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Shadow Minister is concerned by decision to construct eight State nuclear waste dumps; believes local governments should be involved in their location.

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Wednesday 14 July 2004

Shadow Minister is concerned by decision to construct eight State nuclear waste dumps; believes local governments should be involved in their locatio n


TONY EASTLEY: The Opposition's science spokesman is Senator Kim Carr from Victoria. He says the Howard Government's decision is a cynical manipulation of policy purely for election purposes. He joins us live on the line now. 


(to Kim Carr) Senator Carr,
what's your reaction on this? 


KIM CARR: Well it's obviously good news for the people of South Australia. The Labor Party has campaigned for a very long time not to have a national waste dump in South Australia. We support a national waste dump; we agree with the minister that this is the best approach.  


It's quite clear that the Government now has acknowledged its complete failure. The incompetence of this Government is demonstrated now for all to see.  


We have a situation however, where the waste that is being stored around the country in filing cabinets, in hospital basements and a whole lot of other places, needs to be dealt with. It has to go somewhere. Ninety per cent of that waste is Commonwealth waste. It is a complete farce for this Government now to say, instead of one waste dump we're going to have eight. This is an extraordinary admission of failure.  


TONY EASTLEY: Okay, so you're in favour of a national repository. Where do you put it? 


KIM CARR: We say that there has to be a process of genuine consultation. We work with local governments, we provide infrastructure and jobs and we believe that there are opportunities there that some local government areas are actually interested in taking up.  


The approach that the Commonwealth has taken, and still is taking I might add… 


TONY EASTLEY: But all of those things have been done and they've come back with the idea… 


KIM CARR: No they haven't. 


TONY EASTLEY: No, but the initiatives with local councils and discussions have been undertaken and they've come up with the idea of putting it in the South Australian outback. 


KIM CARR: No, on the contrary. 


What happened was the South Australian was selected by the Commonwealth and there was an attempt made to impose this decision. And the Minister is now saying, yet again, that that's the approach they are going to take - that the Commonwealth will identify the site and tell people that they're going to have to cop it.  


We say that's not the approach to take. You should work with local government authorities; you should indicate to them the benefits in terms of infrastructure and jobs, in terms of looking after this material, which must be dealt with. 


TONY EASTLEY: Where do you think would be a good place for the repository? 


KIM CARR: There are many sites in the country that have been identified as potentials and meet the scientific criteria. The approach this Government is taking has got nothing to do with science, nothing to do with the national interest, and everything to do with the marginal seat interests of a desperate government.  


What is now at risk also is Lucas Heights, because what's being said by the regulator is that without a national strategy for the dealing with radioactive waste, there won't be a new license issued.  


So not only has the Government's incompetence put a position where 12 years of work now has to be put aside, but the reactor - the new reactor at Lucas Height - is also at risk. 


TONY EASTLEY: Now just harking back to what Senator Nick Minchin said. He attested that the former Federal Labor governments have favoured South Australia as a site. 


KIM CARR: Well I'm saying to you that the whole approach was determined by this Government, not the previous government. It was determined by this Government - they selected the site. They of course, until a few months ago, had the perfect site. They had to change that because they built in on a line with a rocket range and now they of course have had to abandon it because of the court action, which only till very recently they said they were going to appeal to the High Court.  


What you've got here is a catalogue of administrative failure and political incompetence, predicated on the assumption by the Commonwealth that they will force people to know what's best for them and that now has been demonstrated for all to see as a complete failure.  


TONY EASTLEY: Kim Carr, you say that the low radioactive waste is stored away in cupboards and filing cabinets around the country in different areas of states; wouldn't your consultation of various state areas just draw the problem out? How long will it take for Labor to come up with an answer for a national repository? 


KIM CARR: Well we now have a situation where the Commonwealth is faced with exactly the same position because they now have to identify an alternative site. They have a situation where 90 per cent of the 3,700 cubic metres, which is Commonwealth waste from the CSIRO, from Lucas Heights, from the Defence Department, all has to be attended to. So, they got exactly the same problem.  


I say instead of trying to impose solutions on people, you work with them, you have a genuine consultation process, you ensure that the infrastructure and other job opportunities that arise from the construction and maintenance and securing of this material is all put on the table and just see how many people come forward. 


TONY EASTLEY: Okay, we'll have to leave it there.  


Opposition science spokesman, Senator Kim Carr.