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Tuesday, 15 August 2000
Page: 16356

Senator BOLKUS (3:54 PM) —by leave—As a person who has instigated this notice of motion this afternoon, there are a couple of points from the Democrats that I need to respond to and also some from Senator Minchin. With respect to the Democrats, there are only two differences between what they are doing and what their substantive notice of motion does. They want an independent commissioner; we do not want that. We think that it is a prospect that may be superficially attractive, but it could very well backfire and has all sorts of practical problems.

Senator Stott Despoja claims that her terms of reference are broader but, were she to look at subclause 2 of my notice of motion, the tender arrangements are covered well and truly. If she is concerned about encompassing the issue of waste storage, subclause 5 of the Labor Party's notice of motion well and truly covers just about every conceivable aspect of the waste process. I put it to you, Senator Stott Despoja, that the notice of motion before us now is a bit broader in its ambit than your notice of motion. I submit that the only difference, from your perspective, would be the commissioner.

As for Senator Minchin, he has come to be known as the Dr Strangelove of Australian politics, and we have seen again this afternoon why. It was another emotional outburst from the minister. He has come in here, as the minister responsible to this parliament, saying that the parliamentary process is a waste of time. It may very well be inconvenient for Senator Minchin, but it is not a waste of time when governments are held accountable, and this minister, more than anyone else—the Dr Strangelove of industry—needs to be held accountable. He says that we have had inquiry after inquiry. We have not had a full public inquiry looking specifically at whether Australia needs a new nuclear reactor. We have not had that. We have not had the inquiry that was recommended by McKinnon in 1992. This is not a grubby bidding war; this is a matter of holding this minister accountable to this parliament. We are not talking about petty cash here. We are talking about a $500 million outlay. We are talking about Minchin's $500 million white elephant. That is what we are talking about here, Senator Minchin. It goes up and up, and it will continue to go up. You will not be here to pay the bill at the end of the day, so you can say what you like, but the public will pay $500 million for your white elephant. Let me put it to you that it needs accountability.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Bolkus, address the chair please.

Senator BOLKUS —Mr Beazley put his position on the record before the last election in opposition to the reactor. It is something that Senator Minchin chooses to forget in his discussion now. He says that all documents could be publicly available, but he would not even tell us the type of fuel at one stage. Can we get the contract now? Of course not. Specious claims of commercial-in-confidence have made this process less and less transparent and less and less accountable. If you are concerned about a knowledge nation, you do not pump $500 million of much sought after funds into one white elephant at Lucas Heights, when you could spend so much more money across the spectrum getting into new technologies and new industries. There is something like $65 billion of potential investment floating around our region over the next 10 years in new industries. And what are you doing? You are still digging yourself into a brown coal hole. That is what you are doing. I do not need to talk much longer, other than to make the point that this is an inquiry that is much needed, and it is one that the opposition is proud to initiate.