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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Page: 3086


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:56): To conclude my contribution to the second reading debate on the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 and the opposition that I share with Senator Ludlam and the Greens to the establishment of a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory, there is a curious piece of history here. Some years ago I was speaking to Premier Rann in South Australia when it was proposed by the Howard government that a nuclear waste dump be established in the north-east of that state. In the wake of the High Court ruling on the Franklin, which went into matters of who has control over resources and land management in this country, I suggested to him that it would be very difficult for the Commonwealth to impose a nuclear waste dump on a sovereign state of the Commonwealth, like South Aust­ralia. To cut a long story short, South Aust­ralia did take legal opposition to that pro­posal; whatever influence I may or may not have had on it, it took that opposition. Unfortunately, it has led to this situation where the Gillard government is moving to override the people of the Northern Territory and their elected assembly to impose a waste dump there, because constitutionally the Com­monwealth is able to legislate for territories—notwithstanding the assembly. What is being used here is a legal con­venience to impose a waste dump on the Northern Territory, which the Com­mon­wealth would not be able to impose on New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tas­mania, South Australia or Western Australia. It is unfair, it is imprudent and it is not ethical for the Commonwealth to be doing that.

Senator Ludlam has proposed an alternative process paralleling that which is underway in the United Kingdom. But let us take one step back from the search for the answer to the storage of nuclear waste, because there is no good answer, and that is to question the accruing usage of nuclear options in a world which would be better off nuclear free. President Obama has pointed to the nuclear industry and nuclear technology as perhaps the greatest threat to humankind in the 21st century. That is saying something in a century which is challenged by over­population, climate change, destruction of fisheries, loss of arable land, growing food prices and an inability for human beings to be able to settle matters without resorting to the use of weapons. What Obama was pointing to was the highly concerning, potential use of nuclear weapons in the coming century. You might say, 'Well, what has a radioactive waste dump got to do with that?' The answer is: the more we make the facility readily available and commercially available for the depositing in the future of high-level radioactive waste—not just med­ium- and low-level radioactive waste—the more we facilitate an industry which is not necessary, which is dangerous and for which there are better alternatives, whether you are looking at energy production or not.

Our submission is simple. This nuclear waste dump should not be being focused on the Northern Territory or forced on it against its will. It certainly should not be forced on the people of Muckaty—nor should they be inveigled into it—when their will is certainly not in unison on the matter and there are thoughtful people who do not want radioactive waste on their land.

I commend the work that Senator Ludlam has done on this legislation. He has travelled a great deal. He has spent time on-site and he knows how the people in the region and in the Northern Territory—and, indeed, in Australia generally—feel about this proposal, which is a hangover from the Howard era. Yesterday we heard Senator Minchin's proposal—as ever, he was not beating about the bush; I have to give him that—for a future for Australia with nuclear reactors. It is tied in to this proposal before us today.

We do not want and are not supporting nuclear reactors in this country and we are certainly not supporting this proposal for a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.