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
Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3959

Ms McHUGH(11.58) —I rise to support the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation and I wish to offer my congratulations to the secretariat for the excellent work it always does for us on this Committee. It is a great privilege to be a member of the Committee and to see so many of the beautiful parts of Australia. I must say that in preparing this report we saw something pretty horrific; nothing quite prepared me-even with my well known hostility to the uranium industry-for the shock of seeing this awful mining operation, surrounded by beautiful country. I am unashamedly hostile to the industry and with very good reason. There are so many unresolved problems which surround the whole nuclear industry and these problems are acknowledged by everyone. The nuclear industry is touted so often as clean, cheap, efficient and necessary and of course it is none of these. The complications and the acknowledged problems start with the mining of uranium. Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd mines uranium under very strict conditions, but the problems cannot all be foreseen and the onus is on the company to make sufficient provision to cope with any problem that arises. In the uranium mining industry any problems that do arise can have pretty alarming consequences.

Water management is one of the problems that Ranger must face and the company must make provision to cope with any problem arising there. The company's record is not very good. Paragraph 82 of the Committee's report says this:

The Committee cannot accept that a Company which is located within an area of significant environmental value, claims to be as efficient as any operation in the world and claims to be one of the most regulated in the world, should have allowed the number of incidents to have occurred as have been reported in the annual reports of the Office of the Supervising Scientist. The Committee understands that the tailings pipeline has now been replaced.

That was another matter of concern that was brought to our attention. The report goes on:

Should these regular accidental releases continue the Committee would support the temporary cessation of operations until such time as the system was rectified.

As I keep saying, Mr Deputy Speaker, the onus is on the company to make sure that all the problems are rectified. The Committee report adds:

Notwithstanding these comments the Committee accepts the Supervising Scientist's assessment that there has been no discernible adverse impact on the environment from these occurrences.

It is my view that irrespective of whether there may or may not be any impact, the idea of the Magela Creek being used as a drain for this industry is just abhorrent. The question we must ask is this: Should a water system in a national park be used for the disposal of waste water from an industrial site?

I conclude by quoting from the people who are most affected by any release of water into the Magela Creek system-the Aboriginal people of the area. The November 1986 edition of Land Rights News, which arrived on all our desks yesterday, ran an article from which I shall quote. The article refers to a meeting earlier this year at which the Ranger mine people talked about the problem of an excess of contaminated water. The article states:

The Ranger people told the landowners there was no problem with the water. The miners called a meeting with the Gagudju people and other groups associated with the Ranger mine.

Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the Northern Land Council Chairman, said: Toby Gangale and other Gagudju people were meeting with Ranger mine people and others from the Office of the Supervising Scientist. The discussion was about the level of contamination of water from retention pond number two.

The officials were saying that the water was fit for people to drink.

Some of the water in question was in beakers being passed around the room.

Toby raised the beaker to his lips. He was immediately told not to drink the water by the officials watching him with alarm.

You can understand how Toby and other land owners out there in Kakadu are worried about this water problem . . .

The problem is that no one can actually be sure on at exactly what level can water be regarded as contaminated . . .

It's alright to declare that water is safe now.

What if it is discovered later that it was not safe? The article continues:

That's not good news for those people who do eat bush tucker, let alone for the general Magela environment anyhow.

On behalf of those people who would be most affected, I must say that I sincerely hope that the recommendations of our Committee report hold good.

Debate (on motion by Mr Cadman) adjourned.