Boofhead goes nuclear

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.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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cs
cs
2022 years ago

If this stuff is so sensitive that relative levels of Australian seismic activity and rainfall is relevent to safety levels Ken, you can certainly have it ol’ mate!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Chris,

I wouldn’t imagine it is all that sensitive. That’s presumably why it’s labelled “low level” waste. But it still makes sense to store large amounts of it long-term in a remote, geologically stable place. At the moment I suspect quite a lot of it is being stored fairly close to your place in Sydney, since it’s the big hospitals like St Vincents’ that generate the stuff via their nuclear medicine departments. I’m perfectly happy for it to stay near your place Chris, but I happen to think rational policy decisions are a better way to go than smartarse reactions like yours.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I guess it would be preferable to storing it in hospital repositories in the capital cities. St Vincent’s Darlinghurst does indeed have nuclear medicine residue stored onsite and has had for many years. So do several others

As the states have shown no appetite for a commonwealth solution that might incorporate location in any of their respective territories, identification of a remote locale in the Territory shapes to be a solution. Alternatively, it could be left to each state to come up with an individual solution – 6 nuclear waste repositories rather than one. Makes sense if you’re Irish.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Election years are never a good time to try to sort out radioactive waste dumps. Perhaps the governement could simply mandate standards which require long term disposal, and let the states sort it out. Hopefully, one state will take the lot (and charge the others for it).

The waste itself doesn’t worry me.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

South Australia’s refusal to take said waste was a staggering example of hypocritical NIMBYism. Er, ever heard of Roxby Downs, Mr Rann. Refresh my mind, what do they pull out of the ground there? Oh, but you knew that, didn’t you? Because you’re going to bury medical waste there, and pay WMC for the privilege. The other states, particularly NSW, can go and screw themselves, eh Mick?

Remind me again about the distribution of Commonwealth funds amongst the states versus where that money gets collected. I hope Bob Carr remembers Rann’s perfidy in the months to come.

And there would be very few people who haven’t benefitted from nuclear medicine, or at least directly know someone who has. So the old, “I-didn’t-make-the-problem-so-I-don’t-have-to-help-fix-it” line rings pretty hollow, no?

For crying in the wet. Does the ratbag, anti-everything element hold that much electoral sway that they will manage to derail any sensible solution for the centralised storage of this stuff? Which, by the way, is what ANSTO reckons is world’s best practice when it comes to this stuff. Do the dingbats realise that the stuff is already stored, not particularly satisfactorily, in hospital basements and the like?

I suppose it doesn’t matter. The real issue here is not radioactive fallout, but political fallout.

I hope politicians in the Northern Territory display a bit more commonsense than their southern counterparts.

Oh, I hear it’s a bit noisy up there at the moment, Ken.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Oh, I hear it’s a bit noisy up there at the moment, Ken.

Yeah, we’re in the middle of the periodic multi-national Pitch Black air defence exercises. But the vast majority of Darwinians (except the usual bunch of whingeing lefties) are strongly supportive of the defence presence in the north, and of Pitch Black in particular. You can’t avoid realising that this is the “Front Door” when you live here.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

I must say a conversation with a lefty opposed to the military presence in Darwin would make me despair of my side of politics. After all, we wanted the Indonesians out of Timor. What were we expecting to use? Mass hypnosis?

Maybe sanctions. Oh right, a million Iraqi babies dead in a decade. Hello sergeant, got any good weapons?

Habib
2022 years ago

The area selected was perfect for purely scientific reasons- dry, geologically stable and remote. It was dismissed for purely political reasons. Maybe the southern part of the territory would be suitable- that will involve a lot more expensive testing. The pathetic thing is that SA quite happily accepts the revenues from uranium mining, but rejects acceptence of low-level waste in a total wasteland.
I haven’t seen a better reason for the dissolution of state governments yet.

yobbo
2022 years ago

How much are they offering to take this waste? I’m sure I could find a couple of farmers who would take a couple of mill for some of their saltier paddocks…

observa
observa
2022 years ago

Al Bundy,
“South Australia’s refusal to take said waste was a staggering example of hypocritical NIMBYism. Er, ever heard of Roxby Downs, Mr Rann. Refresh my mind, what do they pull out of the ground there? Oh, but you knew that, didn’t you? Because you’re going to bury medical waste there, and pay WMC for the privilege. The other states, particularly NSW, can go and screw themselves, eh Mick?

Remind me again about the distribution of Commonwealth funds amongst the states versus where that money gets collected. I hope Bob Carr remembers Rann’s perfidy in the months to come.”

Some of us in SA couldn’t believe the histrionics of Rann over this. It rivalled the door snakes, a couple of low energy light globes and a chat with a public servant on how to get your electricity bill down, for sheer stupidity. As you say I just hope the eastern states don’t take Rann’s ‘F U Jack I’m orright’ stance to heart, when it comes to the Murray Darling water. Most Adelaideans don’t exactly view the dead centre within its dotted lines as their backyard, but it was one of those emotional lefty things. (Never mind the compulsory radioactive smoke detectors in their homes AND can you believe they contain Americum 241 radioactive isotopes?)

Knowing the histrionics of the left over this, I was fascinated to see how Howard would handle the issue, when he lobbed into town. His problem was 3 very marginal metro seats the govt held, which Latham would need. No worries with 7 state and territory Labor govts. He announced each would be responsible for their own dumps, with all of them having to shut their gobs against Rann, in order to maximise Latham’s chances. If you read the veiled comments of Bracks, etc, they were absolutely busting to get into their mate Rann but had to hold the company line. Howard must have been pissing his pants with laughter with their predicament and his good fortune at having no state or Latham being able to break ranks with his policy for fear of jeopardising 3 marginal federal seats.

Another good reason why we should elect the House of Reps by proportional representation to stamp out this sort of marginal pandering.