Apr 28, 2007

Speech to the 44th ALP National Conference – The Uranium Debate

Speech to the 44th ALP National Conference – The Uranium Debate

Anthony Albanese MP


28 April 2007

Delegates, we’ve got a new logo design at this conference, but there’s still no ‘U’ in Labor, nor should there be a U-turn on our ‘no new mines’ policy.

Uranium is a moderate export earner – less than 1% of our mineral exports –but it’s a big principle in this party. It’s a big principle because it goes to the issue of what our values are.

Labor as a party doesn’t just look at economic transactions between economic entities. We look at the social and environmental implications of our political decisions.

I won’t cop criticism from Senator Evans or Stephen Smith about inconsistency regarding our economic position. I won’t cop criticism because we recognise that once you sign a contract, because of issues of sovereign risk, because of issues of compensation and because of legal issues, we respect it.

The Labor Party leadership across the ideological spectrum is economically responsible, so don’t criticise us for balancing up that economic responsibility with what we think is good social and environmental policy.

Delegates, my amendment is a pragmatic amendment. It’s one that says many of the initiatives put forward in the Rudd amendment are terrific amendments.

We support them and we know that Kevin as the Prime Minister of Australia will be committed to taking action on proliferation. But ours is an amendment that says: don’t put the cart before the horse.

It says, let’s put in place the nuclear proliferation issues and let’s put in place a resolution of issues of nuclear waste before we simply say that we’ll expand the number of new uranium mines.

It comes down to a very simple principle, delegates, and that is what’s got to be addressed by those opposing my amendment, and that principle is this: you can guarantee that uranium will lead to nuclear waste; you can’t guarantee it won’t lead to nuclear weapons.

Delegates, the light on the hill is not the glow of radiation from a nuclear waste dump.

If you look at weapons, you know from Mohamed ElBaradei that the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime has collapsed. He says it. The people running it tell us that’s the case.

Al Gore tells us that each and every single proliferation issue while he was Vice President of the United States related to a civilian nuclear reactor program. We know that with the issue of Iran, that’s going on right now. You don’t put more fuel on the fire; you fix the system first before we have the debate about consideration of new mines.

And the waste issue – you can’t just wish it away. After 60 years of operation, the nuclear industry does not have a single operating nuclear waste repository anywhere in the world. And here in this Party, whose state governments, state governments around the nation, have opposed nuclear waste dumps for low level waste from medical research facilities, for us to pretend that’s not the case is absurd.

And you don’t have to believe me – believe George Bush on this, because the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is the world’s greatest nuclear advocates putting their hand up and saying, ‘The reason we want to have a system by which uranium exporters take back the waste, is because proliferation and waste aren’t working’.

I say this: if you’re cautious about further involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, vote for my amendment.

If you think that it’s pretty arrogant to suggest that we know what changes will happen to geology, climate and politics over the next 240,000 years, if you think there might be doubt about it, vote for my amendment.

If you think it actually matters that every person in this room knows that the ALP members at the rank-and-file level support my amendment, then vote for it. I think it does matter.

And I conclude with just two points. One is that it’s not a solution to climate change, and the Leader Kevin Rudd outlined that. You double uranium, you double the number of nuclear reactors, you reduce greenhouse gases emissions globally by 5 percent. We need a 60 per cent reduction.

And let’s not get conned into the distraction of John Howard’s nuclear fantasy. Let’s put out a consistent clear position that says we don’t support any further involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Vote for my amendment.