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Nuclear Waste Dump one step closer for Australia

category indonesia / philippines / australia | environment | news report author Monday November 07, 2005 07:47author by Takver and Alice Action - Anarkismo Report this post to the editors

Nelson Steamrolls Territory on Nuclear Waste Dump

Published in Melbourne Indymedia 3 November 2005

While everyone was busy with the Melbourne Cup, Industrial Relations or terrorism bills, a nuclear waste dump for the Northern Territory moved one step closer with the passing in the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2005. The bill was introduced by Science and Education Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, with widespread opposition by the Territory Government and aboriginal and environmental groups.

The nuclearisation of Australia is proceeding despite opposition to the public relations campaign being run by the nuclear industry. When it was first introduced in October there were strong objections from traditional owners and the NT Government that a nuclear waste dump poses health and environmental risks.

There were protests through No Nuke Dump website. As late as 30 September 2004 Territorians were assured by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell, that no Waste Dump was being planned for mainland Australia, including the Territory.

Peter Garrett, Labor MP, said in parliament on the 1st November opposing the bill: «This government continues to make a mockery of the principle of informed consent, of community participation and of respect for the wishes and interests of Aboriginal people in this country. This government has trampled Aboriginal people’s rights underfoot, unaware, it seems, that this is people’s country where these proposed radioactive waste sites would be—country that connects intimately and in a long and continuing strain to their culture. It is country that they have only recently been able to have access to or be around. It is country that is absolutely integral and critical to their sense of who they are as a people and to their confidence as a community to build and to plan their own futures».

Garret stated that the Act «overrides important laws that already exist, such as the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act, which this parliament has passed in order to ensure proper safeguarding of the environment.» The government’s only Territory MP, David Tollner from the Country Liberal Party, proposed Amendments to the bill which were accepted. These changes included specifically banning the storage of high-level waste, allowing the territory government or a land council to nominate a storage site, and allowing territory waste to be stored without charge. The Federal Government has final say and can over-ride any proposed alternate site suggested by the Chief Minister.

Three sites for the dump are currently under consideration:

Mount Everard and Harts Range near Alice Springs, and Fishers Ridge near Katherine. According to a report in the Age The Northern Land Council says traditional owners in Arnhem Land are open to discussions with the Government, but the Central Land Council says traditional owners in Harts Range and Mount Everard are against it. In a press conference on Thursday, November 3, Traditional owners voiced their disgust about having the facility forced on them. The seven senior men and women from the Harts Range and Mount Everard areas near Alice Springs called on the Territory’s CLP Senator Nigel Scullion to cross the floor and vote against the dump legislation in the Senate.

The traditional owners told the media they are concerned about safety and the future security of a nuclear waste dump, the waste being transported on the roads that they use every day, the negative impact on businesses like Alcoota Aboriginal Corporation’s cattle company, the impact on their traditional country and the ability to hunt and get bush tucker, pollution of the water in the event of an accident and the future for their grandchildren.

Chairman of the Alcoota Aboriginal Corporation, William Tilmouth said that the company was extremely worried about its beef sales if there was a nuclear waste dump nearby. «Other pastoralists have also expressed concern over the perception by the public that the beef will be contaminated. The cattle industry out here prides itself on being clean and green.» He commented further that «We were lied to before the last election. Even Dave Tollner admitted that on Stateline last week. Now is the time for Senator Scullion to stand up for his constituents in Central Australia and cross the floor,” Mr Tilmouth said.

Senator Scullion has stated that he would support the legislation.

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta – a council of senior Aboriginal women from outback town Coober Pedy in South Australia, are heading to Alice Springs to launch their book, “TALKING STRAIGHT OUT”, about their campaign which stopped a nuclear waste dump in SA. They commented «This is a big story. You don’t have to start at the beginning; we’ve already done a lot of work,» The Kungkas will meet with Traditional Owners of the two proposed sites while visiting the Alice. In October the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said it was appalled at the Federal Government legislation with it being a heavy-handed and undemocratic move. «It overrides any laws or concerns about land use, environmental consequences, heritage values, regulations, Indigenous issues,» said a spokesperson. «It overrides and extinguishes native title rights and interests. And it removes people’s rights and recourse to law and procedural fairness.» Peter Robertson from the Northern Territory Environment Centre said there are no details limiting the size of a nuclear waste facility planned for the Territory and the site could just continue to expand. «There’s nothing to stop them as time goes by from making the facility bigger and bigger to accommodate more and more waste, including waste from overseas, so this is the very core of the problem that it’s going to already get the high level waste from Lucas Heights, it could get other high level waste from overseas,» he said, according to a report on the ABC.

References: 1. See the Parliamentary Library for the Bill, speeches and record of its passage. 2. See the Irati Wanti website for the successful campaign to stop a nuclear waste dump in South Australia. http://www.iratiwanti.org 3. Nuclear War in the Northern Territory - ‘NO Nuclear waste dump in the NT’ on a Darwin Indymedia. 4. Nuclear waste dump likely - The Age, November 3, 2005. 5. Traditional owners urge rejection of nuclear dump law - ABC Thursday, November 3, 2005. 3:07pm (AEDT). 6. Green group fears waste dump size - ABC, Wednesday, November 2, 2005. 11:01am (AEDT). 7. Waste dump - traditional owners take their fight to Canberra Central Land Council, November 3, 2005.

Meanwhile the morning of 4 November 50 cyclists road from the Tanami Hwy turn off 20 kms in to Alice Springs in protest against the proposed nuclear waste dump and new uranium mines in the Territory.

As part of a week of actions against nukes the morning of Friday 4 November 50 cyclists got up at 6am and headed out to the Tanami turn off for a Critcal Mass bike ride back in to Alice Springs.

Mitch, a local Arrernte woman, has been staging a protest at the Tanami turn off for several weeks now. Each day Mitch heads out and spends her day telling locals and tourists about the dump proposal and the mineral exploration in the area.

This morning Mitch and Betty - a senior Arrernte woman - saw the riders off and thanked them for solidarity in their campaign against nuclear expansion on their country.

This week sees the Mineral Council meeting in Alice Springs, the Coober Pedy Kungka Tjuta launching their book and a number of rallies, screenings and actions against the dump and mines in the area.

After a lovely cruise through the ranges and back in to town the local police decided to get boring and fine a few people for not wearing helmets, but otherwise the ride was great.

We blocked the Stuart Highway for about 15 kms and there were cars banked up for several kms behind us for a lot of the ride. Whilst some locals looked a bit bemused there was lots of horn honking and waving from passersby.

Alice Action meet every Wednesday at 6pm at Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) - All Welcome!

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