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Before the 2007 federal election Labor promised its approach to nuclear waste would be based on a "consensual process of site selection" with "agreed scientific grounds for determining suitability" and "community consultation and support".
What a difference three years can make.
Labor's Resources Minister Martin Ferguson this week announced his intention to locate a radioactive waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.
The former Howard Government first nominated Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, as one of four possible sites for a nuclear waste dump in September 2007.
It was a controversial choice then and it remains controversial. The Commonwealth secured a 'voluntary nomination' agreement from the Northern Land Council. The terms of that agreement have never been made public.
Minister Ferguson claims the nomination has the "continuing support of the Ngapa clan" even though 57 Traditional Owners from the Muckaty Land Trust have written to him, inviting the Minister to visit their land and clearly stating they "don't want that rubbish dump to be here in Muckaty".
In Opposition federal Labor was highly critical of the NT dump plan and promised to end a decade of division over how and where to store radioactive waste.
Labor promised to repeal the undemocratic Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act and remove the threat of imposed radioactive waste dumps in favour of an open, transparent and inclusive process.
Sadly this clear commitment has not been acted on.
Traditional Owners continue to live with the threat of a nuclear dump. The gap between federal Labor's promise and performance is growing.
That gap has become a chasm with the introduction this week of Minister Ferguson's National Radioactive Waste Bill (2010).
This legislation fails to honour federal Labor's clear pre- election promise and existing policy position to establish a consensual process of site selection which looks to agreed scientific grounds for determining suitability and the centrality of community consultation and support.
The secretive process by which Muckaty was chosen is out of step with growing international support for genuine community consultation and consent in decisions about nuclear facilities, articulated in this way by the UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in 2007:
"There is growing recognition that it is ethically unacceptable to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community".
Imposing radioactive waste on the lands of Indigenous people in the 21st Century is not responsible management. It is shameful political expedience.
There are a number of furphies about the type of nuclear waste that is produced in Australia.
One furphy says because this nuclear waste is 'low' and 'intermediate' level it is not harmful to humans.
This waste may be produced in hospitals and university laboratories, but it is still radioactive and needs to be shielded from humans and the environment. If it leaks and gets into the air or water table it is dangerous to humans. It does emit radiation and can cause fatal cancers and other diseases.
Another furphy, this one directly peddled by the Minister, says access to nuclear medicine in Australia is dependent on putting a nuclear waste dump in the NT.
This is an emotive and improper linkage.
Most other advanced Western countries import the nuclear medicine they need. Australia should do the same.
Managing the resulting radioactive waste should be based on the principles of reduction at source and above ground dry storage.
Radioactive waste is a reality and a serious issue. Governments should not manage it using the carrot, stick and secrecy approach.
Unfortunately Martin Ferguson is continuing the processes initiated by the former Howard Government.
Anything less than full repeal of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act and a site selection process that is open, transparent and consultative would be inconsistent with Labor's 2007 election pledges and would continue the old, failed approach to nuclear waste and Indigenous communities.
It is now time for the Rudd Government to honour its 2007 election commitments on radioactive waste and for our leaders to stop playing political football with a human and environmental threat that will last far beyond their limited tenure.
Dave Sweeney is ACF's Nuclear Free Campaigner