When news broke that an Australian had won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, my first thought was whether the Nobel Committee had found a mass murderer or a genuine aspirant for world peace.
After all, previous winners include David Trimble, sectarian former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland; Shimon Perez, who spent most of his life holding leadership positions within the apartheid state of Israel; Henry Kissinger, secretary of state and national security adviser to US president Richard Nixon, who oversaw the carpet bombing of “anything that flies or anything that moves” in Cambodia; and Barack Obama, who as president escalated drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians, maintained the gulag at Guantánamo Bay and oversaw a troop surge in Afghanistan.
So it was some relief, on finding out that the winner had an office in the same building as Red Flag, that it was a group of people who really do want world peace and work to that end.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was founded in Melbourne, has now received recognition for its work in trying to secure an international treaty that prohibits states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons.
The Nobel committee rewarded ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.
In July, 122 countries adopted ICAN’s treaty. Nuclear-armed states Britain, the US, Russia and France, as well as Australia and some others, ignored the talks and boycotted a signing event in September and at the United Nations General Assembly.
Of course, not everyone is happy that a peace prize should go to people who believe in peace.
Andrew Bolt, writing in the Herald Sun on 9 October, said, “Someone should award the Nobel Committee a prize for stupidity”. He thinks that abolishing nuclear weapons is “a dream that could get us killed”.
At the time of writing, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and other politicians, usually like flies to honey when it comes to photo ops with Australians who gain international recognition for their hard work, have not been seen at Trades Hall.