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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5382


Senator LUDLAM (1:15 PM) —I rise to speak again, as I have already done a few times in the last 13 months in here, about radioactive matters of public interest. I want to point out that, until very recently, the ALP national policy platform described quite coherently the processes by which the current government would be identifying suitable sites for radioactive waste dumps in Australia. To borrow some of the language there, they should be ‘scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allow access to appeal mechanisms’. That is very similar to the way the Australian Greens believe matters of radioactive waste disposal should be treated. Unfortunately, these words can no longer be cited as government policy or ALP policy on radioactive waste. These words were so incompatible with the approach taken in the last 18 months—almost two years—by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, that he had the recent ALP national conference remove those words from the policy. I wonder why on earth he would want to do that.

We know that what John Howard when he was Prime Minister decided to do with Australia’s nuclear waste was pretty close to the formula that has been tried many times around the world and has been tried previously in Australia as well: to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community—out of sight, out of mind, as those people’s homes and lands are nowhere and they are nobody. We had the quite stark comment by various ministers in the Howard government: ‘Why can’t a place in the middle of nowhere have a radioactive waste dump?’ That form of thinking took legal effect in the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005. That act was drawn up to do exactly that and was further strengthened late in 2006 so that sites nominated by land councils could be added to the list that the Howard government had chosen, even in the absence of consultation and consent from traditional owners and local people. At that point one extra property was added to the list.

At the time the Greens were opposed to the addition of the fourth proposed radioactive waste dump site in the Northern Territory and some ALP MPs at the time said that the legislation that passed through here was draconian, sordid, arrogant and profoundly shameful. Of course, they were right. What we have now is a minister in the Rudd government explicitly continuing the policy of the Howard government in this respect, to the degree that the ALP policy actually changed over the last few weeks to more closely reflect what is actually occurring on the ground. We have seen an incredible unwillingness to engage with the Greens and the community groups active around Australia with an interest in these issues. Most importantly, there has been a total unwillingness and failure to engage with the people who live there: the traditional owners of that country—and, of course, I am referring to Muckaty station, which is not far from Tennant Creek.

What we have seen from Minister Martin Ferguson is a real unwillingness to acknowledge the consensus recommendations from the committee report that exposed exactly how bad the process was that had been initiated by the Howard government in 2005. Very close attention was paid to the Muckaty station situation in the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts inquiry on this matter, which I participated in. The results in that consensus document were quite acceptable to me and the Australian Greens, saying that we need a completely new approach to radioactive waste because every time governments have chosen the coercive approach in dumping a facility like this on a community it has resulted in a complete failure. That has happened in Australia several times that I am aware of. Most notably was the Pangea proposal in Western Australia—and it took about 18 months to send them packing—and the equally coercive proposal to dump Australia’s domestic radioactive waste in South Australia. That proposal was defeated because of very strong community work by local people.

I believe that is exactly the result that is going to occur here. The people around Muckaty and the other three sites that were targeted by the Howard government and are now being targeted by Minister Martin Ferguson of course are leading a very spirited defence of their country and asking for nothing more than the stress and uncertainty to be lifted from their communities and for a decent process, which was promised to them before the election, to be enacted to deal with the very serious and difficult question of radioactive waste. I have a letter here that was sent to the minister by 57 traditional owners from the Muckaty area. All of them are part of the Muckaty Land Trust, including some from one of the groups that the Northern Land Council believe are proposing a radioactive waste dump and are quite happy to have one there. This letter was sent to the minister on 8 May—and it was cced to me at the time—and they have not yet received a reply. It is asking for Minister Ferguson, Peter Garrett and others to come up to Muckaty, sit down with them on country and have the conversation face to face about what they really believe, because they are faced with the situation of having white politicians and bureaucrats thousands of kilometres away seeking to impose the nation’s most dangerous industrial waste on their land without so much as the courtesy of a visit to tell them what is proposed.

This letter is quite elegant. There is an edge of despair to it in that all these people are seeking is face-to-face dialogue with the minister who is seeking to impose this facility on their country. The last paragraph of the letter states:

We are making a strong effort to tell you that we don’t want the waste dump coming into our land. We want you and Peter Garrett to take it in your minds, in your brains and in your heart to think about us and to have your tongue ready to say ‘no waste dump in the Northern Territory’.

That letter is signed by 57 traditional owners from the Muckaty Land Trust, who are absolutely implacably against the imposition of a radioactive waste dump on their country. I seek leave of the Senate to table this letter.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Carol Brown)—Is leave granted?


Senator McEwen —We have not been given the courtesy of seeing the letter. Once I have seen it, I will make a decision on behalf of the government.

Leave not granted.


Senator LUDLAM —This is an example of exactly the sort of situation that we face here. It is a letter from the traditional owners of the Muckaty Land Trust area who are seeking no more than to have their words read into the parliamentary record. Senator McEwen chaired the inquiry last year and well knows that the voice of these people needs to be heard.


Senator McEwen —Now that I have seen the letter, I am happy to grant leave for it to be tabled.


Senator Mason —Madam Acting Deputy President, I also ask to look at the letter before we grant leave.


Senator LUDLAM —One of the things that the Senate committee did undertake to do last year was to hear for the first time the opinions of some of the people whose words appear in the letter that I am seeking to table this afternoon. They have never before been asked about this matter. Their opinions have never been sought in the debate over their land. I strongly believe that, if it were proposed that this sort of facility be dumped on one of our major metropolitan areas, there would be major national political campaigns underway, at the very least, to have the voices and the opinions of the local people heard. I wonder whether I can now get an indication from the opposition as to whether leave will be granted.


Senator Mason —Yes.


Senator LUDLAM —I thank the Senate.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Carol Brown)—Senator Ludlam, if you want the text of the letter to be incorporated in Hansard, you need to seek leave to incorporate. If you want to seek leave to table the letter, that means it will go off to the archives, as I understand it. Are you seeking leave to incorporate?


Senator LUDLAM —I am, if that is the will of the Senate.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows—

Minister Martin Ferguson

Suite MF 23

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

Ph: 02 6277 7930

Fax: 02 6273 0434

Martinferguson.MP@aph.gov.au

Cc: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Minister Peter Garrett, Minister Warren Snowdon, Senator Trish Crossin, NLC CEO Kim Hill, NLC Chairman Wali Wunungmurra, Senator Scott Ludlam.

May 8, 2009

To Minister Martin Ferguson,

We are Traditional Owners from the Muckaty Land Trust.

We want you to read this letter and not put it on your table and put it away in the archives, we want you to read it.

Try and make an effort to come down and talk to us. We want to invite you and Minister Peter Garrett to come out in the second week in June, on the 12th -14th, to come out here and come face to face with Traditional Owners.

The Traditional Owners will be the Ngapa, Yapa Yapa, Wirntiku, Ngarrka and Milwayi groups from Muckaty. We want to show you what are we talking about and why are we talking about it.

We want our land to stay in one position, we want our land to be safe so we can have a better place to live in and a better place to go and have a look around the beautiful land.

The old Warlmanpa people really want to see government people come out so we can talk face to face with them without writing letters, because we don’t even know what Martin Ferguson looks like.

We want you to come face to face - you don’t even know what we look like, we’ve only seen each other on TV or whatever, but we want to see each other face to face where we can have a few questions to ask why you are not listening to the biggest forum of people.

We are inviting you to come along for a challenge. The challenge that we want to do is to let you know that we are the Traditional Owners. As the Warlmanpa group, we want to tell you what the country means with the designs and with the paints we have on our body. We want to do the body painting to tell the story about the land, and show you that Milwayi is the main place.

We want you to know that Traditional Owners are waiting to show you that the country means something to them. That is why we want you to come along and to see because we don’t want that rubbish dump to be here in Muckaty area.

We want Amy Lauder to come along. We want Amy Lauder to come and see what we have got for her and we want her to talk first. Martin Ferguson and Peter Garrett, you come out to the front and listen and from there when she finished talking, we will have Mark Lane or Dianne Stokes or Sammy Sambo talk and then we are going to open up the meeting.

After that we want to get our groups out then and you can see that we are protesting through the body painting, to tell you that we don’t need the waste dump to come to the land.

We want you to hang around and watch us what we do and then we want to tell you what the story means, and what it is and who it belongs to.

Martin Ferguson, we want you to come here, we know you will be in Darwin just before that, we want you to come here. That’s only a one-day trip to see what we do.

Martin Ferguson you travel overseas, you have been in China lately and we want you to come to the local Territory, to come and visit us in the centre of the heart of Tennant Creek. We want you to make an effort just to come here, its not costing about $3000 or $4000 to travel overseas, it’s only into one state, in the Northern Territory.

We want the Northern Land Council, our representatives Warren Snowdon and Trish Crossin and the Greens Senator to come and listen as well.

Come to our beautiful Tennant Creek, visit our beautiful Tennant Creek, come there and listen to us, the Traditional Owners that we are fighting against the waste dump.

We are making a strong effort to tell you that we don’t want the waste dump coming into our land. We want you and Peter Garrett to take it in your minds, in your brains and in your heart to think about us and to have your tongue ready to say ‘no waste dump in the Northern Territory’.

Please reply to this invitation c/o Gerry McCarthy,

Northern Territory Member for Barkly

114 Paterson Street ,Tennant Creek, NT, 0860.

Tel: 08 8962 2205 , Fax: 08 8962 3008

electorate.barkly@nt.gov.au

Signed

Name, Family Group

Lindsay Crane, Wirntikku

Sammy Sambo, Milwayi

Louie Martin, Ngamka

Susan Nelson

Marie Louise Murphy, Ngamka

Ross Williams Jakamarra, Ngamika

Beasley Anderson, Ngapa

Ricky Anderson, Ngapa

Stewart Anderson, Ngapa

Ann Anderson, Ngapa

Sonia Anderson, Ngapa

Samule Anderson, Ngapa

Joshua Anderson, Ngapa

Aaron Anderson, Ngapa

Carmen Anderson, Ngapa

Bruce Anderson, Ngapa

Mark Chungaloo, Milwayi

Shirley Anderson, Ngapa

Heather Anderson, Ngapa

Ray Stokes, Yapa Yapa

Mark Lane, Ngapa

Desmond Sambo, Milwayi

Cyrile Anderson, Ngapa

Sherly Anderson Ngapa

Desley Anderson, Ngapa

Tony Cutta, Ngapa

William Phillips, Wirntikku

Brian Williams, Milwayi

Janet Mick Thompson, Milwayi

Bobby Thompson, Milwayi

Stan Stokes, Yapa Yapa

Joesphine Grant, Wirntikku

Gladys Brown, Milwayi

Betty Kelly, Ngarrka

Janine Lane, Ngapa

Sally Sambo, Milwayi

Christine Chungaloo, Milwayi

Marie Rennie, Wirntikku

Isobel Phillips, Wirntikku

Delaine Cutta, Ngapa

Olive Weston, Ngapa

Anna Weston, Ngapa

Bessie Graham, Ngarrka

Derek Weston, Ngapa

Henry Weston, Ngapa

Frankie Weston, Ngapa

Leon Stokes, Yapa Yapa

Jeffrey Holt, Yapa Yapa

Dianne Williams

Dianne Dickenson

Doreen Murphy

Janice Rankine

Hannah Williams

Beverley Williams

Joan Stokes, Yapa Yapa

Dianne Stokes, Yapa Yapa


Senator LUDLAM —I thank the Senate. Senators would now be aware that, until this matter is resolved, the Australian Greens will continue to raise it. (Time expired)