The Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 was pushed through this place and overrode Northern Territory laws that were in place which prohibited at the time the transport and storage of nuclear waste. The legislation that came through here, which was subsequently amended, overrode the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and prevented it from having effect during investigation of potential dump sites. This act also excluded the Native Title Act 1993 from operating at all, overriding procedural fairness. When the act was forced through the Senate, Labor described it as ‘extreme, arrogant, heavy-handed, draconian, sorry, sordid, extraordinary and profoundly shameful'. I agree.
Australia's radioactive waste is a legacy of decisions taken in the past, specifically in the Menzies era, when the government opened a research reactor at Lucas Heights, 31 kilometres from the heart of Sydney without any idea of how the waste generated at that plant would be dealt with. The decisions that we take today about Australia's inventory of radioactive waste, where it should be stored, whether it should be transported and centralised, should reflect the best science that we have at our disposal now as well as the best democratic and transparent processes that governments and citizens can utilise in today's world. Instead, we have decision making still, after all this time, taking place that is cloaked in secrecy a long way from the public eye.
I would like to know what the government has been doing for the past year. Because a year ago Senator Carr, the shadow minister for industry, innovation, science and research stated:
Today's announcement is yet the next chapter in the decade-long saga of lies and mismanagement that has become Howard's waste dump.
The Howard government has tried to impose its waste dump in numerous sites around the country; settling on the Northern Territory because of its ability to steamroll the Territory's rights and impose the dump against its will.
Labor believes that Howard's bullyboy tactics in the Northern Territory are no way to select a nuclear waste dump.
Labor is committed to repealing the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act and establishing a consensual process of site selection.
Labor's process will look to agreed scientific grounds for determining suitability. Community consultation and support will be central to our approach.
I would like to know what community consultation and support has been going on in the last 10 or 11 months. Because the answer that seemed to come back from the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research earlier this afternoon was: ‘We'll repeal when we are good and ready. We'll repeal when we have some sort of deal stitched up. We won't tell you what we are up to now, who we are consulting with, whether this is taking place on the basis of good science or sound community consultation. We'll repeal when we're good and ready.'
I really hope that I am wrong about this, but if I lived in Tennant Creek or out at Mucketty Station tonight I would find the minister's comments quite chilling. Because it seems to me that the government fully intends to lock up probably Mucketty Station, the fourth site on the Howard government's hit list for a radioactive waste dump and then repeal this vestige of Howard legislation. That is what it looks like, based on the minister's answer this afternoon. I think that the act was extremely arrogant and controversial, just as the Labor Party said at the time. It is time that that act went, so I foreshadow that shortly I will be moving to repeal this act.