Senate debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


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

6:51 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020. One Nation will never support the removal of judicial review from legislation. This position means One Nation has and will continue to resist pressure from the government to legislate a site in Kimba in South Australia for radioactive waste management. One Nation will always stand up for the freedoms past generations have passed on to us.

In the next 12 months there will be a general election to elect a new federal government. If Australians act like sheep, voting for the two parties and their sidekicks who want to take away their judicial rights, they are going to get wolves in government. If the two big parties had their way, a radioactive nuclear waste facility would now be under construction on the Eyre Peninsula in the middle of prime cropping land in South Australia. Just four per cent of the land in South Australia is suitable for wheat, barley and canola, but the government wants to use the prime land to build a radioactive waste facility. Up until recently, Labor agreed to the removal of judicial review in relation to site selection for a national radioactive waste storage facility. Now they champion judicial review? I ask: what grubby deal has Labor done with government to get this bill through the Senate? No wonder voters are leaving Labor and turning to One Nation.

Today we are debating the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020, whose purpose is to avoid the need for Minister Pitt to declare a site for a nuclear dump under section 14(2) of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 and consequently to avoid judicial review in the court. One Nation believes the government should be answerable to its citizens through the process of judicial review. It is this principle which underpins our strong stance on the matter. I made it clear to the government that One Nation supported a radioactive waste facility in a suitable permanent site but that we would not support a bill which took away the rights to judicial review.

The government now accepts it does not have the numbers to get the Senate to declare Napandee as a site for a national radioactive waste management facility. Now the government is amending its own bill. The effect of the amendment would be to continue providing community funding and negate the proposal for the Senate to make the site decision. One Nation will oppose the bill and the amendment. We will not take part in face-saving theatre. The government can put up a separate community funding bill once it declares a site and judicial review is complete.

There is no doubt we need to store nuclear waste we produce, but the arguments put up by the government about hospital waste are a red herring. The people of Australia have been let down in this matter. Nearly $100 million has been wasted on buying off special-interest groups when that money should have gone into rural and regional health and education. The Australian public has been subject to a campaign of misinformation by the government aided by poorly researched opinion pieces on the proposed legislation, like the one written by Caleb Bond in the Adelaide Advertiseron 12 December 2020. Caleb Bond accused me of selling South Australia up the creek for refusing to pass the government's bill to legislate a site for a nuclear waste dump just outside of Kimba. My advice to all journalists is to do your own research rather than make up stories based on briefings from the government. If you must use the government as your source, at least acknowledge the source.

I am not responsible for the decision by the government to narrow its site selection in South Australia and to reject other sites which appear to have more going for them, like the site at Leonora at Western Australia's low ground in an old mine of solid granite. This remote location has community support, including the native title holders, but this government refuses to investigate the Leonora site. A radioactive waste storage facility is a target for terrorists. In the event of a terrorist attack, the deadly waste stored in an above-ground facility at Kimba could easily become airborne and then carry to Adelaide and beyond with prevailing westerly winds.

The government has ticked every wrong box to arrive at its decision to impose a national dump site for radioactive waste on unwilling communities in South Australia. The three sites mentioned in the amended bill are all in South Australia. No-one seriously believes that the government is considering any site other than Napandee near Kimba. They have already given this small community upwards of $6 million, with the promise of more. There is no place on the map called Napandee in South Australia, but you can find the name 'Napandee' on a farm sign. The site manager is living in the area and the government is considering tenders for engineering advice for the site of Napandee.

The government knows it will face a challenge in the courts from the Barngarla people, who are the native title holders on the Eyre Peninsula. The Barngarla people carry the hopes of the Indigenous people of South Australia. Aboriginal people in South Australia and other Australians carry the legacy of the nuclear testing done in the 1950s and 1960s in South Australia. If the government want to give Aboriginal people a voice, then they should give them a voice on the site for a radioactive waste management facility. To date the government has sought to silence Aboriginal people on this most important issue, but the day of reckoning will come in the courts. The government talks about reconciliation. In One Nation, we just do it.

No-one has seen a list of the radioactive waste materials to be stored in the national radioactive waste facility, opening the real possibility of mission creep over time. There is no safety case. The minister says it will be safe. How would he know? Nothing is safe where humans are involved. The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 proposes to find a single location to store low-level radioactive waste produced in the production of nuclear medicines and other products and intermediate-level waste reactor core components that have undergone reprocessing overseas.

The level of radioactivity in each of these waste categories at the rate at which they decay determines the management, storage and disposal. In other words, we need to know what will be stored before decisions can be made about where and how to store it. Low-level radioactive waste, like paper, plastics and scrap metal items which have been used in hospitals and research institutions, are kept locally for six months and then disposed of locally, which means no storage problems here. Intermediate-level radioactive waste needs to be stabilised before being moved and then packaged in steel drums and stored in purpose built facilities which are located away from population centres.

The frequency, flow and volume of surface and ground waters is critical to the siting of any nuclear waste storage facility, particularly on the Eyre Peninsula, where all the population relies on groundwater. The government has not released the groundwater studies. Where are they? Is the radioactive waste to be stored permanently underground? No. The legislation proposes a temporary above-ground site at Napandee, near Kimba, with a permanent site to be found later. I will tell you when that will be, when all the members of this parliament are dead. The proposed cost of this above-ground radioactive waste dump site is estimated to cost about a third of a billion dollars, all of which will have been wasted because it's a temporary solution. I am annoyed. The hard decision, which is the permanent dump site, has been kicked down the road like a can instead of being picked up and dealt with.

Is the movement of radioactive waste minimised for public safety by keeping the dump site close to the site of production? No. Large volumes of radioactive waste will be transported hundreds of kilometres by road into South Australia, contrary to section 9 of South Australia's Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000. Has the government resolved the conflict with section 8 of South Australia's Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, which expressly forbids the construction of a nuclear waste facility? No. The federal government proposes that this bill override any state legislation regulating, hindering or preventing the establishment of a national radioactive waste facility in South Australia.

Where is the Marshall government in South Australia on this issue? Its silence is deafening. The next state election in South Australia is on 19 March 2022. Premier Marshall has said nothing and has not repealed South Australia's Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000. I note that the 2021-22 budget provides South Australia with $3.4 billion in new commitments, compared with $2 billion for Queensland and $377 million for Tasmania. Has the federal government bought the Marshall state government? I will let the voters in South Australia work that one out for themselves.

Is the proposed dump site near Kimba a geologically stable area? No. The site at Napandee, near Kimba, is on a geological fault zone in the Great Artesian Basin. Has consultation with South Australia been adequate? No. The consultation process and the millions spent on bribing locals to support their plans is a stain on this government and on the department of industry, innovation and science. I call on the government to invite the Auditor-General to audit the funds spent at Kimba and Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. While they are investigating the millions spent on bribing locals, they can investigate how taxpayers' money was spent renovating a local hotel which was then sold. It is such a tragedy, when 18 per cent of children live in households below the poverty line in rural and regional South Australia.

One Nation will not support this legislation. Heads should roll in the department of industry, innovation and science, which has a sorry record on this matter. We need to find a permanent solution to the storage of intermediate-level radioactive waste in Australia, but the process needs to be thoroughly done, and giving another $2 million to the small community of Kimba is not going to get there. The conduct of the government and, in particular, National Party ministers—that is, Minister Pitt and the former resources minister, Senator Canavan—in this matter is a national tragedy.


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