House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020


National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

9:41 am

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 gives effect to the commitment made by successive governments to the Australian community to establish a purpose-built National Radioactive Waste Management Facility to permanently dispose of low-level radioactive waste and temporarily store intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Radioactive waste is generated by the Commonwealth and other Australian entities and is predominantly a by-product of nuclear medicine. On average, one in two Australians will need nuclear medicine in their lifetime. This radioactive waste is currently stored in over 100 locations across Australia. This is neither desirable nor sustainable, as those locations are not purpose-built and some have limited storage capacity.

The successful operation of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility will greatly improve the safety and security of radioactive waste management in Australia. The facility will support the nuclear science and technology industry and bring Australia into line with some of our key international partners.

Furthermore, the amendments in this bill will improve Australia's ability to meet our international obligations by ensuring that our radioactive waste is stored and managed in a manner consistent with the principles under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. This bill comes at the end of a consultation and technical assessment process spanning more than four years, where owners voluntarily nominated their land to be considered for the location of the facility.

In identifying a site, the former Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator the Hon. Matt Canavan, considered a detailed site assessment report covering safety, regulatory approvals, costs and other aspects of site suitability, which was developed from more than three years of technical studies. The minister also considered a community sentiment report drawing on a range of measures, including community ballots, submissions and surveys.

The site of Napandee, located in the district Council of Kimba in South Australia, has been identified as the location for the facility. The former minister was satisfied that a facility at Napandee will be best able to safely and securely manage radioactive waste, and that there is broad support in the community for the project and the economic benefits it will bring.

There is broad support for the location of the facility in Napandee. The local community of Kimba have indicated their support through community ballots, public submissions, business and neighbour surveys as well as their willingness to discuss, debate and learn about the facility and what it means for their community.

One hundred per cent of direct neighbours of Napandee support the facility; 61.6 per cent of voters in Kimba support the facility; 59.3 per cent of local businesses support it; and 59.8 per cent of submissions from Kimba locals supported it.

Establishment of the facility in Napandee will provide for the safe and effective management of Australia's radioactive waste, and support the long-term social and economic sustainability of the Kimba community. A large number of the submissions received expressed enthusiasm for the jobs and economic opportunities the facility would provide for those living in the area.

While there is undoubtedly broad support for the facility in the Kimba community, it is important to acknowledge that there remain some opposition and concerns about potential agricultural impacts.

Experience around the world is that radioactive waste facilities and farms have succeeded side-by-side for decades without any reputational or market impact on surrounding agriculture, tourism or other community activities.

The common experience of such facilities located in the farming regions of Champagne in France, the Lakes District in the UK, and Elcabria in Spain, for example, is that this industry plays an important role in the life of local communities by creating a new industry, with a diversity of jobs and investment, and strengthening local economic and social development.

In Australian regional communities, this stable and alternative industry would be particularly beneficial in times of drought.

While native title has been extinguished at the site, it is a priority for the government to protect and preserve Aboriginal cultural heritage and to engage meaningfully with the Barngarla community to maximise economic opportunities and outcomes for local Aboriginal communities near the future facility. The Commonwealth will continue that engagement as the facility moves into its establishment phase.

The bill also repeals the existing site nomination and selection framework under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 and inserts new provisions which specify the site of the facility.

This revises the approach from making a ministerial declaration to acquiring the site through legislation. Specifying the site of the facility in legislation will provide the parliament with the opportunity to have a say in the decision to progress this vital national infrastructure.

This also provides certainty to the Australian public and impacted communities about the site and allows those communities not selected to host the facility to resume their regular activities and look to new opportunities for the future.

The size of the parcel of land specified in the bill for the establishment of the facility is approximately 160 hectares. This is sufficient for the footprint of the facility, the associated security requirements, enabling infrastructure such as power and water, and community agricultural research and development activities. The bill enables a further parcel of land of up to 50 hectares of the original voluntarily nominated land to be acquired to expand the specified site. This additional land may be necessary to allow for the establishment or operation of the facility should further site-specific technical and cultural heritage investigations determine that more land is required.

The bill also provides for acquisition of land for secondary all-weather road access, and for the identification of certain rights and interests in relation to this land that are not required. People with a right or interest in additional land being considered for acquisition will be invited to provide comment in accordance with the procedural fairness provision in the bill.

Most importantly for the host community, the bill provides for the establishment of a $20 million community fund, which will support the government's commitment to the economic and social sustainability of the facility's host community. The facility is an investment in the long-term safe and secure management of radioactive waste and, once established, is expected to be in operation for 100 years.

The community fund will contribute to sustainable health services, agricultural research and development, enhancements to local critical infrastructure and the further development of the local Aboriginal community economy in the host community.

The community fund is one component of the $31 million community development package that the former minister announced in July 2018 to go to the community chosen as the site for the national facility.

This package also includes the Community Skills and Development Program, which will provide $8 million in grants for four years from acquisition of the site, to assist local workers and businesses to maximise opportunities from the construction and operation of the facility.

The package also provides for up to $3 million from the government's Indigenous Advancement Strategy to strengthen Indigenous skills training and cultural heritage promotion in the successful community.

The bill changes the focus of the fund from a state or territory based fund to a community based fund, enabling the host community to make decisions on how the payment is spent to best support the establishment of the facility and its operation in safely and securely managing controlled material.

Finally, the bill also improves the transparency of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 by making a number amendments to provide clear and objective links between the operation of the act and the relevant constitutional heads of power.

In conclusion, this bill signifies the government's commitment to improve the safety associated with radioactive waste storage and management in Australia. The amendments improve the transparency of the site selection and the mechanisms to support the community that will be delivering public services and infrastructure to the facility.

Importantly, the bill brings to a conclusion a prolonged consultation period, providing certainty and clarity to affected communities, and concluding a search for a site that has been ongoing for more than 40 years.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

Debate adjourned.