Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Nuclear Power

3:11 pm

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have never seen a party so confused over the issue of nuclear activity, nuclear production or uranium mining in my life. Perhaps Senator Carr should have started his contribution by saying whether or not he supports the expansion of uranium mining. Senator Carr, it is all very well to leave the chamber, but perhaps you could tell us whether you support the expansion of uranium mining. Perhaps Senator McEwen, my colleague from South Australia, could tell us whether she supports the expansion of uranium mining. For a majority of people in the Labor Party it would appear as though it is okay to expand the mining of uranium so that you can sell uranium for others to produce nuclear power, but it is no good for Australians to produce nuclear power. I wonder whether we sell good uranium overseas and keep bad uranium here! It is an issue on which the Labor Party have looked as though they may change their mind. I am not even sure where Senator Marshall stands on the issue of expansion of uranium mining. He probably supports it, but perhaps he will tell us later.

The government have no plans for nuclear power. The government have no plans to build a nuclear power station—no plans whatsoever. What the government do support strongly is an informed public discussion on nuclear energy as one of the options for Australia. That is what the government support. They want to support a public discussion that is driven by facts, not the emotion, hysteria and scaremongering that we see from the Labor Party opposite. In the Labor Party a majority want to mine more uranium to sell to other people to produce nuclear power, but they are too afraid to have the public discussion in Australia as to whether or not nuclear power should be part of the energy mix for Australians in the future. Labor oppose having this debate for political reasons, because it is simply too hard for them. They do not like this hard debate as to whether or not it should be part of the mix. So we have the strange situation where some people in the Labor Party want to expand uranium mining and some key people in the Labor Party want to keep the three-mines policy. That is the policy they have had for the last 20 years, where uranium that is mined in three mines is good uranium, and we can sell that to overseas customers, but all the other mines produce bad uranium!

Do you know who is pushing the expansion of this mine? Senator Bernardi from South Australia would well know. The Premier of South Australia is pushing for an expansion of uranium mining, and he is the same man who, as the senior adviser to the then Premier in 1983, staunchly opposed the building of Roxby Downs and Olympic Dam to produce uranium in South Australia. He staunchly opposed the building of a uranium mine in South Australia and now 20 years later, when he has seen the benefits and the employment that it has provided in South Australia, he has come to the conclusion that he wants to make that mine even bigger. He wants to increase it until it produces far in excess of what is produces today. I will be interested in what Senator McEwen has to say, a South Australian who I can only assume supports Premier Rann in the expansion of uranium mining. I wonder what she thinks about the uranium going to other people to produce nuclear power. I suppose that is good nuclear power as opposed to any nuclear power that might be produced in Australia, which would be bad nuclear power and bad for our environment!

We have reached the stage where the Labor Party would run a short-term fear campaign because maybe their focus groups have told them that this is a good issue to bring up right now. The focus groups say: ‘People are a little bit concerned. Don’t allow the public debate to happen. Say: “We will not have anything to do with nuclear power. We’ll let other people all around the world use our uranium to produce nuclear power, but we simply will not do it in Australia because in Australia the only thing we can produce is bad nuclear power.”’ We have scare tactics and short-term fear campaigns from them, which they have tried before with things like the GST. Well do we remember the GST. I see the South Australian Treasurer lauding the fact that he is going to have an extra $69 million in GST revenue, which I am quite sure he would want to reverse and do away with as though he had never even received the money! (Time expired)

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