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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 235


Senator COLLINS (Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (3.42 p.m.) —In the light of that last plea from Senator Coulter, can I just say that, so far as the government is concerned, he will be rewarded—we will be supporting this motion. I did not think I would ever live to see the day—


Senator Tambling —Neither did I.


Senator COLLINS —Exactly.


Senator Tambling —From a territory point of view, you must be squirming.


Senator COLLINS —Absolutely. I did not think I would ever see the day that an Australian Democrat, particularly Senator Coulter, would move such an extraordinary motion. Have a look at the terms of it. The motion states:

  The need for the government to maintain the named three mine policy with respect to uranium mining.

Senator Coulter did not have to move a motion that attempted to put a qualification on the mining of uranium. There was nothing to prevent him from bringing this debate on this afternoon by moving a motion calling on the government to abandon its three-mine policy and adopt a no mines policy. My evidence for saying that is Senator Coulter himself, because three months ago that is exactly what Senator Coulter did in the Senate. Three months ago in the Senate, Senator Coulter moved:

  That the Senate—

(a) notes, with concern, the recent statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) about uranium mining . . . where he said that the three mines policy should not be seen as set in stone;

(b) recognises that uranium mining, being the first part of the nuclear cycle that ends as nuclear waste, is totally contrary to both ecologically sustainable development and the moral principle of inter-generational equity—

whatever that is—

(c) acknowledges that nuclear waste is highly radioactive for a period 100 times longer than the longest-lived human dynasty; and

(d) calls on the Prime Minister to abandon the three mine policy at the next Australian Labor Party conference and to replace it with a no uranium mine policy.

That was just three months ago. To my total astonishment, Senator Coulter has now done the most gigantic backflip of all time for a Democrat and has moved a motion in the Senate calling on us to maintain the three-mine policy, when three months ago he moved a motion calling on us to abandon it. Senator Coulter is wasted in this chamber. He is needed in Victoria, Canada. He should be in Victoria winning gold for Australia in the diving pool by doing a quadruple backflip with pike and double twist. This really is the most extraordinary backflip that I have seen in the Senate. Nothing would prevent Senator Coulter from reiterating the motion he moved three months ago.

  What has Senator Coulter called upon the Senate and the government to support? I will tell Senator Coulter in respect of his own state of South Australia. Roxby Downs, a South Australian uranium mine which is permitted to operate under the government's policy that he is calling on us to support this afternoon, has a 200-year lifespan. So, in complete contradiction to the motion Senator Coulter moved just three months ago, his motion today is calling on the government—and we will support it—to maintain uranium mining for export from his home state of South Australia for the next 200 years. I can assure Senator Coulter that I will be supporting that this afternoon.

  Senator Coulter knows, as everyone does, that this matter is one for the national conference of the Labor Party which is to be held later this year. The conference will make a decision, one way or the other, on the existing policy. My views on it are profoundly well known. I have grown old with this debate. Those views have been put on the public record many times. But I would like to take the opportunity to distance myself again as far as I possibly can from the idiot statements that were made by Senator Coulter's namesake, the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Barry Coulter, in a debate in the Northern Territory parliament.


Senator Coulter —I assure you he is no relation of mine.


Senator COLLINS —I know he is no relation. I never thought that for one minute from the first time I ever met Senator Coulter, which was during the Ranger inquiry, I believe.

  Senator Coulter interjecting


Senator COLLINS —That is right; we were both much younger and had more hair—none of it grey—and I was a lot slimmer in those days. It was 1972, was it not?


Senator Coulter —No, 1976.


Senator COLLINS —It was a long time ago. I have never suspected for a minute that Senator Coulter was even distantly related to Barry Coulter. Senator Tambling will be speaking in this debate. Frankly, I would be amazed if even Senator Tambling wanted to associate himself with the remarks that were made yesterday by Barry Coulter in the Northern Territory parliament for the simple reason that, unfortunately—and I do deeply regret what the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory said yesterday—these are the kinds of remarks that in fact kill this debate and have the contrary effect. What Barry Coulter said in the Northern Territory parliament yesterday was that nuclear weapons—


Senator Margetts —Nuclear weapons are good.


Senator COLLINS —Yes, that nuclear weapons were a good thing, and he applauded the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.


Senator Ian Macdonald —Tell us about your policy.


Senator COLLINS —That is appalling. Senator Macdonald would associate himself with those remarks, I have no doubt whatsoever. I have no doubt that he would warmly embrace nuclear weapons. He probably would like to go to bed with one every night. However, as a territorian who supports, as I have, an eventual change to the policy if the conference can be persuaded to do so—and my views on that are well known—I must dissociate myself from the statements made in that important debate in the Northern Territory parliament, which no doubt Senator Tambling will be referring to, because it does the debate no good at all. In fact, it helps to defeat the result.

  I condemn Barry Coulter for making those extreme statements in the Northern Territory parliament yesterday—statements which I am sure most responsible people who have a view on uranium would want to dissociate themselves from. I hope that Senator Tambling is in that category. I would hate to hear Senator Tambling say this afternoon that he supports those comments and believes nuclear weapons are `a good thing'. Nuclear weapons caused the most appalling historical tragedy that has ever been visited on the human race. Any sensible person would regret that they ever appeared or that they could again be responsible for the appalling loss of life of the sort that occurred at Hiroshima.

  I do not know how we can, with a straight face, debate such an extraordinary motion from Senator Coulter, knowing as I do his violent opposition to the uranium industry. Perhaps Senator Coulter, in his reply to this motion, will advise the Senate why he could not just as effectively have made the points he made in the debate this afternoon by bringing on again for debate a motion calling on the government—as he did three months ago—to abandon the policy and adopt a no-mines policy. Instead, he is now on the public record moving a motion calling for the government to maintain its existing policy of providing for the mining and export of uranium from his home state of South Australia for the next 200 years. I assure Senator Coulter that I will support that proposition this afternoon. I thank him for the opportunity to do so.