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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2364

Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Firstly, will the Government pay compensation to the companies developing uranium mines at Jabiluka and Koongarra in the Northern Territory, Yeelirrie in Western Australia , Ben Lomond in Queensland and others following yesterday's Caucus decision to ban new uranium mines in Australia? Secondly, will the Government pay compensation to those States and the Northern Territory for the economic benefits which would have flowed to their citizens if these mines had gone ahead ? Will the Government pay compensation to the Aboriginal people for the royalties and other payments they will lose as a result of this policy?

Mr KEATING —Firstly, to my knowledge no claim has been lodged with the Commonwealth Government in respect of compensation. Secondly, it is a matter for each government to determine, particularly in regard to a strategic material such as uranium, precisely what basis of development it should undertake. Honourable members will be familiar with the report of the Fox Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry which stated that in the Northern Territory-to which the honourable gentleman referred, amongst other places-a sequential basis of development was appropriate.

The question, of course, ignores the whole market implications of the sale of uranium in the world at the moment. It has been in gross over-supply for some time, with the decline of the nuclear industry, as the Western economies went into a recession some time ago. Indeed, they have not recovered from that. The contracts that were written for the Nabarlek and Ranger mines were the last bloom of the demand for uranium as a result of the growth in the reactor construction program which was occasioned by the movement in oil prices in the early 1970s.

In the Government's terms there is a very strong case to be made for an orderly basis of development in this commodity as, indeed, in every other commodity. Therefore, the honourable gentleman's question presumed that cash flows were available which may never be available. The whole matter of compensation, as such, is not one which has arisen to date.