A Federal Bill that will apply a uniform royalty regime to all uranium mining projects in the Northern Territory will increase Aboriginal disadvantage, the Australian Greens say.
The Uranium Royalty (Northern Territory) Bill 2008, referred last year to the Senate Economics Committee, was debated in the Senate today (Tues 8/9/2009).
“As the Senate inquiry has previously revealed, the Rudd Government has become captured by the uranium mining industry and continues to follow the wishes of the Uranium Industry Framework, an unrepresentative and industry-dominated body created by the former Howard Government,” the Greens’ Nuclear Spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam said.
“It also confirmed that the current ‘for-profit’ mining royalties system in the Northern Territory – which this Bill seeks to extend to uranium and other designated substances such as thorium – is failing Aboriginal people.
“For example, the current approvals system in the Territory forces Aboriginal people to consent to mining if they consent to exploration.
“But failure to consent to exploration often results in the project progressing regardless, thereby cutting Traditional Owners out of the possibility of receiving monetary compensation in the form of royalties.
“It is from this disempowered and marginal position that the Government and the Opposition are claiming that Aboriginal people will be able to negotiate additional payments and benefits to fix all of the shortcomings of the royalty system under this Bill.
“This ‘she'll be right’ attitude is patently not all right.
“It is not based on best practice and it is a wholly unacceptable way to address the huge gap that people will experience when they have given up their land and the quality of their water. This Bill will mean they will not receive payments when the market is down, nor during the non-profitable start-up years and for the long periods when remediation and the replenishment of equipment or capital items will see no profits coming in.
“If the mine is not making profit, then the Aboriginal communities go without.
“I note that this system has not worked particularly well for the Territory Government either, given the Xstrata McArthur River example, whereby the concealment of profits has meant the Government has missed out on royalties for more than a decade.
“If the Rudd Labor Government is serious about addressing Aboriginal disadvantage in the Northern Territory and truly wants to empower Aboriginal people in the economy, then this Bill is clearly the wrong way to go about it,” Senator Ludlam concluded.
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Note to editors:
• The Senate Economics Committee report may be viewed here: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/Committee/economics_ctte/uranium_09/index.htm
The Greens’ proposed amendments to this Bill (assuming Labor and the Opposition choose to pass it) include:
o A remediation fund to ensure mining companies, not taxpayers, pay for clean-up and monitoring of the mine and tailings;
o Increasing accountability by providing support to the NT Government from the Federal Auditor General to ensure the correct calculation of payments and their delivery to the NT Government;
o A requirement that the Supervising Scientist that oversees Ranger uranium mine also oversees other uranium mines in the NT; and
o That there be a review of the royalty arrangements as pertains to Aborigional people bcause it is not working.