowski’s and Paul Bracken’s thoughtful comments on my article, “A Nuclear-armed Australia”. They approach their responses from what seem at first very different angles: in Broinowski’s case, the history and arguments that have sustained the strong public support for nuclear disarmament in Australia; in Bracken’s, the role of nuclear weapons in future relations between the great powers. But the common theme underlying both responses is the shape of the future international “nuclear order” – the strategic environment within which Australia will have to develop its policy towards nuclear weapons.
Australia’s historical support for non-proliferation was rooted in a clear-eyed analysis of our strategic circumstances and the benefit of keeping nuclear weapons from our neighbourhood – a point made very clearly in then foreign minister Gareth Evans’ statement on Australia’s regional security in 1989, for example. This is still an important consideration against Australian nuclear proliferation, and it is an argument that should fare much better in the face of geostrategic change than the ideational aspirations that have come to dominate the non-proliferation movement in recent years – a fact that makes the significant reduction in Australian government funding for regional non-proliferation efforts over the last twenty years all the more deplorable.