May 1, 2006

Transcript of Radio Interview, PM – Uranium

Transcript of Radio Interview, PM – ALP Uranium policy

1 May 2006

ALP considers changes to its uranium policy

MARK COLVIN: The debate over uranium is continuing to swirl around the Labor Party, with the Opposition leader Kim Beazley again hinting at a possible change in the party’s long-held policy.

Labor has held tight to its "no new mines" policy for 20 years.

But now Mr Beazley says it’s not a question of who digs it up, but where the uranium goes and under what conditions.

The uranium issue is contentious for Labor. The party’s environment spokesman Anthony Albanese has again warned that the party could lose some of its core vote if it ditches its opposition to new mines.

From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Labor’s policy not to allow any new uranium mines stretches back more than two decades.

But the Opposition leader Kim Beazley is now leaving the door open for a shift in Labor’s policy.

It won’t be formally decided until the party’s National Conference next year, but Mr Beazley is putting it on the record that he can see the case for change.

KIM BEAZLEY: With regard to uranium, it’s a dangerous substance. It’s not a question, however, of who digs it up, but the terms and conditions under which it is sold.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: There’s also a growing list of senior party figures, from South Australian Premier Mike Rann and shadow resources spokesman Martin Ferguson, who think the old platform just doesn’t stack up.

And joining them is another frontbencher, South Australian Senator Annette Hurley, who’s also a member of the ALP’s National Executive.

ANNETTE HURLEY: Well, I think it probably is out of date. I would like to see some changes in it to allow new mines to operate under the existing strict requirements.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Before she came to the federal arena, Annette Hurley sat in South Australia’s Parliament as the shadow minister for resources.

ANNETTE HURLEY: Well, I think here in South Australia we’ve got one of the largest uranium mines in the world, and it seems a bit illogical for us not to allow smaller uranium mines to produce even more uranium, providing that strict conditions are adhered to.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: What will you be seeking to do in the lead-up to the National Conference?

ANNETTE HURLEY: Well, I have been arguing for some time that we need to rethink that policy. It’s been some time since we had a good look at it.

And I will be arguing within the party forums that we should look at allowing new mines to operate in Australia, provided that they’re under the same strict conditions as the existing one.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Do you see, though, that there’s any potential for a bleed in Labor’s vote; that some core Labor supporters could go Green if you change that policy?

ANNETTE HURLEY: I don’t see why we should, providing it’s a properly crafted policy.

If we come up with a policy that keeps all the safeguards in place, that ensures that our exported uranium is going to countries that adhere to all the international regulations, I think that we can come up with a policy that satisfies most people.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The case against changing Labor’s policy has been firmly taken up by the party’s environment spokesman and left faction leader, Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’m yet to see a single Labor Party branch in the nation carry a resolution calling for a change in policy.

And I don’t believe that there are people out there who are saying, in marginal seats: "I’ll change my vote to Labor if only they change their anti-uranium and anti-nuclear positions." I just don’t think that’s the case.

I do think, however, whilst there isn’t a pro-nuclear vote in Australia, I do think there is an anti-nuclear constituency, both within the party and within the broader community. And they’re certainly making their views felt. And they will be passing resolutions and making their views felt for delegates to the next ALP National Conference.

MARK COLVIN: Labor’s environment spokesman, Anthony Albanese, ending that report from Gillian Bradford.