Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra
Thursday, 16 August 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Nuclear reactor debate in Parliament; a nuclear reactors for Bennelong; Michael Towke and Cook preselection; arrogance of Liberal government.
ALBANESE: Today in Question Time, Labor raised the issue of John Howard’s determination to impose 25 nuclear reactors right around the nation and whether he believed the people should get a right to say before those nuclear reactors were imposed on their local communities.
Many months ago John Howard said that he would introduce federal legislation to override the ban on nuclear reactors around Australia.
This map signifies the sites for nuclear reactors that have been recommended by past Coalition Government reports over the last three decades. They are all around the nation, and today the Prime Minister said “if it really believes in the market it must understand that the decisions as to where nuclear power plants might be located in the future will not be the decisions of the Government but it will be the decisions for commercial investors, and therefore whether they’re in the magnificent municipality of Randwick or the shire of Shoalhaven or indeed anywhere else, the municipality of Waverley, the City of Ryde, wherever you might go that will be a matter of commercial, it won’t be a decision of Government”.
It is quite extraordinary that the Prime Minister has said that the siting of nuclear reactors is simply a commercial decision and not a decision of Government.
It’s also interesting that the places the Prime Minister named as possible sites included Ryde, in his own electorate of Bennelong. We know that nuclear reactors consume 80% more water than any other energy source and have to be located near water. So the question for the Prime Minister is, where on the Lane Cove River will he put his nuclear reactor in the electorate of Bennelong?
This is extraordinary arrogance from a Government that is now characterised by its contempt for the Australian public in the lead up to an election. The Prime Minister is determined to impose 25 nuclear reactors, but would have the Australian public think those nuclear reactors won’t actually be placed anywhere. It’s an absurd proposition, and the Australian public have a right to know before the election.
REPORTER: They’re going to be very, very expensive these reactors, if we ever get there why wouldn’t they be sited on commercial circumstances?
ALBANESE: If those reactors were to be imposed, commercial viability would be one element of it. It is a fact that, at the moment, the Government does have to make a decision about the siting of these reactors because there’s Commonwealth Legislation preventing nuclear reactors going anywhere.
The idea that Governments don’t have any role in such a very critical decision is, quite frankly, arrogant and absurd, and is derived from the fact that the Prime Minister knows that this is a deeply unpopular proposal.
That’s why the member for Gilmore has two petitions on her website – one saying support for establishing a nuclear reactor in the electorate of Gilmore and another opposing the construction of the nuclear reactor being built in the electorate of Gilmore. We know have at least 28 members of the Government saying these ‘reactors won’t be in their electorates’. Well, they do have to go somewhere.
REPORTER: Is your allegation one of hypocrisy that, if people in Queensland deserve a right to vote on whether councils should be merged, they should have the right to vote on whether they get a nuclear reactor?
ALBANESE: One would have thought that the people, regardless of whether they are in Queensland or in other states, would want a say in whether a nuclear reactor would be in their backyard. People want renewables, not reactors. That’s Labor’s policy and the idea that the Prime Minister can introduce special legislation into the Parliament over the Queensland local government issue and yet deny the public the right to a say on imposing nuclear reactors in their local communities is quite extraordinary. The Commonwealth Government has made it very clear they will override other levels of Government in order to impose their nuclear agenda on the Australian community.
REPORTER: Are you saying that he is lying when he says that the Government won’t have any control over where the reactors go?
ALBANESE: Of course the Government will have a say in where nuclear reactors will go. The question is whether the community gets a say. That’s what Labor is saying. The Prime Minister is being too clever by half once again, saying that he supports 25 nuclear reactors but refusing to say where those nuclear reactors will go.
I’d just point you towards the special legislation which was imposed in the Northern Territory, rammed through this Parliament, to impose a nuclear waste dump which overrode the EPBC Act and the Northern Territory Land Rights Legislation. It went over the top of all other legislation because of his determination to impose that nuclear waste dump.
REPORTER: On another issue dear to your heart Mr Albanese is the preselection in Cook. Michael Towke was cleared today of any impropriety by the Liberal Party. Do you think he deserves a crack at the seat?
ALBANESE: It’s pretty extraordinary that the Prime Minister said on the 31st of July, “In fairness to Mr Towke he’s not been charged with any illegality, if there are no valid objections to his ratification then he should be endorsed.” At the same time after he’s been disendorsed the State Executive would purport to believe that there have been no irregularities in his activity in the electorate of Cook.
This is a debacle that has been going on month after month. The leading figures in the NSW Liberal Party talk to each other now through their lawyers.
The Liberal Party in NSW has to answer this: what deals where done with Mr Towke to get him to go quietly in the end? We know that when he was disendorsed he was quoted in the paper the next day as saying that he would challenge this decision. Now, all of a sudden, there are very serious allegations of fraudulent behaviour levelled at Mr Towke, not by the Labor party, but by fellow members of the NSW Liberal Party at a very senior level.
You can’t have a situation whereby now we pretend that all this hasn’t occurred. Meanwhile the good people of the electorate of Cook still don’t have a candidate as they don’t in many other electorates, indeed at least 17 electorates in NSW. The NSW Liberal Party is a dysfunctional branch that is causing enormous problems for the Howard Government in the lead up to the federal election.
REPORTER: Can I just go back to the override legislation on the nuclear industry. The Prime Minister said in April I think he was going to introduce that it hasn’t come through, has it?
ALBANESE: No. And that was a question I asked the Prime Minister today. It went to the conflicting petitions on the Member for Gilmore’s website, and we asked him why he hadn’t introduced that legislation as he said he would do.
This is a Prime Minister that can find special legislation to put in the Parliament on the Thursday morning of every second sitting week. There’s a pattern developing here. But on the commitment to introduce overriding legislation which is the only way that nuclear power plants can be built here in Australia, he hasn’t introduced that legislation.
REPORTER: So do you think it was a hollow threat or do you think he is planning to rush it through after APEC?
ALBANESE: I asked the Prime Minister that question today and the Prime Minister of course didn’t answer that question. The Prime Minister took that opportunity, as many senior members have this week – particularly the Treasurer today – to be full of hubris and arrogance and indeed today he took the opportunity in his answer to make fun of my accent.
I’m a working class Catholic from inner city Sydney. I’m proud of that, and I know that in some quarters people were taught as they were growing up to make fun of working class Catholics and make fun of the way they say h or H. This is a big deal for them. Really, what it shows to me is the snobbery of the senior levels of the Howard Government. I found that quite extraordinary indeed. This is a Government that doesn’t want to argue anymore about the substance of the issues they just want to attack individuals in the Labor Party and indeed anyone who stands in their way because they believe they have a divine right to rule and we saw that today from Tony Abbott, we saw it from Peter Costello and we saw it from John Howard.
REPORTER: As Leader of Opposition Business in the House how confident are you that we’ll see those two weeks of sitting in September completed?
ALBANESE: When we get to the second week in October the full term, the three years is up for this Government. I think that the Australian public would be very concerned if the Prime Minister, due to the internal difficulties that are there with his relationship with the Treasurer and other difficulties facing the Government, put off the election.
I think the public have a right to expect an October election. We are concerned by suggestions that the Government will delay having that election. We heard a bit of rhetoric today about the publics’ right to decide, well the public has a right to decide every three years, under the Constitution, the Government of Australia. We would be very concerned if the Howard Government delayed the election. It’s quite clear that the Howard Government has given up on governing, they’ve given up on that. It’s all about short term politics and not about the long term interests of the nation therefore we should be going to an election as close as possible to that three year date.