Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Australian Naval Nuclear Power Safety Bill 2023

3:26 pm

Photo of David ShoebridgeDavid Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister representing the Minister for Defence (Senator Wong) to questions without notice I asked today on the Australian Naval Nuclear Power Safety Bill.

It's pretty remarkable to see a government so frightened of its own legislation that it's unwilling to even talk about it. And it would appear from the answers we got from Minister Wong that the minister hasn't even read the legislation. That is extraordinary, because the legislation proposes to establish a toxic nuclear waste dump barely15 kilometres from her own electorate office. You would have thought that an engaged minister, one trying to represent the state of South Australia, would have read the legislation and realised that in the legislation is a proposal—without consulting with her community, without consulting with First Nations peoples—to establish a toxic nuclear waste dump which can take the highest-level nuclear waste, barely 15 kilometres from Minister Wong's own electorate office.

The refusal of the minister to even engage with that in the answers I thought was extremely telling. It's one of these 'don't ask, don't see, don't look and pretend it's not happening' things from the Labor Party. But how can a minister who, on one level, is meant to be representing the state of South Australia, not have realised what her own government is proposing to do, just there in Port Adelaide, barely 15 kilometres from the minister's own electorate office? And the disingenuous way in which the minister tried to deflect from that basic truth was plain for all to see.

This is a government that says, on the one hand, 'Oh! The coalition is making a dangerous, uncosted and incredibly expensive proposal on civilian nuclear power'—and, to that extent, the Greens a hundred per cent agree with the Labor Party. But then the Labor Party is taking an extremely risky, uncosted, dangerous approach with AUKUS nuclear submarines, and, somehow or other, the Labor Party thinks nobody is seeing that base level of hypocrisy.

For Minister Wong and the Labor Party, it's perfectly okay to have five floating nuclear reactors in Port Adelaide and a toxic waste dump delivered in Port Adelaide, and for the Minister for Defence to have the ability create another toxic waste dump anywhere in South Australia, anywhere in Central Australia or anywhere in the country, without talking to Minister Wong's community or any community or First Nations peoples. That's apparently okay, and we should all just pretend that that's not inconsistent with the Labor Party's opposition to the coalition's equally dangerous, equally ridiculously expensive proposal for civilian nuclear power!

We can all see the hypocrisy, and the minister just tried to pretend it wasn't there. In fact, I think part of her answer was: 'I don't agree with the language that Senator Shoebridge has utilised for that bill.' Well, tell us what's wrong, Minister, because the answer comprehensively failed to do that. There is a huge, toxic nuclear elephant sitting in the middle of the Labor Party's legislative agenda here, and they think nobody can see it. That's the explanation for why the Naval so-called nuclear safety regulatory bill has not been brought to parliament this week—because it would expose that extreme hypocrisy from the Labor Party.

When pressed on it, Minister Wong then went on to say, 'You don't need to worry about the nuclear waste, because the nuclear waste from the AUKUS submarines is not going to start being pumped out of the nuclear subs until the 2050s.' Well, that is cold comfort for anybody who has watched the way the UK and the US have dealt with nuclear waste. There is this idea that you can just put off till the 2050s a problem like toxic nuclear waste—and, let's be clear, the nuclear waste produced from nuclear submarines is vastly more toxic, far more problematic, even than the toxic waste produced from civilian reactors. But Minister Wong says: 'Don't worry about that. We'll sort it out in the 2050s. Something magically will happen between now and the 2050s.' Well, I'd invite anyone who was listening to Minister Wong's answer to go onto Google Maps and look at what the UK is doing. You can see every single one of their decommissioned nuclear submarines. They've been knocking out nuclear submarines since the 1960s. They've failed to get a solution since the 1960s, and every single one is sitting there rusting away, a serious risk, either in Plymouth or Rosyth. Have a look at the nonanswers from the UK and see if you're satisfied by the nonanswer from Minister Wong.

Question agreed to.