Nov 2, 2007

Albanese leads Labor’s anti-nuclear charge

Albanese leads Labor’s anti-nuclear charge

The World Today

Reporter: Chris Uhlmann

Friday 2 November 2007

ELEANOR HALL: Australia’s chief scientist Dr Jim Peacock has again called for nuclear power to be considered as an option in the battle to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gases.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Dr Peacock said there were only two mature low emission technologies that could provide baseload power in the foreseeable future: clean coal and nuclear power.

But the Labor Party has attacked the Government’s commitment to considering a nuclear future and targeted seats across the country in a campaign against nuclear power.

Leading the anti-nuclear charge is Labor’s manager of opposition business, Anthony Albanese. Earlier today he spoke to our chief political correspondent, Chris Uhlmann.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Anthony Albanese, the chief scientist says that nuclear power should be considered if we are to be serious about addressing climate change.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, there’s nothing new in that, of course, from the chief scientist. He has made those sort of comments before. The fact is that nuclear power doesn’t stack up for Australia economically, environmentally or socially, and that is why Labor will not be going down the nuclear path, and that’s one of the issues that will be a factor in the coming election.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Why wouldn’t you consider what the chief scientist has to say? Obviously, if he believes that it’s important, it is worth considering, and you’re ruling out even discussing it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, there have been discussions for a long time about nuclear power, but we know that it’s a very expensive option. We know that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the short and medium, as well as the long-term.

And we know that nuclear power, according to its own advocates is slow in coming online. And actually producers, a lot of greenhouse gas emissions are during the construction phase. We know it’s extremely expensive, and I don’t think that Australians want a nuclear reactor in their neighbourhood. What they want is a solar panel on their roof.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But haven’t you been running the most effective scare campaign of this election that nuclear power plants are about to start bobbing up all over the country?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t been running a scare campaign. The fact is that nuclear reactors can be scary. There are real safety issues to be considered. There’s the issue of highly toxic nuclear waste, and the disposal of it.

And the fact is that the Howard Government has commissioned a report, have said that they want 25 nuclear reactors to be imposed around the country, and they won’t say where those reactors will go, or where the highly toxic nuclear waste dumps will go.

If the Government really believes in its position, it should be coming clean, not waiting until after the election when it will pursue its nuclear agenda.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But you know Anthony Albanese that that report was looking at what might happen in the future, and these things aren’t about to start springing up around Australia in the next three or four years. So you are running a scare campaign and it has been tremendously successful.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that in April, the Prime Minister gave a clear and unequivocal commitment that he would introduce special legislation to overturn the current ban that’s there in Commonwealth environmental legislation on nuclear reactors and nuclear activity.

Now, he said that he’d do that. He hasn’t done that because he is waiting to try and slip and slide through an election without saying where the reactors will go. And he has also said in May, he stated that he’d overturn state legislation.

So, what that means is that if the Howard Government is re-elected, we know that they’ll have the numbers in the Senate at least until July 1 of next year. So, chances are you’ll see very quickly legislation introduced, to overturn the Commonwealth ban and to stop any State ban.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Dr Peacock says that there are only two mature technologies with low emissions that could contribute to baseload power in the foreseeable future. One is clean coal, and the other one is nuclear. Why would you rule out completely using one of those?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Labor is actually supporting clean coal technology, and we’ve, we have a plan for that as part of our comprehensive plan on climate change. The fact is that it’s interesting that those who are most sceptical about the need to tackle climate change, such as John Howard and Ian Macfarlane, are precisely those same people who are most enthusiastic about nuclear power.

It’s ironic that those two things have gone together, and that you can have almost in the same sentence scepticism, as we’ve seen again, expressed by Mark Vaile, the Deputy Prime Minister, this week as to whether climate change even exists or not, at the same time as they say, "Oh, we need to have nuclear power in order to address climate change."

CHRIS UHLMANN: All right Anthony Albanese, you talk about the problems with the timeframe for nuclear power. How long before you can clean up coal? How long will that take before that’s a viable option?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we already have programs in place in Victoria. There’s a practical program being undertaken there and we’ll see how successful that is.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But clean coal is years away, isn’t it? Actually, low emission coal is years away.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we need to give support to clean coal technology, and we need to have that research because clean coal technology is vital, not just for Australia, but for the globe. At the same time, we need to invest in renewables, and that’s why Labor has our plan for 20 per cent of our energy to be supplied by renewables by 2020.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Labor’s manager of opposition business, Anthony Albanese, speaking to Chris Uhlmann.