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Shadow Environment Minister discusses Kakadu mine and its future if ALP wins forthcoming election.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

The Hon. Duncan Kerr MP

Federal Member for Denison

 

Transcript of interview with Duncan Kerr, Shadow Minister for the Environment, and Sarah McDonald, JJJ morning show, Wednesday 3 June 1998

 

Subject: Jabiluka

 

 

 

 

McDonald:

 

Duncan Kerr you have heard Bob Brown, I suppose the simple question is, will you stop the mine in Kakadu if you do win power at the next federal election?

 

Kerr:

 

What we have said is that unless every step has been completed, every hurdle that must be got over so that this mine would have to be regarded as an existing mine, we will stop it and there are still many steps to go.

 

McDonald:

 

Well Philip Shirvington the head of ERA said yesterday on Darwin Radio that everything will be done before the next election. All the environmental impact statements, every hurdle will be cleared.

 

Kerr:

 

Well I think he is jumping the gun. At the moment there is an environmental assessment process on what is probably the most significant element of the mine yet to be really begun. Submissions closed on the 1 st June and we would think it would take at least several months to give the process any kind of credibility so that the Northern Territory approval was a formal step, entirely predictable.

 

The Northern Territory Government is engaged in a pretty desperate act and supporting a pretty desperate Government, knowing the ALP’s position on Jabiluka, with a Federal election around the corner they are desperate to push a start, but not let’s kid ourselves there are a serious number of hurdles yet to be cleared including the undertaking by ERA to give the traditional owners seven days notice of any intention to start which allows them to take legal action and also of course the Federal environment processes that have to be cleared. They have hardly begun.

 

McDonald:

 

Many people are saying these environmental impact studies that have been done and the studies that are still to be done, many environmentalists and scientists are saying they are not adequately done and that they have been rushed through. Even if all of these hurdles are jumped and cleared before the next election, could Labor stop the mine on the grounds that the EIS and the environmental studies weren’t adequate.

 

Kerr:

 

Well I think that if there is plainly a manipulation of a process to avoid legal and proper processes, in other words if the processes are shonky ones, that’s an issue we will have to address, but I don’t think that anyone would say that an environmental process of the milling operation that will now have to take place at the Jabiluka site would be capable of being undertaken without a very substantial amount of analysis, base line studies and substantial work. Now that’s necessary because the mine cannot proceed under its original plan of milling the ore at the Ranger site, the traditional owners have ruled that out and the statement by the mine proponents really tries to skirt around that issue.

 

McDonald:

 

But Duncan Kerr, it doesn’t really, Bob Brown says it doesn’t matter. If Philip Shirvington thinks that ERA will jump all the hoops and it will start mining before the next election. Let’s assume that they do

 

Kerr:

 

Well that’s not

 

McDonald:

 

Well we have covered the one scenario that they won’t and then you will stop the mine.

 

Kerr:

 

Sarah please, because lets deal with this issue as it is most likely to be at the next election.

 

McDonald:

 

Well we have and you have said that you will stop the mine

 

Kerr:

 

Which will be a referendum that the Australian public can decide about the future of mining in Kakadu. And might I say this that I think it is really important that we understand that prior to the last election, the Labor Party had invested an enormous amount of political capital in protecting the World Heritage Area in Kakadu. I mean that after all we stopped mining at Coronation Hill, we have committed ourselves root and branch against the opening of a new uranium mine and we have said that unless a mine is an existing operation at the time of our election, no uranium mining will proceed. This one is even worse.

 

McDonald:

 

Alright, that is very clear to us all now. If the mine does get up before the next election, Bob Brown says you can still stop it even if building has started and all the impact statements have been gone through. He says you can still stop it because you have the powers to do that like you did in Tasmania with the Franklin Dam.

 

Kerr:

 

I have just got to say

 

McDonald:

 

Why not make that commitment now. You have made the commitment that you will stop it if the building hasn’t started, why not make the commitment the other way as Bob Brown is asking you to do. You would get all those green preferences at the election.

 

Kerr:

 

Well Bob won’t even say that, but let me say this that I think that the Green movement has a lot to answer for because at the last election it was very ambiguous about where to direct preferences. The Wilderness Society and Bob and a number of other people left messages that suggested that the election of a Liberal Government would not be adverse to the environment. In other words they said, you could vote confidently for a Liberal Government. Now we were saying to them at that time that you are opening the door to a Government that is completely indifferent to the environment. That they would trample on everything that you believe in, but many thousands of environmentalists were led down the garden path and gave their support to the Liberal Party on the basis of what I thought was a very bad judgement by the Green movement at a national leadership level. Now we can’t fix everything that a Liberal Government does, but what we can do is to say absolutely and transparently that if there remains one step to be cleared, that mine will not go ahead and the miners are on notice, I mean both Stephen Smith and myself have been blunt about this. Stephen Smith, our Resources Spokesperson has addressed the Uranium Industry Conference and made that transparently clear. I have been to Jabiluka, I have been on the blockade, I have been to the mine site and I have made that absolutely clear to the mine management.

 

McDonald:

 

And you don’t think that they have time before the next election.

 

Kerr:

 

I don’t believe that there is a chance that that mine can be at a stage where it would have all those approvals settled before the next election, particularly if the next election is imminent. It would only be remotely feasible if the election is stretched in to early next year. At the moment all the signs are for an early election and that will give the Australian public a stark contrast and an opportunity to decide between these very contrasting positions and the community can make it a referendum on the future of this mine.

 

McDonald:

 

Right, well I’m sure we will be talking to you because there will be other issues in the campaign to talk about as well as the Jabiluka uranium mine.

 

Kerr:

 

Absolutely, and thank you very much Sarah