Australian news, and some related international items

From October 6, the Australian Senate will discuss the NATIONAL ISSUE of the Napandee nuclear waste dump plan

The Senate returns on October 6th. At some time there will be a vote on what is indeed this national issue. The stakes remain high.

The federal nuclear dump is a national issue,  Michele Madigan, 22 September 2020

It may have taken five years but in the last session of the recently completed Senate Inquiry, finally a government department bureaucrat has used the phrase — ‘…it is a national issue.
Well certainly — ‘When it suits,’ one might respond. This is because the federal nuclear dump has never been a national issue from a government perspective when it has come to the right to have a say about it. In fact it has never been even a South Australian issue. One evening on a radio talkback session earlier this year, the federal member for Grey which includes the Kimba site, was shocked to hear any objection from a person like myself who didn’t live within the Kimba council voting zone. Pure shock. Astonishment. What could I be thinking of that I could have a say or even an opinion!
In other words I was not one of the just 824 (less than 300th of one per cent) of South Australians who were decreed eligible to speak about the storage of radioactive waste which will remain toxic for every South Australian generation.

Moreover, despite the former responsible Minister Matt Canavan’s repeated assertions that submissions from others outside the extraordinary narrow designated voting zone was a possible way to influence proceedings — there seems to have been no recorded mention of any of the 2789 submissions. With some of extraordinary length and scholarship, 94.5 per cent were against the federal nuclear waste proposal. They were seemingly ignored; one wonders were they even read?

From July 28th to August 28th, there have been four Senate Inquiry sessions concerning the Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020, all by video link. During the Inquiry sessions it became obvious which three Senators had done their careful homework with penetrating questions to witnesses on either side of the debate.


Extreme concern about the issue was expressed by the Chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, Jason Bilney and by other Barngarla people; by Peter Woolford, farmer President of the No Radioactive waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA group; by Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the single environmentalist invited to be a witness. On the other hand, there was spirited defence of the project, including every aspect of the process by the two senior government officials; by the landholder of the chosen site and by Kimba council representatives. There was an eager willingness by some Senators to positively enable these latter presentations.

On Monday 13th of September, the Senate report was released. Predictably in a Coalition led Inquiry, the report recommends the Senate proceed to vote yes to the plan on the Minister designated site on Barngarla country in agricultural land at the Kimba region Eyre Peninsula site.

However three Senators contributed separate dissenting reports released concurrently with the main report. Labor’s Jenny McAllister, formerly Centre Alliance and now Independent South Australian Rex Patrick, and the Green’s Sarah Hanson-Young SA all recommended that the legislation not go ahead. There were a number of reasons cited by the dissenting Senators.

The context of this ‘national issue’ declaration cited above by the Department was a defence of the strategy to take the Napandee (Kimba region) site to the Parliamentary vote — ensuring that if the proposed legislation is passed by the Senate, there will be no opportunity to take any aspect of the decision making to court. In the words of Labor Senator Jenny McAllister in her dissenting report: ‘In evidence to the committee, the Department confirmed that the effect of the change proposed in the legislation is to remove the requirements for procedural fairness in the selection of the site.’

As well, Senator Rex Patrick’s dissenting report included an emphasis on the heavily redacted nature of the government officials’ documentation: ‘The Department has, through its interaction with the committee, demonstrated a predisposition to secrecy—undue secrecy—in relation to provision of process information to the very people who pay them and who they are supposed to serve.’

The Greens’ summary was included in their final recommendation: ‘The Australian Greens believe the Federal Government has no mandate to situate a radioactive waste management facility in South Australia. It has mismanaged the site selection process, fallen short of international best practice and failed to secure the consent of traditional owners. For these reasons the Australian Greens recommend that this bill not be passed.’

No Dump Alliance is a group of organisations including First Nations, public health, trade union, faith and environment groups, academics and concerned individuals concerned about this matter. Revered SA theologian and international author Denis Edwards was an identified member.

On the release of the Senate report, NDA released their own media statement in which spokesperson Karina Lester (pictured), daughter of late former NDA Patron Yami Lester was clear: ‘In the 21st Century it is unacceptable to try and airbrush away Aboriginal peoples concern over nuclear risks. The Barngarla Native Title holders were excluded from the Kimba community ballot about the waste plan and now the federal government is trying to deny them the right to contest the plan in court. This is not only unfair to the Barngarla people but a clear insult to the concerns expressed by Aboriginal people from right across South Australia to any dumping and storage of radioactive waste on our traditional lands from outside the state’.

The Senate returns on October 6th. At some time there will be a vote on what is indeed this national issue. The stakes remain high.

September 24, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics

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