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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2888

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(3.28) —The Government, of course, places no inhibition on companies looking at market opportunities for a whole variety of products. We listen with interest to what they tell us about their perceptions in that respect. However, we make our policy decisions as a party and a government, not just on considerations of commercial supply and demand although I do call those considerations in aid and justification of our present policy, but, of course, on the basis of a whole variety of public policy considerations of a kind that are quite familiar in the ongoing debate about the use of uranium. Taking into account all the problems which we know about safety, waste disposal and matters of that kind, a very genuine concern exists that the uranium industry has not yet solved all the problems it should before we could unequivocally and enthusiastically embrace it in every manifestation. Beyond that, there is nothing more I can say.

As to grabbing the market opportunity for enrichment activity, I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not say we would engage in enrichment some time in the future. I said it was not impossible that that could reappear on the political agenda at some time in the future. Whether there is such a market opportunity at the moment is something that I am not at all clear about on the information I have been given. Certainly in terms of the enrichment technology that was being developed at the Atomic Energy Commission, I have been advised, as I recall, that we are rather off on a side track of our own in that respect. World technology has taken a different course and we are not at all as well placed as a result of that earlier effort to pick up the ball again, even if we wanted to. But we do not want to at the moment. Our position is clear, and if there is anything more I can add on that subject as a result of taking it on notice, as I will, I will do so. But at the moment that is all I can usefully contribute to this debate.