Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2381


Mr REEVES(3.46) —This is the fifth occasion in the past seven weeks when the Opposition has raised the uranium industry in a matter of public importance in the Parliament. The Opposition must get some points for consistency but none for novelty. When this matter was first raised on 20 September I pointed to the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia did not have a policy on the nuclear industry. Seven weeks have gone by and that has given that Party plenty of time to give the matter some thought. This is the fifth debate on this issue and it still does not have a policy on the nuclear industry . Liberal Party members come into this place and attack the Australian Labor Party's policy. With no policy of their own for us to have a look at, they come into this House and have a go at our policy. What sort of a national political party is it that does not have a policy on this very important national issue?

As I have said, this is the third time I have spoken on this issue. On each occasion I have spoken I have pointed to the two-line policy the National Party of Australia has on the nuclear industry. The National Party has had the foresight, as a national political party, at least to mention the words 'nuclear ' or 'uranium' in its policy booklet. It has said that it will develop Australia 's uranium reserves to meet world demand. That clearly implies sequential development. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) has gone through the various reasons why Australia's uranium resources should be developed on a sequential basis. Those arguments are quite clear and logical. Indeed, the report of the Fox Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended that the Northern Territory's uranium resources should be developed on a sequential basis . It seems that the National Party believes that. We do not know what the Liberal Party believes because it does not have a policy.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock), with no policy at all, came into this House today and glibly told us that we should let every uranium mine in Australia start up tomorrow. That is basically what he said-that every uranium mine in Australia should start up tomorrow. Of course, as with most of the Liberal Party pronouncements in the past eight months in which it has been in opposition, the Liberal Party clearly has not researched the matter. It obviously does not realise that that would result in a total production of 15, 200 tonnes of uranium a year once all those mines came on stream. That is about three to four times the world demand for uranium at present. It is about three times the projected world demand for uranium in 1990. The Leader of the Opposition told us we should open every uranium mine in Australia tomorrow. Dr Tony Owen, who has written a little about this subject, and particularly about the world's uranium market, wrote an article in a recent edition of the Business Review Weekly. I shall quote at length from his article. He stated:

In a report issued in 1979, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development envisaged a bright future for Australian uranium producers. Australian production was predicted to reach 14,000 tonnes of uranium oxide ( yellowcake) by 1985, and 24,000 tonnes by 1990.

He went on:

Just two years later, however, things had changed. OECD predictions for Australian uranium production had suffered a drastic revision, to 4,500 tonnes and 5,500 tonnes in 1985 and 1990 respectively.

That is a drop of some 300 per cent. It dropped to about one-third of what the OECD predicted two years before. The article went on:

Spiralling interest rates, the recession, and safety and environmental concerns (especially in the wake of the accident at Three Mile Island in March 1979) had made nuclear power a particularly unattractive proposition in the United States and, to a lesser extent, many Western European nations.

He said further:

However in 1982 only 60 percent of total production--

that is, world production-

was used, with the surplus going into largely unintended inventories. Currently, uranium stocks in non-communist countries equal about five years' forward consumption . . . this excessive stock is certain to dampen the price of uranium for several years.

He said further:

Nevertheless, operational nuclear capacity in Western nations is projected to double by 1990 as plants ordered during the first half of the 70s-and delayed for various reasons-come on-stream. But the momentum will then disappear, as few countries have follow-on construction programs for the 1990s.

No new domestic orders have been placed in West Germany since 1975 or in the US since 1979, while expansion plans in Italy, Spain, Sweden and Britain have been severely restricted by drawn-out environmental and safety arguments . . .

The article went on:

The high cost of construction and insurance for nuclear power plants combined with the recession and public opposition to nuclear power make it inconceivable that any new orders will be placed for nuclear power plants in the US in the foreseeable future. While US nuclear capacity in operation will have increased substantially . . . by 1990, thereafter additions to capacity will be few . . .

Dr Owen drew this conclusion in that article:

Australia's producers, therefore, have a considerable amount of surplus capacity.

Later in the article he concluded:

However, after 1990, additions to nuclear capacity will be relatively few. Beyond 1990, therefore, the prospects for new uranium producers in a market with established supply patterns and slow growth appear poor.

That is the assessment by a person who studied the world's projected uranium market into the 1990s and indeed to the year 2000. Clearly, there is no demand in the world market for uranium. The two existing Northern Territory mines and Roxby Downs together will have sufficient production to meet the predicted demand on the world uranium market until at least 1992 and probably 1995. That is the sort of sequential development recommended by the Fox report. I suggest that before Liberal Party members talk in here again about the uranium issue they should have the intestinal fortitude to write out their uranium policy and put it before the people of Australia so that the people can see where the Liberal Party is heading on this question. We still have not heard what the Liberal Party's position is.

I should now like to turn to the matter of jobs. The Leader of the Opposition said here this afternoon that thousands of jobs will be lost in the Northern Territory if Jabiluka and Koongarra do not proceed. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory kept up his litany of lies on this issue when in a letter which he circulated to members of the Caucus he said:

Quite apart from the direct loss of around 1,000 permanent jobs at the Jabiluka and Koongarra mines a decision for no further development would have tremendous impact on the Territory by eliminating the associated infra-structure benefits ( including approximately 2,000 jobs during construction stage and a further 2,000 in associated services industries during the life of the mines) . . .

That totals 5,000 jobs. The company, Pancontinental Mining Ltd, which plans to develop Jabiluka, predicts that there will be 1,285 jobs during construction and 487 jobs during the operational stage of the mine. Denison Mines which is connected with Koongarra, estimates that 500 jobs will be created during construction and another 110 during the operational stage. That is a total, if they both went ahead, of 1,785 jobs during construction and 597 jobs during the operational stage. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory suggested that there will be 1,000 permanent jobs during the operational stage. His calculations are out by about 400 or 500 jobs. He suggested there will be another 4,000 jobs created during the constructional stage. I suggest that his calculations are inaccurate by 2,500 to 3,000 jobs. Of course he knows what the real figures are. He keeps misleading the people of the Northern Territory and Australia about the real nature of this so-called bonanza that he predicts for the Northern Territory.

For $620m worth of investment-that is what we are talking about for these two mines-we are talking about 597 miners getting permanent jobs. Let us put that into context. The Northern Territory work force is 60,000 people at present. Those jobs would account for less than one per cent of the existing work force. That is hardly a bonanza. If, on the other hand, we spend that $620m on the tourist infrastructure I suggest we would see thousands of jobs, and that is a matter to which the Leader of the Opposition and the Northern Territory Chief Minister should direct their attention.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.