On Wednesday March 3, 150 people packed a community hall in Tennant Creek for a protest meeting against the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust, 100 kilometres north of the town.
There was a strong mood of defiance. Local people feel deeply betrayed by the Rudd government.
Before the 2007 election, clear promises were given that Howard’s draconian Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CWRMA) would be repealed and a nuclear waste dump would not be forced on the NT. But Labor’s new National Radioactive Waste Management Bill (NRWMB) is just as draconian. Whole sections have literally been cut and pasted from Howard’s laws.
The NRWMB suspends the NT Land Rights Act, Aboriginal Heritage protection laws, all relevant State and Territory legislation and the Environmental and Bio-Diversity Conservation Act. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson also has the discretion to suspend any other legislation that might get in the path of the dump.
Spent nuclear fuel rods are returning from France and Scotland in 2015. They have been sent overseas for reprocessing from the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney.
Lucas Heights should be shut down and its toxic refuse managed on site where there is expertise and resources. But under the racist logic of Australian politics, vulnerable communities on Aboriginal land are being targeted for a dump.
Dumping on Land Rights
The Northern Land Council (NLC) nominated the site at Muckaty in May 2007 under the CWRMA.
The NLC claim that traditional owners from Muckaty, all members of the Ngapa clan, signed a contract with the federal government to offer up the land. The NLC refuse to make the contract public and it is unknown how many signed.
Twenty three Ngapa signed a strong petition against the dump in 2009 and others have written letters of protest. But the idea that the land just belongs to this small group of people is a total fiction invented to justify the waste dump.
The Ngapa are only one of five clan groups within the Muckaty Land Trust, which has hundreds of registered members. A report done by the NT Land Commissioner, which led to the hand back of the land in 1993, says clearly that all members of the Land Trust must be considered “traditional Aboriginal owners of any part of the land”.
Under the NT Land Rights Act, any contract would require the “informed consent” of all people on the Land Trust. But this law remains suspended, allowing Ferguson to play divide and rule.
$12 million has been offered to the signatories. This will be paid into a trust fund for educational scholarships, roads and housing. These are basic citizenship rights, denied to increasingly desperate NT Aboriginal communities unless they accept a toxic trade off. A substantial cut will go to the NLC.
The meeting resolved to fight the dump, if necessary with direct action to stop it being built. A mass demonstration will be held over the Easter Weekend. Muckaty traditional owner and campaign leader Dianne Stokes told the Centralian Advocate she would block the Stuart Highway.
A motion from the MUA, pledging to put a ban on the unloading of nuclear waste bound for unwilling Aboriginal communities, received a loud cheer.
At their February full council meeting, Unions NT resolved to support communities and unionists refusing to co-operate with the dump.
By Paddy Gibson