Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Nuclear Power

3:16 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am glad Senator Ferguson is interested in what we have to say. He should listen carefully and he may learn something. He ought to listen, but this is a motion to take note of answers to questions asked by the opposition with respect to nuclear power. I asked Senator Brandis, the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, today about high-level nuclear waste dumps. I asked a very specific question about whether he agreed with Mr Hugh Morgan that to put together an internationally managed nuclear repository would bring great standing for Australia in the international community. Senator Brandis went on to talk about everything but a high-level nuclear waste dump. He talked about the general issue of nuclear power and about every issue being on the table before the government, and then he told me that he was then going to answer my question. For the next 30 seconds, until his time ran out, he talked about anything but answering my question.

I then gave him another opportunity to address the question on whether the government had any plans, had done any studies or had any proposals on building a high-level global nuclear waste dump in Australia. Again, what did we get? Absolute nonsense—gibberish that did not address the question at all. While Senator Ferguson says he is interested in what we have to say, one might encourage Senator Ferguson to talk to his frontbench ministers and ask them to answer the question, because the Australian public wants to know what the government has to say about nuclear power. It is not good enough for different ministers and for Senator Ferguson to say, ‘We have no plans on nuclear power; all we want is a debate.’ What absolute nonsense.

Look at what the Prime Minister said with respect to Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd. In the middle of last year one of the owners, Mr Ron Walker, rang him up at home, as the Prime Minister said, not to ask him about racing tips but to tell him that he intended to set up a company that has interests in the generation of nuclear power and, obviously, from the comments that he has made, also in a global nuclear waste dump.

As ministers have told us today, having a high-level global nuclear waste dump or generating nuclear energy is against the law presently. Does anyone else find it rather odd that when Ron Walker rings up the Prime Minister and says, ‘I want to set up a company that is going to do things that are against the law,’ the Prime Minister’s response is, ‘That’s a great idea, Ron, because you know my view on it.’ That makes me think that maybe the Prime Minister has ideas to change the law. He is encouraging someone to set up a company that has interests in nuclear generation and high-level global nuclear waste dumps, which are presently against the law. The Prime Minister said, ‘That’s a great idea.’ Quite frankly, I think that is a bit odd. I think there is a bit of scandal going on and I think this is starting to reek.

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