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The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 nations and came into effect in the mid-1960s. The central ideas with full acceptance were the freedom of scientific research in Antarctica and the peaceful use of the continent. There was also a consensus for demilitarization and the maintenance of the status quo. The treaty prohibits nuclear testing, military operations, economic exploitation, and territorial claims in Antarctica. It is monitored through on-site inspections. The only permanent structures allowed are scientific research stations. The original signatory countries hold voting rights on Antarctic governance, with seven of them claiming portions of the continent and the remaining five being non-claimants. Other nations have joined as consultative members by conducting significant research in Antarctica. Non-consultative parties can also adhere to the treaty. In 1991-1992, the treaty was renegotiated by 33 nations, with the main change being the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection, which prohibited mining and oil exploration for 50 years.[13]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Treaty_System

I was reading this article and I was trying to figure out why Australia is a member of the treaty, but yet still claim a part of the territory as its own. Is it because it is a consulting member, and not a full member of the treaty? Why would it still claim a part of the territory as its own if they signed a treaty that prohibits territorial claims?

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  • Your quote even says: "The original signatory countries hold voting rights on Antarctic governance, with seven of them claiming portions of the continent and the remaining five being non-claimants" (emphasis mine). Australia is one of the 7 original signatories claiming territory.
    – Ben
    Commented Feb 20 at 2:14

2 Answers 2

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You have a misconception. The Antarctic Treaty only prohibits new territorial claims, a crucial word which you omitted. Existing claims are neither recognised nor renounced by the Treaty — they are (appropriately) put on ice.

Here is the relevant article of the Treaty.

Article IV

Nothing contained in the present Treaty shall be interpreted as:

a. a renunciation by any Contracting Party of previously asserted rights of or claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica;

b. a renunciation or diminution by any Contracting Party of any basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica which it may have whether as a result of its activities or those of its nationals in Antarctica, or otherwise;

c. prejudicing the position of any Contracting Party as regards its recognition or non-recognition of any other State's rights of or claim or basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.

No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.

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Seven of the treaty signatories have territorial claims. The signatory nations agree to set aside these claims and not pursue them (in the sense that they don't attempt to defend their territorial claims) Australia has done this, and it is a full member of the treaty organisation.

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