A motion to endorse supporting the abolition of nuclear weapons failed to pass at Wednesday night's City of Ballarat council meeting.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is urging communities to support its proposal to the federal government to sign an international treaty that will ban manufacturing, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons, putting them on the same level as unconventional weapons of mass destruction like biological or chemical weapons.
It has been lobbying councils across Australia to urge the federal government to sign the treaty - so far 31 have signed or are intending to sign, including the City of Melbourne and Benalla - noting that local councils across the world will have to deal with any immediate impacts from a nuclear war or accidental detonation.
In Ballarat, deputy mayor Belinda Coates proposed the motion, stating it was in line with council's commitment to the Compassionate Cities Charter and surveys showed mass support across Australia.
However, one councillor spoke out in favour of a "big stick", while another decried the motion as "virtue signalling".
Cr Grant Tillett said he remembered the end of World War 2.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW
"I want to be very clear that tonight for the first time as a councillor I'll be exercising a conscience vote," he said.
"Strength is a deterrent - at the moment, nuclear, from my understanding, is the only answer available unless we go back to fighting with swords and bayonets."
Several other councillors spoke against the motion, noting it appeared outside council's jurisdiction and was a matter for the federal government, or the struggles during the pandemic deserved more attention.
Councillor Des Hudson, speaking against the motion, said he wanted more community consultation first to understand where Ballarat stood on the issue.
Several community representatives, including from the Ballarat Interfaith Network and Compassionate Ballarat, made submissions to council.
ICAN co-chair Dr Margaret Beavis said Thursday it was a "disappointing" result, but the campaign would not give up.
"You only need to look at what's happening with coronavirus to see an issue you really don't expect to come up very often can have massive impacts, and councils will be the ones trying to look after their residents in that situation," she said.
"They had the opportunity to do something meaningful for their constituents, and they've missed it, it's an important issue and they've wasted it."
Dr Beavis appeared in Ballarat in February to speak on the issue, and said there is a petition for residents to sign in support of the motion.
"It has to start at some point, and a small motion, a gesture of support, this is something understanding their constituents would be caring about this," she said.
"If the Ballarat council signed up to a resolution on climate change, they should certainly be signing up to this - sure, we're facing really terrible, inexorable climate change that will really change people's futures, but nuclear war will be a change overnight, and it's a potentially preventable thing.
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"It's only luck we haven't had one, and I personally think it'll be due to a stuff-up we have a nuclear war, not Donald Trump or Kim Jong Il, I think human error is a much more powerful thing.
"Nuclear weapons are actually quite hard to think about, the prospect is so awful you just don't want to, it's much easier to think about the footy."
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