Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Senator Brandis. Is the minister aware of a speech on 11 July 2006 by the director of Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd, Mr Hugh Morgan, in which he said:
... to put together an internationally managed [nuclear] repository would bring great standing in the international community for Australia?
Does the government agree with Mr Morgan that locating a global, high-level nuclear waste dump in Australia would be good for our international reputation?
I have seen the press reports of Mr Morgan’s speech of July last year. In relation to the question of nuclear power, and at a time when everyone in Australia is concerned about the issue of our energy future, there is one side of politics prepared to consider all of the options in relation to energy, including coal technology, carbon technology, clean coal technology, renewable energy and nuclear energy, and there is the other side of politics which piously pretends to be concerned about the issue but in the same breath—
Mr President, I raise a point of order going to relevance. The question the minister was directly asked was about the government’s attitude to a high-level nuclear waste dump. The minister has failed to address that question.
On the point of order: the minister has spoken for less than a minute. He has four minutes to answer the question. When senators ask questions they do include a preamble, and sometimes ministers do the same when answering questions. I believe the minister has three minutes to answer his question and I ask him to return to the question.
As I was in the course of saying, there is the other side of politics, the Labor side of politics, which goes around the community raising concerns about energy, raising concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, raising concerns about global warming and yet, in the next breath, refusing even to contemplate one of the most important options available to Australia in relation to its energy future—that is, the option of nuclear energy. The Howard government has made it plain that all options are on the table. How can we possibly hope to have a sensible debate about energy in this country without considering the possibility of nuclear energy, which involves considering all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle—to come directly to the issue raised by Senator Marshall in referring to Mr Morgan’s speech. You know, Mr President, and we on this side of chamber know the history of irrationality and zealotry which has characterised the Labor Party’s attitude to uranium and nuclear power—
I would not be so uncharitable as you are, Senator Mason, to our poor, benighted socialist friends on the other side of the chamber. The irrationality and quasi-religious zealotry which has characterised the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to nuclear power now has a long history. The three-mines policy, rebadged—but not renumbered—the ‘no new mines policy’ remains the policy of the Australian Labor Party, though we understand that under the leadership of Senator Faulkner, who has been defending the policy for the last 20 years, perhaps at the Labor Party national conference in April it may be abandoned. We have seen the humiliating spectacle—
I am addressing the nuclear fuel cycle, Mr President. We have had the humiliating spectacle of the shadow minister for the environment turning his back on a lifetime of commitment—to a point of view which I do not share—on this issue, in a pusillanimous attempt to try and score some electoral advantage for the Labor Party, to take them away from the irrationality and the quasi-religious zealotry of their attitude to nuclear fuel. The one thing I can assure Senator Marshall is that when the Howard government addresses the question of— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the minister has confirmed that all of the options are on the table, can he confirm that locating a global high-level nuclear waste dump is one of those options? What criteria would the government apply to proposals to build a global nuclear waste dump in Australia? And what work has been undertaken on plans to build a global nuclear waste dump in Australia? Does the minister consider any sites in his home state of Queensland to be suitable places to build a global high-level nuclear waste dump?
When the Howard government considers Australia’s energy future, it will consider every option. It will not sign off on every option, it will not commit to every option, but it will consider every option. The Australian people deserve a government which, when faced with an important public policy challenge which will influence generations into the future, considers every option so that one option—embraced by European nations, among others, and which every serious scientist regards as a viable option—will not be eliminated at a prescientific stage because of a blind, dogmatic zealotry that closes its mind to the possibility of a nuclear option. That is what the Australian people would get from the Australian Labor Party and the zealots who run it. (Time expired)