Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government increases pressure for nuclear waste dump – (will the Senate Inquiry be irrelevant?)

Make peace by defying SA nuclear dump Michele Madigan 17 May 2018

As Aboriginal elder and justice campaigner Kevin Buzzacott has said: ‘If we can’t make peace for the country, and look after the country — what’s the good of us?’

Sunday 29 April 2018 marked the second anniversary for many such South Australian peacemakers. It was on that date in 2016, at 2.30am, that Adnyamathanha Elder Aunty Enice Marsh heard the news that the federal government had ‘chosen’ the Flinders Ranges to be the ‘top of the list’ site of the proposed national nuclear dump.

Incredulous at hearing this on the 8am news, I rang Aunty Enice. ‘I’m sitting here trying to eat my weetbix and keep my thoughts calm,’ she said. ‘But do you know what I was thinking? Colonisation is again attacking the First Nations people and poisoning their land.’

For her colleague, Regina McKenzie, it was ‘like getting news of a death’: death to a 60,000-year cultural heritage.

Since then, South Australia’s international grain farming area of Kimba has again emerged as an alternative site. At last month’s first joint meeting in Port Augusta, both Kimba and Flinders Ranges peoples opposing the dump reported that after ‘a quiet last few months’, the pressure from the federal government is now back on with a vengeance.

The announcement of $2 million in ‘untied’ government grants to various local applicants in each region has been integral to this. What was surprising to the Kimba opponents, faced with the absence of five of their key colleagues, was the unannounced (at least to them) appearance of the Minister, National Party Senator Matt Canavan, at this announcement.

When challenged about this lack of notice, the senior public servant’s response was that he hadn’t been ‘really sure’ that the Minister was coming. Kimba opponents cite this as just another example of the government campaign strategy: ‘It’s all about stealth.’

The Minister also announced that the Australian Electoral Commission local voting for and against either region becoming Australia’s national nuclear dump would take place on 20 August. Currently there is a Senate Estimates Committee examining the process of site selection and related matters, with its recommendations due on 13 August — leaving hardly time for a dispersion, reading and respectful cognisance of its findings prior to the vote.

Political maneuvering is again evident in the insistence of the Minister to tightly restrict the voting area — as if the small numbers of local people will be the only ones affected. Kimba farmer opponents warn constantly of the danger to their international markets of other crops and produce (such as Port Lincoln’s seafood trade) on the whole of the Eyre Peninsula region.

The oft-repeated government saying: ‘We will not impose the federal nuclear dump on an unwilling community’ continues to fly in the face of the lately renewed state legislation, which actually forbids the transportation of such waste into South Australia.

On 28 April, some of us ‘southerners’ joined locals at the glorious Wilpena Pound (pictured) site to inform national and international tourists of the Australian government’s intention to make the region home to Australia’s highest level nuclear waste — if permitted.

Predictable reactions to the news (‘Incredible!’ ‘Why?‘) included inquiries about the distance from the Pound. Amazement followed the map sighting: that any government would deliberately jeopardise such an internationally recognised site by proposing, just 40km away, a dump site for nuclear waste. Measured by radioactivity, over 90 per cent of the waste would be intermediate long lived nuclear waste from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney — waste that will be hazardous for thousands of years.

Our dinner at the camping ground was accompanied by ring-necked parrots and, later, flocks of apostle birds. In the morning, my prayer companions included a mother kangaroo, who fossicked among the leaves while keeping herself discreetly behind the wire fence. Her joey however was a close encounter type, constantly circling within a metre of my chair.

The Flinders is an idyllic place. Kimba is important grain farming country. No wonder much of the emphasis in the government campaign, and by local proponents for both regions, continues to be on the low level nuclear waste component.

With the campaign stretching past its third year since the announcement of the respective leaseholders simply ‘offering’ their respective properties, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal opponents are rock solid in their constant efforts ‘to look after the country’. But it has come at huge personal and communal costs.

Barry Wakelin, the retired Coalition federal member, is one of the farmers fiercely opposing the plan. In the face of groundwater, transport and serious, hugely long-term safety risks, Wakelin insists, ‘This is a national issue, not something that a regional community should be left to deal with.’

A national response (in the form of a petition being circulated by Conservation South Australia) can be made in solidarity with the country and peoples who will be affected by the proposed site. Click here to sign the petition.


May 19, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: