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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26352

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (3:37 PM) —by leave—This statement is made on behalf of Senator Nick Minchin, the Minister for Finance and Administration. The order arises from a motion moved by Senator Allison, as agreed by the Senate on 11 August 2004, and it relates to a request for a document containing Commonwealth sites, including offshore islands and territories, listed as potential sites for the storage of nuclear waste.

On behalf of Senator Minchin I wish to inform the Senate of the reasons why it is not possible to table a return to order. Last month the Prime Minister announced that the government had decided to abandon the establishment of a national low-level radioactive waste repository at site 40a, which is near Woomera in South Australia. This announce-ment was made in light of the recent Federal Court decision and the effective failure of the states and territories to cooperate with the Australian government in finding a national solution for the safe and secure disposal of low-level radioactive waste. Instead, the gov-ern-ment will build a Commonwealth radioactive waste facility on Commonwealth land for the management of both low-level and inter-mediate-level radioactive waste generated by Australian government departments and agencies.

At this stage the government does not have a short list of possible locations for the Commonwealth's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste management facility. Assessment of possible sites on Commonwealth land, both onshore and offshore, is required before the government makes any further decision about sites that may be considered potentially suitable for such a facility. Given the government's pre-existing commitment not to locate the national intermediate waste store in South Australia, the new radioactive waste management facility will not be located in South Australia.

In April 2003, following assessment of Commonwealth land around Australia for suitability for the national store for intermediate-level waste, the National Store Advisory Committee, a group of experts advising the government on site selection, provided the Minister for Science with advice on sites for further consideration. This consideration of sites was in the context of the national store for intermediate-level waste alone, and was prior to the Prime Minister's announcement last month to co-locate the Commonwealth's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste facilities. It is now likely that the National Store Advisory Committee's advice on the national store for intermediate-level waste will be used in the new site selection process which is currently under way. I therefore consider the committee's advice to be in the nature of opinion, advice or recommendations for the purposes of the government's deliberative processes and that tabling the advice would not be in the public interest at this stage.