Australian news, and some related international items

After backlash from colleagues, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro backs down from nuclear power support

Barilaro retreats on Nationals support for One Nation nuclear bill,, By Lisa Visentin,March 17, 2020 Deputy Premier John Barilaro has walked back his party’s support for a One Nation bill to allow nuclear power in NSW, as the issue threatened to split the Coalition.Mr Barilaro, a long-time advocate of nuclear energy, alarmed some Coalition MPs when he declared two weeks ago that the National Party would support Mark Latham’s bill to overturn a ban on uranium mining.

But the Nationals’ leader changed his tune on Tuesday, telling a budget estimates hearing the matter would first need to be considered by the party room as well as the cabinet.

Mr Barilaro made the unilateral call to back Mr Latham’s bill during an interview on Sky News on March 3 before consulting his party room, triggering concern among some National MPs and angering some of his Liberal cabinet colleagues. 

“I’ve since then had to pull that back to the point where I’ll have to go through the National party room, the parliamentary team, before we get to that position,” Mr Barilaro told the hearing.

“What I’m committing to is advocating for a policy that the party stands for and let’s see what happens when we get to the floor of Parliament.”

However, Mr Barilaro reiterated his strong personal support for nuclear energy, in particular “small nuclear reactors”, which he dubbed “the iphone of reactors”.

In a terse exchange, Labor MLC Adam Searle asked Mr Barilaro whether he was aware small nuclear reactors “don’t exist anywhere in the world at the moment”.

Mr Barilaro responded that he was “advocating for a technology that we know is on the horizon,” saying the Russians “would probably have small modular reactors on the market in the next two to three years.”

When quizzed about whether he’d discussed with his Coalition colleagues where in NSW the reactors could be located, Mr Barilaro floated the option of his own electorate of Monaro, on the state’s southern border.

“I haven’t even ruled it out of my own electorate. There you go. There’s your press release for today. Can’t wait to see it,” he said.

Mr Barilaro has previously grounded his support for Mr Latham’s bill as being consistent with the National Party’s policy position to “support nuclear energy in Australia as part of the energy mix for the future”, adopted at last year’s state conference.

He confronted an immediate backlash from within the cabinet, which had yet to consider the issue, with at least four senior ministers saying they would not support his push to back the bill. One minister told the Herald they were prepared to quit cabinet rather than support it.

The split followed a parliamentary inquiry into Mr Latham’s bill, chaired by Liberal MLC Taylor Martin, which concluded the government should support it.

The inquiry’s report stated: “the committee could find no compelling justifications from an environmental or human safety point of view which would warrant the blanket exclusion of nuclear energy.”

The two Labor MPs on the inquiry – John Graham and Mick Veitch – opposed the findings in a dissenting statement which reaffirmed Labor’s “longstanding and unequivocal platform position in relation to nuclear exploration, extraction and export.”

Mr Latham was also on the inquiry, which was comprised of eight MLCS, including three Liberals, two Labor, and one member apiece from the Nationals and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

March 19, 2020 - Posted by | New South Wales, politics

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