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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1461


Mr REEVES(3.45) —Prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch I had spoken about the need for a special joint management structure for the Uluru and Kakadu National Parks. I spoke about the suggestion that I had made to the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) on a nuclear waste research fund, where existing uranium producers and those companies which want to exploit uranium in this country could demonstrate their real concern and responsibility by contributing to a fund to research this very serious problem. The intitial response from the uranium industry has been disappointing to say the least though it is perhaps not unexpected. John Reynolds of the Uranium Information Centre, as reported in today's Australian, said:

. . . there was no need for Australia to start waste disposal research.

The research going on already is being funded by the taxpayer, including the mining companies . . .

He said further:

The problem of the isolation of high-level wastes doesn't arise in Australia, only where you have a uranium-based electrical system.

In some sense he is accurate, but this indicates that the attitude of the uranium industry is one of: 'It is your problem, not ours. We will ask the taxpayer to bear the brunt of sorting out this very serious problem of nuclear waste disposal and the money involved in researching technology to try to deal with that problem'. Indeed $3m has been allocated in this Budget. The taxpayer will have to pay for research and development in this area. I am quite optimistic that, at some stage in the not to distant future, we may well find the solution. If the uranium mining industry keeps on with this sort of head-in- the-sand attitude, I despair at the prospect of finding that solution.

If we are serious about finding a solution to the problem we need to spend a lot more than $3m on it. It is Australia's responsibility to find a solution to this problem. If we are to export uranium, as we are at present, we will have to accept that nuclear waste will be created by nuclear power plants in other countries. It may be used for nuclear armaments. It is not good enough for honourable members to sit here and say that, because we do not have any electrical generation systems depending on nuclear fuel, it is not our problem. I hope that, in the very near future, the uranium mining industry wakes up to itself over this issue and starts to appreciate that it, along with the other people who intend to exploit this resource, has to put its money where its mouth is.

In the time that I have left to me I would like to make some comments on the Budget allocations for the Northern Territory. The first thing that should be said is that total payments to the Northern Territory this year are up by $124. 12m which is an increase of 17.3 per cent. That is by far the largest dollar increase in any Budget for the Northern Territory. It is far and above any allocation made by Liberal-National Party governments which claim to be great people concerned about the Northern Territory and northern development. The Hawke Labor Government has shown its real concern for the Northern Territory in this Budget. A few of the specific things that have happened include: Assistance to the Northern Territory Electricity Commission has been increased by $6.9m to $64.7m. The brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign funds have been increased by $5.2m to $8.9m. We have received a Medicare establishment grant of $2.1m. Funding for rehabilitation centres is up $4.5 to 5.3m. Of course, along with other States we have received money under the community employment program. Housing funds are up a massive 41.6 per cent. Road funds are up 16.2 per cent. The total amount allocated by way of both specific purpose capital payments and loans to authorities and to the Northern Territory Government this year is $116m .

The Budget indicates the real concern of the Hawke Labor Government for the Northern Territory and to ensure the future development of the north. Frankly, it amazes me that after all that the Northern Territory Government could not find the goodwill to say that it was a good Budget. That Government still criticised the Budget. Yet, a week after the Northern Territory Government said that this Budget was not very good, that Government managed to bring down a Budget which it says is fantastic. Of course, 86 per cent of the funds in the Budget brought down by that Government were provided by the Federal Government. There is hypocrisy as well on the part of the Northern Territory Government. Nothing satisfies it. If the Federal Government gave everybody in the Northern Territory a golden brick the Northern Territory Government would still want two. The Northern Territory Government has made a number of demands on the Federal Government in recent months, particularly since we came to office on 5 March. If all those demands were met over the next five years the Federal Government would have to make $3 billion available to the Northern Territory Government-that is, on top of the yearly funding which has already been made available and which this year totals $856m. If one amortises that over the period the Northern Territory Government is talking about one sees that it is asking for something like $8 billion.

All the Northern Territory Government wants to do is scream and shout about what it should be given. It is selfish and self-indulgent and it does not want to accept any of the sacrifice ordinary Australians are having to make in these difficult economic times. If one has any doubt about that Government's selfishness, one can look at the fact that this year the six Northern Territory Government Ministers have budgeted $2m for their own travel and entertainment while they are screaming and shouting about the Federal Government not giving them enough money. They will spend $2m in twelve months. That is $1,000 a day for each of them.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Darling) — Order! The honourable member's time has elapsed.