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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 1491

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (13:13): I thank the minister for those comments. As profoundly unsatisfying as they may be, at least they are on the record. The minister made a couple of points that cannot go unanswered. Just because we have been at this process for a while, Minister—through you, Chair—that does not make it a good process. It is a process that, from opposition, you described as 'sordid' and 'profoundly shameful'. It was something on which you attacked coalition MPs, including Senator Scullion—good afternoon, Senator Scullion—who has joined us to conclude the debate. Minister, you attacked the coalition when they instituted this precise process. So, yes, it has been going for years and, yes, we have been opposing it, because it is a rotten process.

   I think it thoroughly exemplifies all the things that you could do poorly. The reason it has taken so long is that people have been pouring sand into the gears, whether they are legal challenges in the Federal Court, demonstrations right around the country, resolutions by quite powerful unions around the country or a fantastic community campaign that has sprung up to oppose this thing. A big part of the reason that you are so far behind is that you are going the wrong way. We have effectively been trying to save the government from itself, simply bringing it back to where it was in opposition, which we supported. As soon as Labor got into government it turned around and simply perpetuated a rotten process that was not starting from the point of view of consent at all.

You note that ARPANSA are the ones who will be responsible for organising the social licence and the community consent that I was talking about. Does the minister consider that it might be somewhat backwards for the minister to say it is going to Muckaty, 'There you go, ARPANSA. Go and consult'? There is something a little bit awkward about the cause and effect there—that the government will decide where it will go and then it will consult at you until you consent. That is why this process has gone so badly off the rails. Perhaps the minister did not recognise exactly what it was that the Greens were trying to do, because we do not have a foregone conclusion. There is nothing in this amendment that says: 'At the end of this commission's process it will go where we decided it was going to go all along.' There is no preordained conclusion to this amendment. The idea is to come at it with an open mind and not ask: 'Which remote Aboriginal community should host radioactive waste until the end of time?'

You will not find a target or a postcode or a set of geographical coordinates in our amendment, because they are not there. We are not ready to make the decision to dump this material in a remote community. That case has never been made. In fact, the opposite case has been made. Witnesses from ANSTO told me: 'Look, this is just political. This is not about engineering. It is about getting it as far from white people as possible.' That is a horrendous agenda. The language of the bill that we are looking at has many references to Aboriginal communities and land councils. Why? What is the assumption that it has to be as far away from the centres of population as possible? That is what people are asking me when I go to Tennant Creek. That is what they would ask Minister Ferguson if he took the time to go there as well.

This process has been dismissed, more or less, out of hand by the minister, as the government have already made up their minds: 'It's going to go there. We'll consult once the minister's decided where it's going to go.' That is why you have a fight on your hands. I commend these amendments to the chamber.

Question negatived.