FEDERAL RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has called for the “fast tracking” of a selection process to locate a radioactive waste dump, according to a report in Melbourne’s The Age report on June 9. Ferguson indicated this site will likely be in the NT.

He refused to rule out using the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA), introduced by the Howard Government in 2005, to push through any decision.

This is a betrayal of an election promise to repeal the Act. The CRWMA overrides NT laws prohibiting transport and storage of nuclear waste. A raft of environmental, cultural protection, public health and safety laws also went out the window with the introduction of the CRWMA.

Amendments to the CRWMA, passed in 2006, over-rode Aboriginal Land Rights Act procedures requiring informed consent from all affected people and groups. When it was introduced in parliament, Labor MPs called the legislation, “arrogant, extreme, draconian, sordid, and profoundly shameful”.

Under the amended process, Muckaty (120 km north of Tennant Creek) was nominated by the Northern Land Council. This ignored strong public opposition from a number of traditional owners.

Labor’s national conference in April 2007 committed the party to repealing the CRWMA if elected. Labor policy is for a method of addressing radioactive waste management issues which is “scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allows access to appeal mechanisms”.

On the same day Ferguson was arguing to fast track the NT dump, Kevin Rudd was in Japan calling for “a world free of nuclear weapons”. Though symbolically a profound political gesture, this is in reality empty rhetoric. Both Rudd and Ferguson actively promote increased uranium mining and exports and continue to pursue Howard’s plan to dump federal radioactive waste on remote Territory communities.

Traditional Owners and community members from targeted sites in the NT are continuing to speak out strongly. National environment and health groups, including Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Friends of the Earth Australia, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, The Wilderness Society and the Public Health Association Australia, recently sent a joint letter to Rudd and Ferguson demanding the ALP honour their election commitment to repeal the CRWMA.

We need to demonstrate broad national support behind this demand—there is no time to waste.

By Natalie Wasley

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