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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 673


Mr BANDT (5:47 PM) —The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 is about Australia’s first nuclear waste dump. This nuclear dump is dangerous and unnecessary. This nuclear dump is in the wrong place. This nuclear dump is opposed by the traditional owners. This dump is being rammed through the parliament against the wishes of Territorians.

I spoke at length this morning about the process chosen by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts for conducting its inquiry into this bill. The cynically short, non-consultative and closed process by which it ultimately recommended the bill be passed with no further delay was far from a useful use of House resources. It was a waste of time. The end result of the committee process is that members at this point have no more information before them with which to make a judgment on whether or not to give this bill a second reading than they did when the bill was referred to the committee in October.

However, the inquiry whitewash is nothing compared to the heavy-handed means adopted in facilitating the passage of this bill. Let me remind members what the Labor Party said about the Howard waste dump legislation when it first tried to dump nuclear waste in the Northern Territory. A joint release from the member for Kingsford-Smith, the member for Lingiari, Senator Carr and Senator Crossin stated that they were ‘profoundly disappointed’ by the legislation. They said:

The next chapter has opened in the Howard Government's nuclear waste dump fiasco, with the Government today accepting a highly controversial site nomination at the Northern Territory's Muckaty Station, before scientific testing of the area.

Labor called for consultation with the locals rather than bullying by the government and stated clearly that the traditional owners had been stripped of their rights and that they pledged to repeal the Howard laws. Now in government, Labor, under he tutelage of the Minister for Resources and Energy, has adopted the approach of the Howard government, as we have just heard so eloquently expressed by the member for Groom. The Labor-era waste dump legislation, like the Howard legislation, overrides state and territory laws, suspends the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, excludes the Native Title Act 1993 and suspends the Judicial Review Act 1991.

The Labor legislation, like the Howard legislation, gives extraordinary discretionary power to the minister and allows him to operate with an absolute minimum of transparency. The Labor legislation, like the Howard legislation, ignores any commitment to procedural fairness and all avenues for judicial review. The Labor legislation, like the Howard legislation, ignores best science available in order to fast-track the supposedly volunteered dump location. Minister Martin Ferguson’s legislation, like the Howard legislation, completely fails to uphold international best practice, particularly in relation to securing community acceptance of the waste facilities. Article 29 part 2 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.

Yet here is the minister mimicking the Howard government’s best efforts to dump nuclear waste facilities on a community of people who do not want it.

The last two governments didn’t listen to us—you must be different.

The locals wrote that to every member of this House late last year. They said:

We have been fighting for the last five years to say we don’t want the waste dump in the land.

…            …            …

Come and sit with us and hear the stories from the land.

All the while the minister is arguing that his consultations are complete. That is because he inherited the deal done between a select few individuals living in the area and the former government, enabling him to claim that his obligations are finished. As a result, the traditional owners are taking action in the Federal Court. The first hearings of this process are on Friday, which might explain the government’s desire to push this legislation through parliament so quickly.

How did we get to this appalling situation? How did we get from a situation where Labor in opposition claimed that the local community was effectively bribed into accepting the waste dump on their land to a situation where the minister in the Labor government is claiming that this bill is ready to pass while the traditional owners write heartfelt letters to all members of this place asking to have the minister come and meet with them? How is it that a Labor government is pointing to a few individuals with whom a deal has been struck, and using that to claim that the local communities have been consulted and are content with this proposal?

This parliament should be in no doubt as to the regard in which the minister holds its members. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee majority report of 7 May 2010 had as its first recommendation, that the minister:

… undertake consultations with all parties with an interest in, or who would be affected by, a decision to select the Muckaty Station site as the location for the national radioactive waste facility.

As recently as December, Senator Sherry, replying to a question on notice asked by my colleague Senator Ludlam in the October Senate estimates, reiterated what we already knew. He said:

The Minister has not met the Indigenous land owners who oppose the nomination …

I struggle to find a more brazen example of the disregard that a minister has for parliamentary process, consultative public policy and basic human rights. Labor, led by Minister Martin Ferguson, is putting a nuclear waste dump on the land of Territorians and Indigenous Australians, who do not want it. If we have any doubt as to what this bill is really about, we need only listen to the person who drafted it, the member for Groom, who spoke before and made the point very clearly that this is the first step in a debate about Australia having a nuclear powered future.

Given the disregard that this government through its spokesperson in the Minister for Resources and Energy has had for the parliament, evident in its stubbornly proceeding with the bill while simultaneously ignoring the recommendation of the Senate inquiry majority report, I move in the terms that have been circulated in this chamber:

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“the House declines to give the bill a second reading until the Minister for Resources and Energy acts on recommendation one of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee majority report of 7 May 2010, namely that the Minister ‘undertake consultations with all parties with an interest in, or who would be affected by, a decision to select the Muckaty Station site as the location for the national radioactive waste facility’.”

I ask all members, whether or not they support nuclear power, whether or not they support nuclear waste being dumped in Central Australia, to ask themselves how they can oppose an amendment that simply asks the minister to meet with the people in whose backyard this waste dump is going to be. I commend the amendment to the House.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr KJ Thomson)—Is the amendment seconded?


Mr Wilkie —I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Melbourne has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.