Senate debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


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

7:19 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 is worthy of the Senate's support. I commend Senator Canavan on an excellent speech outlining all the issues. The issue of a waste management facility and its placement is something that the community does need to be consulted about, and it's appropriate that we, in this place, talk about it and talk about the consequences. But one thing that the community has never been consulted about is the 100 facilities dotted around our country today, as we speak, where radioactive waste is actually stored—under hospitals, in industrial sites et cetera. Doesn't it make good sense to try to bring all that together in one national facility, to ensure that it is all properly looked after, cared for and protected in a manner that can ensure community confidence in its storage?

Regrettably, some people seek to get political mileage out of the fact that there is understandable concern whenever the term 'nuclear' is mentioned. The simple fact is that 50 per cent of us will one day be the beneficiaries of some form of nuclear medicine. For those who want to ensure that Australia has no nuclear waste to deal with, be upfront: tell your fellow Australians that the cancer sufferers and others should not be the beneficiaries of nuclear medicine. That is always dismissed from the debate. If you want lifesaving nuclear medicine, there are consequences. There will be nuclear waste. That is why there are these storage facilities in hospitals dotted all around our nation. Is that a good thing? Would it be better for it all to be stored in the one facility? Of course it would be. Common sense dictates that that ought to be the case, and I think most Australians looking at this situation would commend the government for making a tough decision.

For a couple of decades now, this issue has been kicked around on the political agenda. People have asked: 'What about here? What about there?' We are now finally focusing on the possibilities of a facility, with a $20 million community fund to assist in all this. I simply say to colleagues in this chamber that politics really has to be set aside and the wellbeing of the nation has to be considered. The question is very simple: will you tell your constituents, 50 per cent of whom will be the beneficiaries of nuclear medicine, that you are against nuclear medicine? I'm sure they won't do that. If you don't have the intestinal fortitude and the intellectual coherence to tell your constituents that, then you must accept that the nation has to deal with nuclear waste. The question then is how best to deal with it. Should it be scattered around the nation in 44-gallon drums, under hospitals and in other places, or should it all be gathered together and held in one purpose-built facility? We all know the answer to that. That is why I would encourage the Senate to consider this legislation in that light. Let's get on with the task of ensuring that we can deliver world-class facilities that will ensure the good and proper storage of these waste materials, 85 per cent of which actually come from the medical sector. I commend the bill.


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