104.9 MixFM - Nuclear waste repository deal

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NIGEL SCULLION:

[some audio missing] … in our health system.  They’re taking advantage of all of that and yet they haven’t put their hand up and they haven’t been helpful.  Particularly South Australia.  So this makes sure that they pay, that’s all it is.  It’s about equity.  If they’re going to use these products – because of Lucas Heights we have to have this repository here – then they’re going to have to pay.  And this notionalised just $10 million.  Look even on an average of $3 million into the account, over the life of the repository that’s something around $900 million that goes into our health system.  I have an opportunity to either have some pyrrhic victory, sit on the other side of the floor while the rest of the world support this, or I can have a practical outcome for Territorians.  And the first one was Dave Tollner and myself said we want $32 million, because we can’t even get access in the bloody Territory.  People with cancer and families with cancer have to go to Adelaide for treatment. Now they can actually have it in the Northern Territory.  The real problem, as I’ve understood with one of the challenges with the oncology unit that’s now in the Northern Territory is that we have to get staff and technicians from other places.  And fundamentally this particular fund, this capital fund, is to ensure that we can send Territorians away to get training, we can ensure we can update our equipment, and we can ensure that we no longer reliant on people from other places to make sure we have access to the best health system.

PETE DAVIES:

Let’s get back to the $10 million … we spend more than that on accommodation for asylum seekers.

NIGEL SCULLION:

We do indeed, and we shouldn’t be doing that either mate.  And it’s a terrible waste.  And I agree with you entirely on that, mate.  But that’s a down-payment and the States and Territories will be putting in, as they use the repository.  The repository is only for the Commonwealth, an amendment I ensured went into the original legislation, only for the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory.  Now I’ve discovered that the States and the other Territories were planning to provide their material to the Commonwealth and “gift” it to the Commonwealth, so then it was the Commonwealth’s [waste].  So they were going to get around this.  So I said, well, you know, this is a mechanism to ensure that if they’re going to get around to something then they’re going to have to pay.  I’m a practical bloke, and I feel as strongly about this being foisted on us as anyone, but at the end of the day just having a pyrrhic victory and saying oh well, I’m just going to stand against it and vote on the other side … I think Territorians appreciate that if we can get a better deal out of this, on top of the $32 million and the oncology centre that we’ve already got then that’s what we should go for.  But mate, I share your concerns.  This should go in South Australia, section 52 of the Officer Basin.  That’s the address, and thanks to a deal cooked up by both Clare Martin and Mike Rann, we now get courtesy of South Australia we get yellowcake from their mine is able to come up on the train all the way through to the Northern Territory and he’s quite happy to do that but he’s not happy to have a repository in the best scientific place that we spent millions in finding.

PETE DAVIES:

Well it matters nothing to that softcock, because he’s gone.  He’s growing fat on his Parliamentary pension.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well it doesn’t matter at all to any of them, mate.  None of them give a rat’s about what’s happening here.

PETE DAVIES:

How set in stone is the $10 million?  I’m of the opinion that’s an insult.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well the $10 million is set in stone.  That’s the minimum that the Commonwealth, before they open the gates they have to put a minimum of $10 million in a fund by the use of the Northern Territory Government to facilitate those processes.  But that’s just simply a deposit.  Any of the State’s material that is now going to move into there is going to be levied and that has to be still set in regulation.  That might be up to $10 million a year, there’s no cap on it.  But it will last every year recurrently for the life of the repository.

PETE DAVIES:

Okay, the rate card.  How much the other State’s get charged to store their nuclear waste, right?  Who gets to frame the rate card?  I’m of the opinion, because it’s on our soil it’s our job to set the prices.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well, look, I think that you’re right.  And we, as I understand, will have a fair bit to say.  Because it’s got to be through regulation it’s a disallowable instrument, and I would certainly like to hear from your listeners and yourself about the sort of rates that we need to levy on other State’s before it comes in here.  This is going to be set by regulation.  Now I’ve taken the Minister in good faith, and he’s a man who can be trusted.

PETE DAVIES:

Who’s this? Ferguson?

NIGEL SCULLION:

Indeed.  Well in terms of – I’ve dealt with a number of ministers and his word is his bond, he’s a, you know.  He’s what I consider to be one of the better ministers.

PETE DAVIES:

The words you can understand.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well, the other thing of course is that if it doesn’t, it’s still a disallowable instrument, so we’ve got that safety check.  But that’s yet to be discussed.  This is a very significant issue for Territorians.  Everybody else gets the benefit of it, yet we get the repository sort of thrust upon us.  Now, yes there were those – including Ferguson – who say we’ve been compensated because of the repository, sorry the oncology unit in Darwin, and things are a lot better.  They may be, but he doesn’t understand the depths of anger where we are simply to subject to the dictates of other States and the Commonwealth.  Now, yes statehood is on the way, and I can’t wait until we get there like you mate.  But I think yes it is very useful if we can have some suggestions about what sort of ratings are, and I understand there are a number of conversations happening about exactly how we set those ratings.  There’s obviously different materials and different sort of storage costs.  But fundamentally we need to ensure that this can significantly improve our health system and our capacity to train our own people and have some independence about providing the very best health system for Territorians.

PETE DAVIES:

Okay, getting back to the $10 million.  How much money was put on the table as compensation for the traditional owners?

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well, I’m not sure exactly, and it’s not public.  But I have seen, I think there was somewhere between, there was one figure of some $11 million, and there was another figure of some $30 million for the build of it.  But I think there was $11 million in some sort of compensation.  But I don’t know.  That’s simply what I’ve read in the media.  But again, the Muckaty site is still subject to a High Court challenge at the moment, and that’s challenging exactly who owns the property, which Indigenous group owns the property.  So if that High Court challenge succeeds, and for example, Muckaty is no longer an acceptable site, then this particular legislation that we’re passing doesn’t talk about Muckaty specifically, in terms of “this is where it will be”, the site.  It’ll have to go somewhere else, then.  And hopefully it will go in the Officer Basin and the particular deal about this compensation fund, well it will be available to those in South Australia and good luck to them.

PETE DAVIES:

Um, I was talking to Senator Scott Ludlum from Western Australia last week.  And as you know, Senator Ludlum has been in our corner from day one.  He’s of the opinion that the High Court challenge is not dead in the water.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Well I’m not suggesting it is.  I mean the High Court challenge may be alive and well.  It’s really a matter – the court challenge is saying whether or not the Northern Land Council acted lawfully, and their consultation, a whole bunch of technical stuff around actually who owns the land.  Look, it’s a good process, we should always go through these processes and, you know, the High Court will make it’s decision.  But the point is that this legislation has no bearing whatsoever.  In the Act it doesn’t mention Muckaty anywhere, in fact in specifically talks about any sites, in States or Territories where it’s selected.  So we’re in the hands of the High Court in that regard.

PETE DAVIES:

If they can come up with such a great deal, why don’t they just put the whole bloody thing out to tender?  Surely there must be a bloody sad-sack State that, you know, has got the bones hanging out of the ass of its pants that would put their hand up if the deal was good enough?  See, the problem I’ve got Nigel, is not about the quality … the facility will be world class.

NIGEL SCULLION:

It is.

PETE DAVIES:

And it’s something that this country has to have.  But the problem I’ve got is the way that this was done.  The way that we were lied to.  The way that we were tricked.  Right?   And that is wrong.  In this country to be treated like second-class citizens is wrong.  Capital “W” wrong.  And, you know, okay let’s go cut a deal.  But I mean whatever deal we cut, we deserve.  If the traditional owners of Muckaty deserve compensation for having the facility placed on their land, every Territorian deserves to be compensated for being treated as a second-class citizen in their own country.  If we’re good enough to go to war and fight and lose lives for our country, we’re good enough to be treated equally.

NIGEL SCULLION:

I couldn’t agree with you more.  There’s only one aspect of this that is perhaps not well-known.  Is this is a voluntary process.  Now, it’s on aboriginal land, and it was volunteered.  The Land Council had a huge meeting over several days to see whether or not people could actually put forward land.  The people from Muckaty proposed that their land was used.  This was not foisted on the people of Muckaty.  And this is an entirely voluntary system.  The Northern Territory Government said that it couldn’t be used on any Northern Territory Government land, the Central Land Council came out two days later having not really consulted, in my view, with enough of their people, and they’ve said look we’re definitely not having it any of country, sort of thing.  But the Northern Land Council went about it in, what I think, was a smarter manner.  But the principal is in the first place, the reality is, even if it was voluntary, there was nowhere else because the States and the other Territory could say you can’t do it in my backyard because I have the right of the States, and we didn’t have it.  And that’s the reality.  And I agree entirely.  This is one of the things people should remember.  Territorians should remember if you ever want a reason for statehood, then this is it.  This is what happens if we don’t have statehood, and that’s why we need to move as fast as we can to have our own independence.

PETE DAVIES:

Nigel Scullion, good to talk to you.

NIGEL SCULLION:

Great to talk to you Pete.

PETE DAVIES:

See you mate, bye.  Senator Nigel Scullion there on the line from Canberra.

ENDS.

 

 

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