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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 2832


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:39): I join my colleague Senator Ludlam in opposing this legislation. I take up the point at the end of Senator Minchin's very sharp and well-delivered speech where he said, in advocating that this bill pass expeditiously: imagine how long it is going to take to build a nuclear power station after the length of time it has taken to establish a nuclear waste dump. Therein lies an enunciation of the fear that so many people have about a nuclear waste dump being put 'in the desert', as Senator Minchin puts it—that is, in this ecosystem in the Northern Territory.

This is not as innocent as it looks. This is a proposal to put low-level waste from medical facilities or whatever into a place that is out of the range of most city dwellers but on the land of Indigenous people in Central Australia, against the wishes of people in the region that is being targeted by this legislation. But what Senator Minchin has clearly outlined is a proposal that in future this waste dump also be the repository for waste coming from the proliferation of nuclear power stations in Australia. We do not need long memories to go back to the Howard proposal, in the run-up to the 2007 election, that there be up to 25 nuclear power stations around Australia, close to—for grid reasons and because they are cooled by water—existing major population centres. It is very much alive and on the agenda of the alternative government of this country that nuclear power stations will come down the line, despite what we have seen unfold in Japan in recent months.

It is as if on the benches opposite there is an inability to grasp the threat to humanity of the whole nuclear power cycle. I want to talk about that for a moment, because a former Prime Minister approached me recently proposing that Australia become a nuclear waste dump for the whole world and the money coming from such a nuclear waste dump be put to environmental purposes. I said: 'Well, Bob, how can that be? The environmental threat of a nuclear waste dump feeding a nuclear industry on the planet far outrides any monetary advantage that might be put into the environment itself.' Let us make no mistake: Muckaty Station is targeted not just for a low-level or even medium-level nuclear waste dump, as proposed in this legislation, but to become the Australian repository of waste from a nuclear industry which has huge plans afoot for nuclear power stations in this country. At the highest levels of corporate thinking is the proposal that this waste dump become a global nuclear waste dump. And (a) leads to (b) leads to (c). You cannot see this legislation divorced from that intent. Senator Minchin has just given a clear indicator of how live and prospective these proposals are.

Senator Ludlam has done an enormous amount of work in evaluating this proposal and has outlined more specific and local reasons for not going ahead with it. Senator Minchin has condemned the South Australian government for opposing north-east South Australia as a site for a nuclear waste dump, and I add this: every reason that the Rann government gave for opposing a nuclear waste dump in north-east South Australia applies to this proposal in the Northern Territory. It is simply a case of the Commonwealth having the power over the Territory that it does not have in overriding a state interest. What is good enough for South Australia is good enough for the Northern Territory.

Debate interrupted.