May 23, 2006

Transcript of Media Conference, Parliament House, Canberra – Nuclear Energy

Transcript of Media Conference, Parliament House, Canberra

23 May 2006

Subject: Renewable energy, location of nuclear reactors, Government committee on nuclear energy.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] … John Howard kick off this nuclear debate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t think the Prime Minister is serious about a nuclear debate. What the Prime Minister wants is to be able to be out there promoting nuclear energy and when anyone disagrees with him, not engage in a real debate but engage in insults and vindictiveness.

The fact is if we are going to have a real nuclear debate in Australia let’s have a debate about climate change. Let’s have a debate about the fact that the government is failing to support its own renewable energy industry. We just heard the Environment Minister on AM say that it wasn’t a problem that renewable energy companies had to move off shore to China in order to commercialise their products rather than produce them here.

The ‘Roaring 40s Company’ has announced, as a result of the Budget’s failure to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, that it won’t proceed with half a billion dollars worth of projects in Tasmania and South Australia. That is a disgrace.

When it comes to the nuclear debate, let’s hear from the Prime Minister where the nuclear reactors will be sited – in what electorates, in what areas outside capital cities and where the nuclear waste will be stored. If this is so safe then I am sure that the Prime Minister won’t have a shortage of volunteers in his party room to have nuclear reactors sited in their own electorates. That’s a real debate.

The other thing is that I understand and that there has already been work done on this. There is an interdepartmental committee, comprising people from Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Industry, and possibly other departments as well that’s been looking at nuclear energy for Australia. This hasn’t been announced. The work is being done behind the scenes because the government knows that this is indeed a very dangerous path for Australia to go on.

And it comes just two years after the government released an Energy White Paper in July 2004. On page 135 of that report, ‘Climate Change and Energy’, it stated this …

Use of Uranium reserves raises cost, safety and waste disposal issues in power generation. While industrialised countries on average generate 24% of electricity from nuclear power, Australia is not contemplating the use of nuclear power.

It goes on in that government report to say the following –

The Australian government is not contemplating the use of nuclear energy in Australia.

I repeat,

The Australian government is not contemplating the use of nuclear energy in Australia.

We had a major review. A Government White Paper released in July 2004 and yet here we are in May 2006 with the government setting up secret interdepartmental committees, with the Prime Minister waiting until he was from the safety of the other side of the world, the northern hemisphere, before he went on this nuclear path.

We now have them also talking about enrichment of uranium and potentially of course that’s about laying the ground work that was proposed by the United States to have leasing arrangements whereby Australia would become the worlds nuclear waste dump. I don’t think that’s a path we should go down.

JOURNALIST: What do you understand of the worked this IDC is doing? Is it looking at locations for reactors or enrichment? What is the scope of its work?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I understand they are looking at some of the economic issues, but if they were serious then they would be looking at location of nuclear reactors. We know that a previous conservative government way back in the 60’s had a proposed site – indeed they built the road up to the site in Jervis Bay for a nuclear reactor.

And this is classic John Howard – whether it be the GST, whether it be the extreme industrial relations agenda or whether it be this nuclear fantasy which will become Australia’s nightmare – John Howard always returns to the past.

For John Howard to say that there hasn’t been a debate on nuclear energy would suggest that he went to sleep in the 50’s and he has just woken up because that debate has been going for 50 years. The problems of cost, safety, waste disposal and nuclear proliferation in the climate of terrorism are more acute today than they have ever been.

JOURNALIST: But doesn’t he say that things have moved on since the white paper? The cost debate has changed fundamentally because of the oil spike.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is an absurd argument. Last time I looked you didn’t put petrol in your light switch to turn on the lights. The truth is that oil plays no role in electricity generation in Australia. What an absurd proposition and typical of the dishonest way in which John Howard has entered this so called debate.