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URANIUM MINING IN OR NEAR AUSTRALIAN WORLD HERITAGE PROPERTIES (PROHIBITION) BILL 1998
- Parl No.
- Question No.
Allison, Sen Lyn
- System Id
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- Start of Business
- NOTICES OF MOTION
- ORDER OF BUSINESS
- URANIUM MINING IN OR NEAR AUSTRALIAN WORLD HERITAGE PROPERTIES (PROHIBITION) BILL 1998
- FILM CLASSIFICATION
- ONE NATION PARTY
- ORDER OF BUSINESS
EXCISE TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
TELECOMMUNICATIONS (CARRIER LICENCE CHARGES) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- CAPTIONING FOR THE DEAF AND HEARING IMPAIRED BILL 1998
- CARRIER LICENCE CONDITIONS DECLARATIONS
- SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (RETIREMENT ASSISTANCE FOR FARMERS) BILL 1998
- SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PENSION BONUS SCHEME) BILL 1998
- TELSTRA (TRANSITION TO FULL PRIVATE OWNERSHIP) BILL 1998
AUSTRALIAN PRUDENTIAL REGULATION AUTHORITY BILL 1998
AUTHORISED DEPOSIT-TAKING INSTITUTIONS SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
AUTHORISED NON-OPERATING HOLDING COMPANIES SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
SUPERANNUATION SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
RETIREMENT SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROVIDERS SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
LIFE INSURANCE SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
GENERAL INSURANCE SUPERVISORY LEVY IMPOSITION BILL 1998
FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS SUPERVISORY LEVIES COLLECTION BILL 1998
FINANCIAL SECTOR REFORM (AMENDMENTS AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 1998
PAYMENT SYSTEMS (REGULATION) BILL 1998
FINANCIAL SECTOR (SHAREHOLDINGS) BILL 1998
- FINANCIAL SECTOR REFORM (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1998
- MANAGED INVESTMENTS BILL 1997
- ORDER OF BUSINESS
INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT AMENDMENT BILL 1998
INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT CHARGE AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- AUSTRALIAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERING COUNCIL REPEAL BILL 1998
- TAX LAW IMPROVEMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- TAXATION LAWS (TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1997
- FISHERIES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- BALLAST WATER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FUNDING LEVY COLLECTION BILL 1997
- ELECTORAL AND REFERENDUM AMENDMENT BILL 1997
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(West, Sen Sue, Ellison, Sen Chris)
Mr Christopher Skase
(Ferris, Sen Jeannie, Vanstone, Sen Amanda)
(McKiernan, Sen James, Ellison, Sen Chris)
(MacGibbon, Sen David, Minchin, Sen Nick)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
(Evans, Sen Chris, Parer, Sen Warwick)
(Murray, Sen Andrew, Alston, Sen Richard)
Minister for Resources and Energy
(Faulkner, Sen John, Parer, Sen Warwick)
(Woodley, Sen John, Herron, Sen John)
(Collins, Sen Jacinta, Herron, Sen John)
Radio and Television Program Standards
(Calvert, Sen Paul, Alston, Sen Richard)
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
(Carr, Sen Kim, Alston, Sen Richard)
Howard Government: Accountability
(McGauran, Sen Julian, Hill, Sen Robert)
One Nation Preferences
(Faulkner, Sen John, Hill, Sen Robert)
- Employment Services
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- SENATORS' TRAVEL ALLOWANCES
- PARLIAMENTARIANS' TRAVEL COSTS
- TELSTRA (TRANSITION TO FULL PRIVATE OWNERSHIP) BILL 1998
- BUDGET 1997-98
- VETERANS' ENTITLEMENTS AMENDMENT (MALE TOTAL AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS BENCHMARK) BILL 1998
- SEXUALITY DISCRIMINATION BILL 1995 
- Pig Research and Development Corporation and Pig Research and Development Corporation Selection Committee
- Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Australian Industrial Registry
- Australian Pork Corporation
- Department of Industrial Relations
- Australian Political Exchange Council
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(O'Brien, Sen Kerry, Alston, Sen Richard)
Mining: Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme
(O'Brien, Sen Kerry, Parer, Sen Warwick)
East Gippsland, Tasmania and Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreements
(Brown, Sen Bob, Hill, Sen Robert)
Drought Exceptional Circumstances Program
(O'Brien, Sen Kerry, Parer, Sen Warwick)
- Australian National
Thursday, 28 May 1998
Senator ALLISON (9:36 AM) —I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
The purpose of this act is to spell out the terms of a prohibited activity in any part of a World Heritage Area. For the purposes of this act a prohibited activity means the mining, extraction, treatment and transport of any uranium or uranium bearing ore.
This bill is an attempt to protect, in particular, the Kakadu World Heritage Area from further uranium mining or milling, and from any transportation of uranium ore.
The strength of this act lies in its sensible and reasonable aims which are to prevent the tainting of a World Heritage Area by uranium mining and associated activities. Having a uranium mine in a World Heritage Area is like having a large industrial grease trap in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House. A rubbish dump in a church. A chemical factory in the Healesville sanctuary.
This bill is specifically about protecting superb world heritage areas, and in particular Kakadu World Heritage area, from the risks associated with uranium mining.
Kakadu is a magnificent National Park and World Heritage Area in the Northern Territory. It is one of only 17 World Heritage sites out of 440 globally which were inscribed for both outstanding natural and cultural heritage values according to the strict international criteria.
Kakadu was inscribed on the World Heritage register in 3 stages, 1981, 1987 and stage 3 in 1992 which included the controversial Coronation Hill area.
It contains magnificent wetlands, representatives of most of Australia's bird species. It protects almost the entire South Alligator River Catchment area, and is an area of great and abundant diversity.
From a cultural perspective I have viewed extensive rock art galleries there with art possibly dating back 40,000 years. It is a place where Aboriginal people live and interact with their environment and their heritage. Many Aboriginal people have told the Democrats over the years that it is a place they believe is too precious to be disrupted for a uranium mine.
The Government will argue that the local Aboriginal people will receive great benefits from the mine. Those benefits are supposed to flow from a minority percentage of the royalty equivalents. But in effect these payments are used to make up for the neglect by Territory and Commonwealth governments.
They are used as a justification for not giving funding from other sources for what could be best described as citizenship rights; for example basic health services, housing and basic infrastructure. The Northern Territory government and the Commonwealth governments have demonstrably and continually abrogated their responsibility for the traditional owners of Kakadu.
It is morally bankrupt for any Government in this nation, State, territory or Federal, to pressure Aboriginal people to agree to a uranium mine on their land so they can have some hope of getting basic services.
Yvonne Margarula, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Jabiluka area has done everything she can to protect her land. She has talked about her country to people all over the nation, she has quietly resisted the work started on the land, and she will not give up.
She is rightly concerned about the environmental and social impacts of the mine.
But the Government won't listen. They have tried to pretend there won't be any problems. They commissioned a social impact study that demonstrated the mine will not help the people of the area. They are working hand in hand with the company to force this mine through.
The Northern Territory government is also culpable. They have arrested Yvonne Margarula for walking on her own land. How can that be? How can the Senior Owner of land be arrested for walking on it?
How can this government spread the rot about native title that they do. These people have had native title for many years and they can't even stop a uranium mine on their land.
There are so many concerns about this mine.
One of the many concerns about uranium mining is the potential effect of radioactive spills of contaminated water and its mobilisation into the environment, particularly downstream in catchment areas.
The Government will also try to say there are no safety or environmental problems with mining uranium, they will say it is OK to take a chance on more mines in Kakadu. But remember this is a World Heritage area and you don't use Ming vases in a juggling act.
The 1985/86 Annual Report of the Office of the Supervising Scientist states:
"Disposal of uranium mill tailings in surface dams, no matter how well stabilised and protected, almost certainly involves the acceptance of eventual tailings release into the environment.
While this risk may be reduced. . . it is unlikely that any containment structure could remain totally impregnable to the natural processes of slow erosion over periods comparable to several half lives of the longest lived isotopes retained in the tailings"
Ranger and Narbarlek and the Jabiluka and Koongara deposits are in high rainfall catchment areas. Tailings from uranium extraction contain more than 70 per cent of the radioactivity of the original ore. Impacts from uranium mining and milling are measured in a geological time scale as half lives of radio nucleides and in many cases are measured in tens of thousands of years.
Unauthorised and authorised releases or spills have occurred at both Ranger and Narbarlek in the past. A notable spill at Narbarlek occurred as a result of a split in a pipeline allowing about 5kgs of tailings slurry to spray outside the Narbarlek restricted release zone.
In early 1995 during a heavy wet season, the management of Ranger applied to release contaminated water from Retention Pond 2 in the restricted release zone, which would have flowed into the Magela Creek system.
The Traditional owners of an area of Arnhem Land downstream from the mine in the Magela Creek region objected strongly to the release and sought an injunction to prevent the release from the Northern Territory Supreme Court which was heard on the 16th March.
The Judge rejected the application for a permanent injunction and effectively paved the way for the release of contaminated water saying `someone' had to explain to the traditional owners and affected peoples downstream that the releases were safe, because the scientists said so.
The traditional owners point out that if this contaminated radioactive water was to be put in the Sydney water and food supply there would be outrage, yet they were expected to support such a release. Fortunately the time involved in the court proceedings meant that the flow of the creek had slowed to the point that the Office of the Supervising Scientist advised against the release.
It is still possible that the Ranger management (or even the managers of other mines should they be approved by the Coalition Government), will request to release contaminated water in the future as it has stated it has only deferred the release.
This controversy followed earlier requests for release of contaminated water in 1986/87, and 1989. The 1989 incident Ranger released water by allowing it to overflow to a spillway into Djalk mara Billabong using the rationale that the Billabong would act as a filter for the water.
Despite the Office of the Supervising Scientist refusing to give approval, the Northern Territory Government did, and the release went ahead.
Following this incident, the Office of the Supervising Scientist released this statement in their 1988/89 report:
"Over the past year or so, Ranger/ERA has shown an increasing tendency to regard certain environmental requirements as `legal technicalities' the strict application of which ERA has described as an impediment to developing the Best Practicable Technology'. Ranger has been reluctant to adhere strictly to the ER's where compliance leads to operational inconvenience, or additional expenditure and it has disregarded technical advice from the OSS resulting in a number of incidents or deliberate actions whose environmental implications are undesirable".
For all these reasons, spills and the potential for more, the effect on the Aboriginal comminutes and the effect on one of the most precious places on earth, I ask all honourable Senators in this place to forget their party and industry allegiance just for one minute.
We've inherited unique, rich world, with clean rivers and seas, an abundance of life in all of its different forms and rich soils and resources. We have a chance, possibly unique, to protect this and to live in a way that protects it for future generations, to live simply so that others may simply live.
Think of the world you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren, the life chances you want them to have, the places you would like them to see, the experiences you would like them to enjoy. With all that in mind, let's be very clear, nuclear accidents sully and contaminate our environment and our very genetic blueprints on a time line measured in generations.
I am sure when you take the chance to honestly reflect on my words and on the content of this bill, you will all agree that Kakadu is too precious to put at risk, too precious to expose to further radioactive waste.
Now with the possibility of more uranium mining rearing its ugly head again in the Kakadu World Heritage Area, the Democrats are re-introducing a bill as we believe it is vitally important this mine does not go ahead.
As it now stands, the Australian people have an invaluable treasure-an area of unique scenic, archaeological and ecological importance.
In a report on archaeological research in Kakadu National Park, leading Australian archaeologist, Dr Rhys Jones, and Tia Negerevich wrote:
"Along the base of the great cliffs . . . are rock shelters which constitute one of the world's most important storehouses of information about the prehistory and the art of hunting and gathering man. In terms of the number and age of occupied rock shelters, and the staggering profusion and antiquity of the brilliant rock art sites, the Kakadu area can be compared with some of the classic archaeological locations of the world.
. . . in Kakadu, the Aboriginal owners are the direct descendants of the people who lived in the rock shelters and who painted the art . . . The conjunction of living Aboriginal traditions, and extremely diverse and rich landscape and the wealth of archaeological sites, some with proven antiquity back to 23,000 years ago, makes the Kakadu a key zone for research into the prehistory of Australia." (Rhys Jones and Negerevich)
The writers liken the importance of the Kakadu sites to the Dordogne cave paintings in France, with the added factor of the direct descent of the traditional owners from the inhabitants of the area over 23,000 years ago.
There would be a significant increase of dust in the atmosphere, and that, as well as other adverse ecological effects of such a mine would cause direct degradation of the archaeological sites, as well as the indirect degradation caused by scars on the landscape from roads to the mining area, noise and air pollution, and pollution of the water table. None of this must be allowed to occur. The area is of such obvious international significance that its inclusion in the World Heritage listing for Kakadu is utterly appropriate.
It is no good to say, we only produce uranium ore, or we only produce it for power, or our uranium can't go into weapons. The fact of the matter is, we are producing a material which will become waste which has to be dealt with and will last many thousands of years. The fact of the matter also is that there are no guarantees, no absolute guarantees that Australian Uranium is not being enriched, flag swapped and used in weapons manufacture.
We must be responsible with the uranium in this country, we must admit that it is producing waste and the effects of that waste in biological and environmental damage are measured in a geological time scale, not a human time scale.
The management and final disposal of radioactive waste has presented some of the most profound and enduring difficulties for nuclear power and uranium mining. This is in start contrast to the great improvements in managing and disposing of almost all other types of wastes created by modern societies.
Wastes from nuclear reactors have some of the very longest lived wastes and so need to be kept isolated from the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. It is virtually impossible to guarantee there will never be leaks, cracks, earthquakes, breakdown in maintenance or other occurrences which could cause leakage of the waste material in the time scale needed. Both ocean and land style disposal are being used globally for attempted disposal and there are many, many problems.
I would also anticipate an argument from the Government that our uranium is needed to fill a gap in the increasing demand for uranium for the power industry. However our information is that the industry is actually contracting.
Between 1994-2000 approximately 60 reactors globally will be past their design lifespan. There are 48 new reactors in the pipeline which are supposedly coming on stream between 1994-2000. Of the 48 planned perhaps as many as one third have financial or political problems and may not ever be completed. However there are also existing reactors being decommissioned which will be past their design lifespan. For example 10 plants in the US, 20 in the UK, 5 in Japan and 3 in Germany will be past their design lifespans Even assuming all 48 overcome financial and political problems there will still be 12 fewer by the year 2000 than there are now. Therefore reactor numbers and subsequently nuclear power is actually decreasing.
The current demand for uranium is about 60,000 tonnes per year globally taking into account the fact that new reactors initially use more because a full core load is needed. Supply at present is about 30,000 tonnes per year because a number of mines in Canada, the US, Australia and Kazakhstan operate at 50 per cent or less capacity. This is offset by large stockpiles and large quantities of enriched (in some cases up to 95 per cent) uranium on the marked from the USSR (between 500 and 700 tonnes) and the USA (600 tonnes).
Finally, we must remember that our uranium doesn't get special treatment in the case of theft or use for terrorism. This century has seen the proliferation of several terrorist friendly technologies--plastic explosives are one example. However some of the most potentially dangerous technologies are those associated with nuclear, biological and chemical means of warfare. Of these the worst scenarios are where terrorists achieve control over nuclear facilities, material or even weapons.
The disaster at Chernobyl was an accident; the deliberate destruction of an operating reactor's containment could have equally catastrophic consequences. These are problems recognised by many Governments in the world.
To sum up, there are simply no good arguments for Australia to sell its uranium overseas. To use the fatuous notion that if we don't sell it, some other country will and we won't get the money is like saying we should sell cocaine, or the Cartels in Colombia will sell it and we won't get the money. There are problems with the entire nuclear cycle, from producing and transporting the ore, to enrichment, to use, to waste and to disposal or use of that waste. And those problems are measured in our very genetic blueprints and in a timescale most of us can't imagine.
The Australian Democrats implore the Senate to deal responsibly with this vitally important legislation and ensure its speedy passage through both houses.
Debate (on motion by Senator Calvert) adjourned.