Thursday, 15 November 2018
Economics References Committee; Government Response to Report
I present the government response to the report of the Senate Economic References Committee on the site selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows—
The Australian Government welcomes the opportunity to respond to the findings and recommendations of the Senate Economic References Committee report into the site selection process for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (the Facility), and agrees to the Committee's recommendations, either in full or in-principle.
The process undertaken by the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and the department, including seeking nominations and making a decision on a site, is consistent with the requirements set out in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (the Act). In addition to those requirements the department engaged in a comprehensive community consultation process resulting in the communities being empowered to make an informed decision.
Consultation and engagement with the Aboriginal communities has been and remains respectful and comprehensive; consistent with broader community engagement undertaken over the nomination period. Importantly, independent of an individual's view regarding the project, the process has facilitated aboriginal community members participating in heritage discussions, visiting ANSTO, nominating for committees and where possible engaging in the site characterisation activities. The Government welcomes the recommendation relating to Indigenous engagement, which aligns with the department's existing and future plans.
What constitutes broad support in each community will necessarily vary depending on the different interest groups involved in a particular site. Setting a mandated threshold does not provide comfort that all voices in the community who wish to be heard will be heard. It may also disenfranchise minority elements of the community or result in a minority group having an automatic veto or dictating power over the majority.
The Minister's ability to exercise judgement to determine whether there is broad community support, based on the circumstances relevant to each nomination, is consistent with his absolute discretion under the Act.
The Government does not support the recommendations proposed in the dissenting statements by the Australian Greens or Centre Alliance which it believes would hinder rather than progress this important national project. However, it will continue to engage with all parties in taking forward the process to select a site and establish the Facility.
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE SENATE ECONOMIC REFERENCES COMMITTEE REPORT INTO THE SITE SELECTION PROCESS FOR A NATIONAL RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT FACILITY