SYDNEY, Dec 1, 2020, SMH. A likely Senate roadblock to establish a radioactive waste dump in regional South Australia could be used by the Morrison government as a trigger to go to an early election as it prepares to bring the issue to a vote in the coming days, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The contentious proposal would finally establish a low- and medium-level nuclear waste facility at Napandee, a farm on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, after 40 years of public debate about the disposal of such materials.
The waste, which comes mainly from medicine, is now stored at more than 100 sites around the country, including science facilities, hospitals, universities and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Sydney.
Labor, the Greens and One Nation are opposed to the legislation on a number of issues, despite 62 per cent of the local community voting in favour of the proposal in a community ballot run by the Australian Electoral Commission last year.
The town has has been severely hit by a downturn in agricultural employment as well as drought, with a significant long-term decline in population.
Kimba mayor Dean Johnson and community members met with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday to stress the town wanted everything that came with the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.
Mr Johnson said the Kimba community would benefit from hosting the facility including 45 jobs and annual benefits of up to $8 million for the region.
“Our community is desperately in need of a resolution on this, so we can move forward and plan accordingly,” he said.
“We’re incredibly disappointed that Senator Pauline Hanson refused all of our requests to meet. I can’t understand that and how any debate is stronger for not listening to both sides of the conversation.
“For more than 100 years we have been an agricultural town. However, a series of droughts, tough financial times, and a general move away from the land has seen our population steadily decline since 2006, while the rest of SA has boomed.”
The plan has been criticised by the traditional owners of the region, the Barngarla, who were not included in the vote because it was limited to those living in the Kimba Council area.
The group later challenged the ballot under the Racial Discrimination Act in the Federal Court but it was dismissed.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has also criticised the process, claiming it would lead to potentially dangerous waste management, including trucking radioactive waste from Lucas Heights in Sydney through regional communities and dumping it on South Australian farmland.
“This is actively opposed by many in the wider region, including the Barngarla Traditional Owners who have been consistently excluded from the consultation process,” veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said.
Several medical groups, including the Australian Medical Association, have expressed their support for the storage, saying that without it treatment of conditions such as cancer would not be advanced.
Labor will seek to amend the laws so that the minister responsible, Resources Minister Keith Pitt, can use existing powers to nominate any site under the current legislation. Labor says the changes would still give the local community access to a significant community fund on offer and would ensure the decision be subject to a judicial review.
Mr Pitt said consecutive governments have been searching for 40 years for the right site for a purpose-built facility for Australia’s radioactive waste and now one town has confidently put up its hand.
“We need to support this town. We need to pass the legislation which would see the facility delivered near this town, along with all the economic benefits,” he said.
“This answers a question Australia has been asking for 40 years, and it will lock in generations of employment in Kimba – which is something they want and have asked for.
“Anthony Albanese needs to listen to this community today, put aside his leadership woes and do what is in the best interest for the people of this town and for all Australians.”
A bill which is rejected twice by the Senate – with a period of at least three months between each attempt – hands the government the opportunity to dissolve both houses of parliament and head to an election ahead of schedule.