Albanese leads the push against uranium mining
The World Today
Friday, 27 April , 2007 12:14:00
Reporter: Peta Donald
Also available on The World Today website.
ELEANOR HALL: One of the few areas of open disagreement at the Labor Party’s National Conference is Kevin Rudd’s push to dump Labor’s policy restricting uranium mining.
It’s expected the leader will prevail in a vote over the weekend. But leading the push against Mr Rudd on the issue is front-bencher, Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese joins us now from the Labor party conference. He’s speaking to Peta Donald.
PETA DONALD: Anthony Albanese, first of all, you’ll be releasing a report into infrastructure planning this afternoon at the conference. You wanted national infrastructure plan. How do you plan to get superannuation funds to invest in infrastructure?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that there is a natural synergy between superannuation funds, which are long-term, which look for secure investments and infrastructure. And those opportunities are there.
And the meetings we’ve had with the superannuation industry have told us they’re very keen to invest and to take advantage of opportunities that can be made. If we don’t do that, what we’ll see is superannuation funds being invested off sure.
PETA DONALD: Do you think that would be a secure way for people’s superannuation money to be invested, and that it would provide a good return to those funds?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, it certainly is secure, and it provides a return, not just to those individual members of superannuation funds, but of course a return to the nation. What we know is that we have a massive infrastructure deficit, according to the Business Council of Australia, some $90 billion.
PETA DONALD: So how much money do you think you could get into it through super funds?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see and work with them in government. We’ll create a body called Infrastructure Australia, which will harness the private sector, innovation and expertise, along with government.
It will conduct an infrastructure audit, a priority list for the nation. It will work with COAG and we’ll once again see the Commonwealth reengage in our urban infrastructure for our cities.
This is of something of absolute necessity if we are going to secure our long-term prosperity beyond the mining boom.
PETA DONALD: Okay. Well onto the uranium vote, which will be held over the weekend.
Do you now concede that your probably now going to lose that vote and the long running ban on new uranium mines that has been Labor’s policy for two decades will be lifted?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve been a delegate to national conferences, since 1986, and I take nothing for granted until delegates make up their minds.
PETA DONALD: But really, you still think that you could win this?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I hope that we have a constructive debate tomorrow and that people make up their minds on their merits. But what I know, is that while you can guarantee that uranium mining will lead to nuclear waste you can’t guarantee it will lead to nuclear weapons.
PETA DONALD: Don’t you accept the argument from the other side in that it’s illogical to have four mines but not five?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s nonsense of course. In a range policies across the board, be that superannuation, social security, various health decisions. Across the board, governments make decision, based upon respecting previous decisions and that’s all that is.
It’s an economically responsible position, to balance the view, that we respect existing contracts, because of the sovereign risk issue, and also of legal issues, compensation issues, but we say that we don’t want to be any further involved in the nuclear fuel cycle, including opposing new uranium mines.
PETA DONALD: Now you’ve argued that the voters don’t want more uranium mining and that you’re not getting any sense from rank and file Labor party members that they want this policy changed and yet, it seems it will be changed over the weekend, that’s the expectation anyway.
So do you think that will go down badly with the electorate?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think what the electorate will see is that we’re a vibrant democratic party discussing these issues.
It’s clear that not a single state or territory branch has adopted a pro-uranium position. We know that the Labor party is very united in our opposition to further stages of the cycle, be it enrichment or nuclear reactors for Australia…
PETA DONALD: So do you then think you’ll be punished in the ballot box, if this policy is changed?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think that voters make up their own minds on these issues, but I don’t sense that there is a vote turning issue, that there are people out there in marginal seats who voted for John Howard, who will change their vote, if Labor changes our ‘no new mines’ policy.
PETA DONALD: Anthony Albanese thanks for joining us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Peta.
ELEANOR HALL: And that was Anthony Albanese, the Federal Opposition Spokesman on Infrastructure speaking to us from the ALP’s national conference at Darling Harbour in Sydney.