Those listening to this debate may think that the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill is about geological deep storage.
Senator Ludlam interjecting—
I am not suggesting for a moment, Senator Ludlum, that you are saying that, but in isolation the amount of discussion about it shows this needs to be cleared up. We have had debates before in this place on many of these aspects, but I remember that, when the first bill went through, we were quite concerned about how we would specifically ensure that Australian law said, ‘You cannot import anyone else’s waste into the country.’ There are two ways we could do it. We could do it specifically, and I think Senator Ludlum has attempted to do that—I will get to that in a moment—but we believed, after all the legal advice we could get, that it was simply prohibited under the 1956 Customs legislation, and that was sufficient.
The problem with Senator Ludlum’s amendment is that it talks about domestic origin. Since Australia is an exporter of uranium, and thus the domestic originator of almost any material that you can find around the world, ‘domestic origin’ may produce some ambiguity. I am not a lawyer. I am a busted-arse fisherman, so I look to the wiser views of others on this matter. I know that this amendment is well-intentioned to put the question beyond doubt, but from all the advice we have received I know that, right now, it is not possible to import any waste into this country from other sources. It is simply not possible. The Commonwealth legislation puts that beyond doubt. I know Senator Ludlum is trying to add a layer, with the notion that this would somehow put that further beyond doubt. The advice we have is that it will not provide any further certainty in the matter; in fact, it will provide some ambiguity.
This issue is not about deep disposal. This is not being contemplated by the Senate in this country at any time. It was great to hear the history of that, and if it ever happens in the future of any country it would mean significant legislative change in any nation around the world. It is very important to make the point that the Northern Territory relies on tourism and other things, but to make the connection that, if I am not supporting this amendment, I do not care about the Territory or tourism is spurious. The reason we will not be supporting the amendment is we do not really believe it adds to the legislative protection that you intend to provide.
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120228 In Committee – National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010.pdf