How the ALP government betrayed Australians on Muckaty nuclear waste dump plan
The first thing that happened subsequent to the Rudd Government taking office after the 2007 election was that radioactive waste management issues were mysteriously taken out of the science portfolio, where they had been right through the period of the Howard government and well before, and given to Martin Ferguson in the resources and industry portfolio. To transfer radioactive waste management from the science portfolio to the resources portfolio was to give it to somebody with absolutely no expertise, no subtlety and no willingness to follow through with the ALP’s election commitment.
THIS LAND IS NOT NOWHERE; THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT NO-ONE, Right Now, By Scott Ludlam , 13 Aug 12, This article is part of our August theme, which focuses on the environment and human rights. Read more articles on this theme.
The government is attempting to force a nuclear waste facility on to Muckaty Station, a cattle station 120 kilometres from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, in direct violation of the commitments the ALP made in the run-up to the 2007 election. The proposal is strongly contested and the subject of a Federal Court challenge in which Traditional Owners argue they were not consulted by the Northern Land Council. They also argue that the proposed site is not one the Commonwealth can negotiate with one group of Owners given that at least five groups have interconnected and interwoven responsibility there. Matters do not reach the Federal Court on a whim; the Muckaty case goes to the heart of respect for Aboriginal land rights, and whether Australia will violate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that prohibits storage of disposal of hazardous materials in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent……
[In 2005] the ALP condemned the nuclear dump legislation, with MPs and Senators accurately describing it as extreme, arrogant, heavy-handed, draconian, sorry, sordid, extraordinary and profoundly shameful. The ALP took a very clear and unequivocal position on this issue into the closing months of the 2007 election campaign.
The failure of the Committee to visit Muckaty or hold a hearing in Tennant Creek undermines the accuracy of claims about the process engaging all stakeholders.
The party’s platform of that time reflected that Labor was “committed to a responsible, mature and international best practice approach to radioactive waste management in Australia” and would “establish a process for identifying suitable sites that is scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allows access to appeal mechanisms.” There was also a commitment to “international best practice scientific processes to underpin Australia’s radioactive waste management, including transportation and storage.”
That clear and sound position taken by the ALP makes their actions in office all the more bitterly disappointing. The first thing that happened subsequent to the Rudd Government taking office after the 2007 election was that radioactive waste management issues were mysteriously taken out of the science portfolio, where they had been right through the period of the Howard government and well before, and given to Martin Ferguson in the resources and industry portfolio. To transfer radioactive waste management from the science portfolio to the resources portfolio was to give it to somebody with absolutely no expertise, no subtlety and no willingness to follow through with the ALP’s election commitment.
Instead of repealing the legislation and replacing it with something scientifically defensible that actually brings the community along, the government did nothing for two years. While waiting, I proposed a very simple repeal Bill and a Senate Environment, Communications and Arts Committee inquiry ensued, the Committee travelling to Alice Springs to hear from elders and agencies. While we had some additional comments, the Australian Greens signed on to the majority report because it said that the government should do what they said they would do when in Opposition.
In 2010, the government introduced legislation that was virtually identical to Howard’s, much to the pleasure of Opposition MPs who teased the government mercilessly for duplicating their policy. The legislation overrides Aboriginal heritage and environment protection laws and also excludes all State and Territory laws from operating if they hinder the Commonwealth. As with Howard’s legislation, the people of the Muckaty Land Trust, 120 km north of Tennant Creek continue to be targeted and specifically named.
The government tried to hide their broken election commitment with an 11-day inquiry into the Bill in the Legal and Constitutional Committee. After an outcry, the timeframe was extended and the Committee received 238 submissions that were overwhelmingly critical of the legislation particularly the extent to which it retained one nomination, that of Muckaty, and shielded it from procedural fairness and access to judicial review. The Committee was repeatedly called to go to Tennant Creek and was unwilling to do so. Had it done so it would have helped to compensate for the fact that providing rights to Aboriginal people to be heard in written form only is prejudicial. The failure of the Committee to visit Muckaty or hold a hearing in Tennant Creek undermines the accuracy of claims about the process engaging all stakeholders.
Disadvantaged people volunteering their land as a site for financial reward is not international best practice, and nor is it scientific.
The campaign against this dump is not over. It was opposed when it was a fundamentally flawed Bill and it will be opposed now that it is a fundamentally flawed law. South Australia resisted a nuclear waste dump and won. So will the Territory. http://rightnow.org.au/writing-cat/article/this-land-is-not-nowhere-these-people-are-not-no-one/
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