It is important to have a look at the steps that Australia has taken to deal with the uranium that we trade with other nations. Yes, it has been pointed out we do not have a nuclear industry as such. In fact, there is only one place where we have anything to do with nuclear products in the context we are talking about today and we have to purchase those materials from other parts of the world as part of the non-proliferation treaty and return those rods. They leave the country. Of course, that place is our research facility at Lucas Heights.
As I have said often in this place, we need to remind ourselves what the consequences would be of not having such a place. We enjoy a wonderful health system in this country, and a fundamental part of that health system is access to radiopharmaceuticals for detecting and ameliorating as much as we can within our technology the effects of cancer. Many lives are saved by its detection and removal. I do not believe that many Australians understand the full context of what we are asked to do by those people who say that we should not mine uranium, we should not use it, we should not store it and we should not be responsible for the material that we send away and return. But that has been the consistent approach of the Greens—very consistent, and at least for that I will commend them.
I will turn to the ex-Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, and his sudden embrace of the sale of uranium to India. I can recall very well what happened at the last minute, after Australia had spent so much time ensuring we had the very best possible science, after we had looked around our nation together as Australians in a project that invested millions of dollars in finding out the very best place to meet our international obligations relating to waste from the materials used in our health system. That was a very responsible approach, an approach that was not only agreed to by the Commonwealth at the time, under Labor, but also agreed to by all the states and territories. The place chosen was section 52a in South Australia. But Mike Rann at the time, with great hypocrisy, decided that he would then say, ‘I agreed to all that, but now I’m changing my mind.’
Sadly, we have now wasted taxpayers’ dollars. We could have invested them in other things like hospitals and schools, but instead we had to spend millions of dollars finding another place. That place is now Muckaty, in the Northern Territory. It appears that the waste will be going there. I agree that is a good place to put it—I have no problems with that—but as a Territorian I think we would all have preferred that it had gone to the best place available according to the science. We are always talking in this place about the best scientific evidence. Those are the sorts of things that we could look to.
I commend the committee on their comments on the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for Co-Operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. There are a lot of safety issues in Europe and I commend the sort of work that we are doing as a nation in that area. We have got to be in this game. If we want to ensure safety, we have to be a part of those negotiations. I think there has been reasonable bipartisanship in that aspect. As a Territorian I certainly think it is terrific to see that we are now going to be selling uranium to India—no doubt just for stark political reasons, but I am not necessarily here today to question motives. It is a terrific thing.
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