Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Senator Rex Patrick explained how the government’s nuclear waste process was a botched job.

there were a number of people who were quite  close to the facility who were unable to express their view in the vote because they lived outside the council area—the voting area—so they were excluded. Lots of people were excluded from the vote. We ended up with a  completely flawed process. 

Senator McAllister did a fantastic job drawing out in the committee stage that this bill, as it originally entered  the Senate, was about ousting the jurisdiction of a court to deal with a botched process. This bill now, as a ruse,  says that it’s about maybe three sites, again, when we know the government is going to select Napandee. That’s  what’s going to happen as a result of this.

Senator PATRICK (South Australia) Senate 21 June 21, (18:26): I rise to speak on the National Radioactive Waste Management  Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020. I want to go back a bit in  history so that the chamber’s aware of how we got to where we are today, because the bottom line is that this bill  is a bit of a ruse, a facade. I need to ground that properly in order for people to understand exactly what I’m  talking about. 

We’ll go back to 2012, the bill where we’re seeking to establish a national radioactive waste management facility. I might point out that I’m in favour of such a facility. I think we need a facility. We do need to take  responsibility for our own radioactive waste. In terms of the safety aspects and the philosophy,………….

Firstly, the concept behind the whole process is fundamentally flawed. Instead of selecting the best site for a  facility in Australia, we kind of had a raffle and said, ‘Who wants to have a site in their backyard?’ or ‘Who wants  to have a site on their land?’ Of course people put up their hand, but that’s not the best way to select the best  location. It’s like trying to say, ‘Let’s build a highway, and we’ll go out and see who wants to have their house  knocked down to have the highway run somewhere.’ That’s not the way in which you tackle a project. You work  out the best route and then you deal with the issues along the way. That’s not what we’ve done in this process.  We’ve just said, ‘Anyone who wants to stick up their hand, we’ll have a look at your property and see if it fits.’ It’s  not the best way to do it.  

……….what we should have done is look around the country and ask, ‘Where is the best site? What are the best  characteristics for a site for a radioactive waste management facility?…..

Having picked a bad way to do this, the government then committed to the idea that they would not put a  facility at a location unless there was broad community support. Broad community support is what they promised.  You know what? When a minister of the crown stands up and says, ‘I’m going to put this facility in a place where  there is broad community support for it,’ people are entitled to expect they can put trust and confidence in what the  minister says—that that is the criterion against which a decision would be made. Initially the government did  some polling, using a private company, and came up with some numbers. They weren’t very happy with the  numbers—and at this stage there were a few different sites—so they upped their effort. They started bringing  people in and taking people to ANSTO. Interestingly, as they travelled, they brought a bunch of experts to places  like Kimba. I concede that the government did spend money to do that, but they didn’t bring any contradictors.  There were lots of contradictors along the way that wanted to offer a differing opinion, but the government  wouldn’t assist them in getting there. I might point out that at this time it was Minister Canavan at the helm.  Anyone who knows a bit of history about Senator Canavan knows that his first political party was the Marxist  party. That’s on the record. He was a member of the Marxist party. As much as you find that unbelievable, that is  that case. …….

Senator PATRICK: I invite you to google the words ‘Canavan’ and ‘Marxist’. You’ll see the history. In his  community consultation, he took a Stalinist approach, with the Soviet free-thought feel being, ‘Please don’t think  your government will do that for you and then tell you what you need to know,’ in accordance with the doctrine.  That’s the sort of approach he took with the community at Kimba. 

Eventually we got to the point where we had a vote. In the lead-up to the vote, it wasn’t unreasonable that we  might ask, ‘What does broad community support mean? What’s the definition?’ To find the answer to that, on 22  March 2017, in this chamber, former Senator Xenophon asked Senator Canavan, ‘What’s the criteria?’ The then  Minister Canavan said: 

We had taken forward a proposal from the Hawker region—Senator Xenophon might be aware of that—where support was at  65 per cent. We have not put a definitive figure on broader community support, for the reason that it is not just about the  overall figure; we would need a figure in the range of the support we received in Hawker. 

So he laid down 65 per cent. But we needed to consider other factors, like the direct neighbours—and I note the  definition of ‘direct neighbour’ changed over the period of the process—and we also needed to get the Indigenous  people onboard, the Barngarla people. Again, in a Stalinist approach, Comrade Canavan stole from Stalin’s  playbook. There’s that saying: it’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the vote. We ended  up with a situation where only after the vote came in did the minister say what broad community support was. We  did get to 62 per cent. The government spent a lot of money getting the community to 62 per cent. But, along the  way, they still didn’t deal with the neighbours, and they still didn’t deal with the Barngarla people. I might point  out that, even in terms of the people that were allowed to vote, there were a number of people who were quite  close to the facility who were unable to express their view in the vote because they lived outside the council area—the voting area—so they were excluded. Lots of people were excluded from the vote. We ended up with a  completely flawed process. 

We got to the point where, eventually, we down-selected away from Hawker. I’m very disturbed now that we’re going to upset the community if this bill passes, and we reintroduce the idea that Hawker might be involved. That  community has been through enough. We already know that the community in Kimba is split on this. It has caused irreparable division between people who used to be mates and friends, people who used to go and play  football with each other and cheer for each other’s kids. Now people in Kimba don’t shop in certain shops, because  of the division created. I note this bill tries to reinstate division in the Hawker community, and that’s not  acceptable. 

We got to the point where the government decided to make a recommendation. They didn’t make a decision  under the act. Under the current legislation, the minister was empowered to make a decision, but he didn’t. Why  didn’t he do that? It’s because the AGS has clearly given the government advice that if they go down that pathway,  there will be a judicial review and there’s a reasonable chance that their process will get chucked out by a judge  who looks at it closely. That’s likely what’s going to happen. What did the government do? They said, ‘Senate,  please fix-up our botched process by passing a law that nominates the site, because the courts can’t overturn that.’ That’s the process we were looking at when this bill first lobbed itself on to the floor of the Senate. 

We’ve done an inquiry. We’ve looked into this. I thank the Labor Party, who have done a good job in  identifying a pretty key issue here. That issue is that the bill sought to oust any ability to conduct a judicial review.  At the inquiry into this, I asked one of the officials, Ms Samantha Chard if she was thinking about this, what the  conversations were and whether she was talking about judicial rule in the lead-up to this bill being tabled. She  couldn’t recall doing that. Yet, when I FOIed her two or three days later, there were 500 and something documents  in her possession that talked about judicial review. That was deceiving the committee; I used much stronger words  in the dissenting report. You have an official who denies that this bill is about judicial review. A few days later,  when faced with an FOI request, it came back saying, ‘There are too many documents that mention that. We’re going to have to refuse your FOI.’ That’s the status. So we had a deception by the government who were trying to  hide the fact that that the intent was to hide judicial review, and, shamefully, it was supported by officials. People  who, shamefully, lied to a Senate committee in order to cover-up what the minister was really trying to do. That’s  what we got to. 

We got to a point where the Senate stood up and said, ‘We are not going to fix your botched error, Senator  Canavan. We are not going to do that for the Liberal government.’ What have they done now? They’ve tried to  smooth us over a bit by saying, ‘Okay, we’re not going to get the parliament to select the site, but we’re going to  bring some other players back into the game. We’re going to bring back Lyndhurst in Kimba’—which will cause  the same problem of putting a radioactive waste management facility on prime agricultural land—’or we’re going  to reintroduce Hawker as an option.’ Again, the community in Hawker have had their say. They don’t want the  facility.

We’ve heard in this debate issues of heritage sites, sacred sites. I say that because I’ve been there. I’ve driven  out into the bush and had a look at these sites. I’ve been taken out there by the Indigenous communities and  proudly shown their heritage. That’s what we are going to do with this bill. We’re going to introduce and bring  back into the picture a few more options. I’ll talk about this in the committee stage, but I will foreshadow that one  of the options I’m going to propose is Woomera. If we’d started out with the view, ‘Where’s the best place to put a  facility?’ instead of saying, ‘Who wants to volunteer some land?’ Woomera may well have been one of the places.  In fact, it was examined in great detail under a former Liberal government as a reasonable place to put a facility………..  

Senator McAllister did a fantastic job drawing out in the committee stage that this bill, as it originally entered  the Senate, was about ousting the jurisdiction of a court to deal with a botched process. This bill now, as a ruse,  says that it’s about maybe three sites, again, when we know the government is going to select Napandee. That’s  what’s going to happen as a result of this. Don’t pretend for a moment, don’t try and deceive the Australian public  that this bill is anything other than a way to walk away from the failure of the process, the failure of the bill as it  originally came into the Senate, to try and smooth over what has been a totally botched process.

June 28, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics

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