The second of theTerritory issues I thought worth mentioning (see post immediately below for the first one) is a minor controversy about whether the NT (presumably somewhere in central Australia) will be the site for a Commonwealth low-medium level nuclear waste dump, in the wake of the Federal Court’s recent overturning of a decision relating to the previous intended site in South Australia. John Howard has expressly declined to rule out that possibility.
CLP Member for Solomon Dave Tollner, in a courageous move (in a Sir Humphrey Appleby sense), immediately went public and said Territorians should accept the waste dump. Predictably, all the other local politicians on both sides, including Labor candidate for Solomon Jim Davidson, professed complete opposition to any waste dump:
Both the Labor Government and CLP Opposition last night agreed to fight any moves to locate a national nuclear waste dump here.
Mr Stirling slammed federal CLP MP David Tollner, who claimed last night Territorians were obligated to accept a nuclear dump if the NT was deemed the safest place to build one.
“(Mr) Tollner has put us right at the top of the agenda,” he said.
And Mr Stirling admitted that, unlike the states, there was nothing the Territory Government could do stop it.
“The Commonwealth does have an over-riding power on Northern Territory legislation,” he said.
Mr Tollner last night claimed waste was being unsafely stored across the Territory in shipping containers not designed for storing radioactive materials.
The contrasting reactions of Tollner and Davidson pose something of a dilemma for me, although it’s the opposite of the effect I suspect the issue is likely to have on most voters in this most marginal of federal seats. I agree with Tollner. Central Australia probably is the most appropriate location for the waste dump, which will store mostly waste from the Lucas Heights reactor generated through the production of medical isotopes used by doctors and hospitals right round Australia. Central Australia is geologically the most stable part of the continent, remote from major population centres, and has low rainfall thereby minimising any leaching risk. So, despite the fact that Tollner’s public stance is politically naive and even stupid, he’s dead right in a policy sense. Is it better to have a boofhead local member who’s an honest “straight shooter” and calls issues as he sees them on their policy merits, or a cynical professional populist politician out of Central Casting (which is what Davidson is)? It isn’t going to change my vote in itself, but I reckon I’d rather have the honest boofhead.