The Australian Greens today condemned the Government for passing a bill to force a radioactive waste dump onto the Northern Territory, despite the Opposition refusing to vote and Coalition MP Natasha Griggs crossing the floor to oppose the bill.
Greens MP Adam Bandt and Greens nuclear affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam congratulated Ms Griggs for her courage in voting against the radioactive waste dump bill while the Coalition took the extremely unusual step of removing all but one member from the Chamber during the vote.
"Yesterday the Coalition took credit for this legislation as their own bill. Today they can't bring themselves to vote for it. What is going on?" said Senator Ludlam.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010, which sets up the legal regime for a radioactive waste dump at Muckaty north of Tennant Creek, overrides all State and Territory legislation that could affect the dump plan and exempts Minister Ferguson, who refused to meet with the traditional owners of the site, from compliance with key Commonwealth environment and Indigenous protections. Senator Ludlam noted that some MPs who backed the dump plan also advocated a "nuclear future" for Australia.
"The Government disingenuously talks about needing a place to store medical waste, but this is a big step down the road towards more uranium mining and nuclear power in Australia. And, as an exporter of uranium, other countries will expect us to take their nuclear waste."
Mr Bandt said; "I applaud Natasha Griggs for being the first member of this Parliament to cross the floor. By joining The Greens and independents in opposing this nuclear waste dump, she has shown courage and stood up for the rights of Northern Territorians. It's a shame that Natasha Griggs' colleagues were unwilling to stand beside her and in fact went missing from the chamber during the vote."
"It is telling that unlike Ms Griggs, no Labor members were willing to stand up for their beliefs and cross the floor. Martin Ferguson is pushing Australia to a nuclear future and the Labor Party seems willing to follow."
Senator Ludlam said the Greens would introduce a series of amendments in the Senate, including tightening the discretion given to the resources minister.
"As it stands the bill gives total and unfettered discretion to the minister to put this dump wherever he likes," he said. "What we need is a commission to find alternative ways of dealing with waste - not a nuclear waste dump forced onto the Northern Territory."