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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 770

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (13:32): I indicate on behalf of the government that there is not support from the government for the amendment. I am not sure that our attempt to deal with the amendments has led to that confining of debate, given Senator Ludlam's contribution, which was broad, but then I suppose his proposed amendments to the act are broad.

The Greens effectively claim that an object of this bill should be to select 'the most suitable site on the Australian continent'. My response to that is that this is not a best site argument; it is about a site based on volunteerism. Therefore, this amendment is opposite to the whole approach of the bill. The best site for a facility, if it exists, cannot be considered if it has not been volunteered. The establishment of a facility will take into account environmental considerations, geology, geography, hydrology, seismology, infrastructure and cultural heritage values, and these factors will be assessed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act. All those safeguards are in place, but the whole structure of the act is to provide for a site being volunteered. The approach taken in the amendments proposed by Senator Ludlam on behalf of the Greens is contrary to the way the bill is structured.

It also implies that, currently, waste minimisation practices are not occurring. That is obviously not correct. Waste minimisation continues to be the objective of the Commonwealth regulator, ARPANSA, Commonwealth agencies such as ANSTO, and states and territories that produce radioactive waste as a result of their use of radioactive material. We think these amendments to the objects of the act ought not to be supported. We think the current objects of the bill makes it very clear what the act is about, that is:

the selection of a site for a radioactive waste management facility on voluntarily nominated land …


the establishment and operation of such a facility on the selected site …

That is what the bill is about. That is what the act will be about. The current objects of the act are very clear, and this seems to be an attempt by the Greens to add in a range of things either that are already occurring or which would lead to a totally different approach to the selection of a site and, might I say, probably to ensure that no site was ever selected if the amendments were accepted.