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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1930


Mr ANDREW(3.22) —I rise to support my colleague the right honourable member for Richmond and Leader of the National Party (Mr Anthony) on this matter of public importance. As a new member and as one with some regard for the Leader of the House, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), I was disappointed to find that he had so little to say in refuting and rebutting what the right honourable member for Richmond argued. The dilemma that we on this side of the House face is that we do not claim to have a monopoly on wisdom in respect of the debate on uranium. We have a respect for all points of view. The frustration I face is that those who oppose this point of view seem to regard themselves as having a monopoly on morality. Whether it is the circus on the front lawn of Parliament House-the protest-by-tent that is occurring there-or the debate in this House, those who oppose what is happening in relation to uranium mining regard themselves as having a monopoly on morality. They have fostered misconceptions about the uranium mining industry in the belief that what they say is absolutely right. They have dared to suggest that we on this side of the House favour the development of the industry simply to curry the favour of mining magnates. From a moral point of view, I support the development of the uranium industry because I am concerned for my children's future.

The honourable member for Casey (Mr Steedman) was anxious to tell us that we are motivated only by greed. Let me say that our motivation has nothing to do with the acquisition of more dollars. It has to do only with the very moral stance that results from being aware of the fact that if the world continues to use energy at its present rate it will simply run out. It is not a matter of asking: 'How can we improve the standard of living of Australians?' It is a matter of asking: 'What are we going to do for the standard of living of the rest of the world?' If we are to give the standard of living we have to the depleted Third World we will need a good deal more energy resources than we currently have available.


Mr Chynoweth —How can they pay for power stations?


Mr ANDREW —The honourable member interjects about price. Let us see which sort of energy generation is cheapest. In the 1970s the world's populaton passed the 4,000 million mark. By the year 2000 it will reach 6,000 million. That extra 2, 000 million people will be principally in underdeveloped, Third World countries. In Great Britain coal consumption amounts to 150 tonnes per person in a lifetime . If, instead they consumed that energy equivalent in nuclear form they would require only 90 grams, or three ounces, of uranium. The simple, inescapable fact is that our energy reserves will not last beyond 40 years for oil and perhaps 300 years for coal. For all that has been said by the Government about pollution , we need to bear in mind that if we commit ourselves to a coal-burning future we will commit ourselves to a form of energy which is potentially more pollution -causing than is uranium.


Mr Steedman —We have many more policies.


Mr ANDREW —Let us not talk about morality. We have to face the simple fact that we are challenged to be stewards of the energy reserves that we have at our disposal. The only way we can effectively hope to provide energy for future generations is to recognise the enormous potential energy generation of uranium. We are talking about mining a naturally occurring substance in the earth. In fact we are talking about mining what is an integral part of nature. The sun, might I remind honourable members opposite, is a natural nuclear reactor. The universe is fundamentally dependent on nuclear reactions, without which it would be devoid of life, warmth and light. Yet those opposite have had the audacity to create the impression that the words 'radioactive', 'nuclear fission' and ' plutonium' are the work of the devil. Let me remind honourable members opposite that, from the day man first decided to till anything, to create a meal or build a house for himself, he had in some way to change his environment.

The enthusiasm and the self-righteousness of the evangelical do-gooders opposite have done nothing effective in my State of South Australia but have closed down the Honeymoon plant and Beverley mines. I challenge the Leader of the House to tell me how he can claim that not one job has been lost when 30 or 40 jobs in South Australia have been lost as a result of the uncertainty that closed the Honeymoon development. In the Honeymoon development in South Australia, situated in the seat of Grey, a $10m pilot plant which has just been completed has been put on ice. The Honeymoon plant had been the subject of an environmental impact study. A committee had looked at the impact of the Honeymoon plant and the project on the underground water aquifers, and it had been pronounced safe and okay to go ahead. The Leader of the House has the audacity to say that not one job has been lost when in reality, as a result of the Honeymoon development being put on ice, 30 or 40 jobs in South Australia have been lost.

The plant that was being brought into action is now in a care and maintenance state. The replaceable plant that the company brought in has been sold off because it does not know where it can go with this uranium development. Honourable members should ask: What does the Mayor of Port Pirie-the Australian Labor Party Mayor of Port Pirie-say about the potential of uranium enrichment in South Australia? He is in favour, but the development he hoped would happen in his town is now uncertain because of the vacillation of the Government. What about the billion dollar URENCO uranium enrichment plant proposed for either South Australia or Queensland, using Syntec technology? As a result of the Federal Government's uncertainty the development of that plant is now in limbo. In my own State all mineral exploration has been scaled down because those committed to exploration do not know what the result of the exploration will be or whether they will get approval for whatever projects they believe ought to go ahead. How do we measure the effect on unemployment of the scaling down of those potential projects? Job creation in South Australia has gone thanks to the vacillation of the Federal Labor Government. The development door in South Australia-particularly in mining-which had been flung wide open by the Tonkin Government has been banged shut by the uncertainty of the Hawke Government.

No one on this side of the House would deny that there are risks in mining uranium. No one would deny that there are risks in any form of development. The simple fact, statistically proven, is that there are fewer risks in mining uranium than there are in mining any of the alternative energy forms. The alternative to taking the Government's course, the alternative to scaling down our mining industry is to hand it over lock, stock and barrel to the Canadians, the South Africans or the Namibians. Are honourable members opposite going to suggest to me that the Namibians are more likely to be positive or firm in the way in which they ensure that the uranium mined in their country is monitored than we are likely to be?

We have heard all the hue and cry about the possibility of the Japanese dumping uranium waste. Of course we do not approve of it. But the reality is that if we do not mine our uranium they will still dump uranium waste wherever they choose. Our best chance for monitoring what happens to uranium is to be the world's major supplier. We have the potential. That potential is being lost by the vacillation of the Government. Until the blancmange opposite freezes we will not know where we are going.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired.