I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 7111 standing in my name:
(1) Page 33 (after line 15), after Part 6, insert:
Part 6A—National Repository Capital Contribution Fund
34A Application of Part
This Part applies if:
(a) the Minister has made a declaration under subsection 14(2) that a site in a State or Territory (the relevant State or Territory) is selected as the site for a facility; and
(b) a facility has been constructed at the site.
34B National Repository Capital Contribution Fee
(1) An entity wishing to use the facility, other than the following entities:
(a) the Commonwealth;
(b) the relevant State or Territory;
(c) an authority of the Commonwealth or the relevant State or Territory;
must pay such fee (the Capital Contribution Fee) as is prescribed by the regulations as a capital contribution towards the cost of the facility before being eligible to have radioactive waste accepted by the facility for storage, management or any other purpose.
The background to this amendment is that, when the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 was first introduced, I had some concerns that there were a number of jurisdictions that we thought were pretty much getting a free hit. High on my list of those getting a free hit was South Australia. Despite the assurances of my colleague from the Greens, who says that we basically always said it should go to Muckaty, it is quite the contrary. After millions of dollars of investment, Australia decided that the very best place for it to go was, in fact, in section 52 of the Officer Basin in South Australia. There was a huge amount of investment from everybody and, fundamentally, an agreement—a difficult agreement but an agreement across every state and territory that there would be a national task to find the best place, and the best place, as I said, was in South Australia.
We all know the history. The previous Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, in a rush of political blood to his head during an election, decided: ‘No. After all that work, it’s not going to the best place in Australia. It’s not coming to South Australia.’ The Commonwealth, unsurprisingly, was caught pretty left-footed, as was everybody else. This process started with the Labor government, then the process went across to the conservative government and now it is back with the Labor government. It has gone on for a very long time. The fundamental point about why we are here today is the failure of Mike Rann to accept an absolute ironclad agreement with everybody. Every state and territory signed up to the fact that we would invest millions of dollars ensuring that it went to the best place. Scientists decided where the best place was for a whole range of reasons—transportation, the level of amenities and all those sorts of things—and, very sadly, that is why we are here today.
I put the original amendment forward to say: ‘Since this has been foisted on us and since nobody else seems to want to have it, the only jurisdictions that can keep the materials here are the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. Every other jurisdiction will have to sort themselves out, because we’re not going to cop it.’ We have always copped it as a territory, and that is because we are not a state. We are dictated to about what happens in the Northern Territory. Let’s face it: that we are a territory is the only reason it has been able to be put there. So the amendment was put forward to ensure that no other jurisdiction, apart from the Commonwealth, was able to keep their material there.
It has come to my attention over the last little while that there were, in fact, some rumblings about jurisdictions. Even South Australia was saying, ‘I know what we’ll do: we’ll gift it to the Commonwealth and that will get us around Scullion’s amendment. We’ll gift all our material from the other jurisdictions to the Commonwealth. That gets around the amendment and it is then the Commonwealth’s material and they’ll be able to store it.’ My thinking process was along the lines of this: ‘We built something to the amenity of everywhere.’ I was pretty cranky at the time. Let’s face it, you cannot go to sleep in the Commonwealth; you have to go to sleep in a state or territory. Every state and territory certainly benefits in some way from having a research reactor at Lucas Heights. On that basis, if any other jurisdiction wants to store material there—the Territory has made the contribution, and it certainly was not voluntary—the Commonwealth is paying the money and the other states and territories should do the same. This amendment effectively establishes the capital contribution fund, which is to provide enhanced public services or infrastructure to any state or territory. It is not just to the Territory, because if somebody can eventually capitulate—particularly the current Premier of South Australia, who still stands up today and says, ‘Look, I’m terribly sorry; we got it all wrong’—South Australia will be able to have a capital contribution fund that will be paid into. So this is not about Muckaty; this is about a capital contribution fund for whatever state or territory takes this repository. Wherever it is sited, this repository will provide safe and suitable storage for national and possibly, should they pay, state and territory material.
The key feature of this amendment is that the fund will stand in credit of $10 million, and that is prior to the acceptance of any material from any source. So before any material arrives from the Commonwealth, the Territory or anywhere else, $10 million has to be in the fund that is available to a board consisting, pretty much, of the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and some people with some expertise in health, particularly in infrastructure. Again, the use of the fund was motivated only since the provision of some $32 million by the Howard government, and it is well on the record that that was levered between David Tollner and me. Basically, at that stage, if you had cancer you knew you had to be on a flight to Adelaide. No matter where you came from—whether you came from Alice, Katherine, Tennant Creek or wherever—you knew you had to be on a flight to Adelaide, because that was simply the closest amenity. That was only a few years ago. So what everyone else in Australia took for granted we just did not have access to in the Northern Territory. We now have an oncology unit in the Northern Territory. In places like Adelaide, because they have had oncology services for so long, they are training people in oncology services and have a large population of people who are ready to staff it. But that is not the case in the Territory, and we need very much to grow our own staff to ensure that we provide the same level of amenity that people take for granted in every other part of Australia.
It all comes down to some sort of justice for Territorians. We are still having this foisted on us, and that certainly cost the previous coalition government some $32 million. That will never be enough because it is never going to compensate us for how we feel as Territorians, and I acknowledge that. This amendment deals with closing the equity gap, if you like, to ensure that Territorians actually get the same level of oncology services enjoyed by others.
Just before I sit down—and I understand there are some agreements to ensure that we do not keep this debate going—let me say to Senator Ludlam that I not only have visited ANSTO but have spoken to ANSTO staff extensively, and I have never heard them say that it is not a case of just not wanting to put the dump near white people. Now, mate, I am a mate of yours, and you can check the Hansard, but that is what you have said. All I am saying is that I have been here for a fair while longer through this particular debate, and I have never had that put to me. I am just putting it on the record for you that I have never had that put to me, and I have extensively questioned it, both personally in the pub and across the committee bench. I just thought I would put that on the record.
This is a very important amendment, particularly to Territorians, so that we can try to close the gap between access to health services. I commend the amendment to the house.
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