Aug 23, 2007

Transcript – Fed Govt contradictions on plans for nuclear reactors, plebiscites

Transcript of doorstop interview – Electorate Office, Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

Friday, 24 August 2007


Subject: Howard Government contradictions over its plans for 25 nuclear reactors and local plebiscites.

ALBANESE: John Howard will say anything and do anything to get elected. Today, John Howard has said there are no plans to build nuclear reactors in Australia, and that we can’t expect to see them for 10 to 15 years. This is a direct contradiction of Ian Macfarlane who has said they will be up and running within 10 years.

On 28 April, John Howard not only committed Australia to his own nuclear fantasy, he also committed the Federal Government to overturning current Commonwealth laws that outlaw nuclear power stations in Australia, and committed his government to intervene to overturn any State regulations outlawing nuclear power in Australia.

Today, John Howard would have Australians believe they are going to get a say in whether or not these 25 nuclear reactors will be imposed on communities around Australia. Today, John Howard has said that When the time does come for plants to be considered in particular parts of Australia, I believe local communities should be given a vote".

When the Prime Minister was asked about this in Parliament just last Thursday he rejected the idea of community participation, and said that the location of nuclear power plants would be purely a commercial decision. The Prime Minister specifically ruled out any government involvement in the siting of these 25 nuclear reactors.

The Prime Minister can’t have it both ways, and we won’t allow John Howard to walk both sides of the street when it comes to nuclear reactors.

Today, John Howard said that nuclear power is the only reliable source of low-emission energy. Labor believes that nuclear power is not part of Australia’s future. Australia’s future is in clean coal technology and in renewables, such as solar and wind power.

You can’t stand at the dispatch box in Parliament House and proclaim your support for 25 nuclear reactors being imposed on local communities, and then hope you can tip-toe through an election without saying where those nuclear reactors will go.

Liberal and National Party candidates need to be accountable for their policies supporting nuclear reactors in 25 local communities. Labor will ensure that they wear this commitment like a ball and chain each and every day between now and the Federal election.

The Federal election will be Australians’ last chance to reject John Howard’s nuclear fantasy and reject the imposition of 25 nuclear reactors on local communities.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a fair bit of chopping and changing on this policy – do you think they’re running scared, or are they confused?

ALBANESE: It’s pretty clear that the Government has contradictory positions. On the one hand, you have the Prime Minister saying last week that it would be purely a commercial decision where nuclear reactors would go. This week, the Deputy Prime Minister has said local communities should get a say. And today, the Prime Minister has contradicted his position of just one week ago. The feedback that communities must be giving to their local Liberal and National Party candidates and MP’s is that they don’t want nuclear reactors imposed on their local communities. Nor do they want the high level nuclear toxic waste dumps which result from those reactors.

Last year, I asked the Prime Minister in a Question on Notice to rule out nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps in each of the 150 federal electorates around Australia. The Prime Minister refused to rule out any electorate as a potential site for a nuclear reactor or a nuclear waste dump.

The Government is trying to tip-toe its way through an election campaign saying on the one-hand it is committed to 25 nuclear reactors but, on the other hand, not answer the critical question – where will those nuclear reactors be located and where will the high level toxic waste dumps go?

JOURNALIST: The PM and Peter Costello are now talking about plebiscites. Can you imagine any community putting out their hand and saying yes please, we’d like a nuclear power plant in our backyard?

ALBANESE: We asked the Prime Minister last Thursday, in relation to the local government plebiscites in Queensland, whether he would support the Australian Electoral Commission being provided funds to conduct plebiscites on this issue. The Prime Minister rejected that, and I notice that today he is being very careful not to commit the Commonwealth Government to support the Electoral Commission conducting these plebiscites on nuclear power at the same time as they conduct any plebiscites on the amalgamation of local government areas in Queensland.

It’s pretty clear that Australians want a solar panel on their roof top, and they don’t want a nuclear reactor in their backyard.

JOURNALIST: On this issue of plebiscites, isn’t this also a sign the PM is trying to listen to the people and involve them in the vote?

ALBANESE: Of course, the Prime Minister is responding to the fact that his Deputy Prime Minister contradicted his position yesterday. The Government might have a different position next week. It is clear in the Prime Minister’s statement today that he remains committed to his nuclear fantasy and imposing these nuclear reactors on 25 local communities. The Prime Minister is hoping to slip through the election campaign without saying where those reactors will go, just as he slipped through the 2004 election campaign without telling people about his Work Choices legislation.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government’s message confused?

ALBANESE: The Government’s message is totally confused. You have the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and National and Liberal Party candidates all saying different things, but the one thing that they won’t tell the Australian public is where the 25 nuclear reactors will go, and that’s the question Prime Minister Howard has to answer prior to the election.