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Muckaty Aboriginal Corporation and an update on the Radioactive Waste Dump Process

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 8 Dec 2010

Senate Estimates Transcript - Economics Committee - Wednesday 20th October 2010

Senator LUDLAM-Okay. In June, which I think was the last time we spoke, you reported on attending a meeting of the Muckaty Aboriginal Corporation to give a presentation on the radioactive waste dump process. You gave us a bit of detail at the time about what had happened there. Has there been any further correspondence between the department and the MAC and/or the Northern Land Council to discuss procedural developments or any other issues relating to the Muckaty proposal?

Mr Davoren-No.

Senator LUDLAM-No other correspondence?

Mr Davoren-No.

Senator LUDLAM-No further meetings?

Mr Davoren-No meetings.

Senator LUDLAM-Calls? No? Okay. That was for the land council as well as for the corporation.

Mr Davoren-That is right. We are, of course, in frequent contact with officers of the Northern Land Council as we are parties to current litigation in the Federal Court, as you would be aware.

Senator LUDLAM-That is right. That probably does actually cross into the issues that I was raising. So you have been in touch with the land council fairly regularly about the Muckaty proposal?

Mr Davoren-Under that situation, where we are both in the same litigation, you would imagine we would be in very frequent contact.

Senator LUDLAM-Sure. Are there further consultation meetings planned with traditional owners, the NLC or other stakeholder groups that are unrelated to that Federal Court action?
Mr Davoren-No. We are waiting until the bill is in place or an act is in place before we proceed. Senator LUDLAM-Does the department provide regular-or irregular-briefings or updates to the Northern Territory government or any Northern Territory government departments on the process that is under way?

Mr Davoren-Not at all. I think you know the attitude of the Northern Territory government to this project.

Senator LUDLAM-Yes.

Mr Davoren- I deal with them on a host of other issues-Rum Jungle and matters like that-and the question is never raised.

Senator LUDLAM-I would have thought you could take a contrary position on the process but still be required to brief them, or communicate.

Mr Davoren-They have not sought such a briefing.

Senator LUDLAM-That is fine. Has the department requested any information from the Northern Territory government to assist with the site selection process? Have you sought any information from them?

Mr Davoren-A lot of that work on the site selection process was done by Parsons Brinckerhoff, and I understand that a number of Northern Territory agencies cooperated in providing information, as they would to any business.

Senator LUDLAM-That was concluded a good long time ago now.

Mr Davoren-It was. That is right.

Senator LUDLAM-So nothing since then?

Mr Davoren-Nothing since then.

Senator LUDLAM-On site selection. So that does not just relate to Muckaty. Are there any other Northern Territory sites under any form of scrutiny, observation or research as potential sites?

Mr Davoren-No active consideration at this stage, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM-Sorry, no active-

Mr Davoren-No active consideration at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM-So there might have been some consideration in the past but you are not currently identifying or considering any other sites?

Mr Davoren-There were sites brought to our attention but none are being considered at the moment.

Senator LUDLAM-Okay. Fine. Has the department at any time briefed the department of everything- the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities-or the minister on the current state of work in this issue? I realise they will be involved when it is referred, I guess, through the EPBC down the track, but have you done any preliminary work with that department?

Mr Davoren-Yes, we keep them abreast of developments, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM-Great.

Mr Davoren-They get correspondence on the matter. We help them to respond to such correspondence. We assist them with their briefing.

Senator LUDLAM-What does that actually look like? Have they sought a briefing from your department or did you offer that?

Mr Davoren-It is mainly in written briefs and there is an exchange of that sort of briefing material.

Senator LUDLAM-Is that in advance of formal environmental impact assessment that they have requested information from you?

Mr Davoren-It is more on the policy position, when their minister gets questions. It is nothing to do with assessment under the EPBC Act.

Senator LUDLAM-Has there been any instruction or can you provide us with any advice at all- either from the minister or from the department's side-that waste produced by states and territories, as opposed to Commonwealth obligated or Commonwealth produced waste, may also be taken to the proposed facility?

Mr Davoren-It was clear in the statements by the minister in his second reading speech that the government was intent on a national approach. So at some stage that would involve a facility that could accept waste from other states and the Territory.

Senator LUDLAM-What about the design that you are putting together at the moment? Is it just designed for future expansion, or what are you actually putting together at the moment?

Mr Davoren-I think it is fairly well known that the bulk of the national inventory comes from the Commonwealth, so within the constraints of the Commonwealth inventory, the state inventory is quite small.

Senator LUDLAM-If the bill is passed unamended reasonably soon according to whatever parliamentary timetable we end up with, what happens then? What does your work program look like?

Mr Davoren-As I have said to you before, we will be having further consultations with the Northern Land Council. You will be aware that their chair, Mr Kim Hill, indicated an interest in discussing the deed under which the previous site was volunteered, so I think the first thing we would do is revisit that deed with the
Northern Land Council.

Senator LUDLAM-'Not a done deal,' I think were the words that he used. Lastly, there was one recommendation of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee that I thought was worthwhile, recommendation 1, which said that before any further action was taken on this matter, the minister should sit down and meet with the traditional owners who have raised concerns over a period of five years or so. Has that occurred to your knowledge?

Mr Davoren-He did have a meeting with the traditional owners of the nominated site.

Senator LUDLAM-No, the traditional owners who dissent, the traditional owners who do not want the stuff dumped up there. Has he met with them?

Mr Davoren-As far as I am aware, he has not consulted those people, but if you need information-

Senator LUDLAM-Sorry?

Mr Davoren-As far as I am aware, he has not consulted those people, but if you want information on who the minister has consulted, I think you had best direct that to him.

Senator Sherry-I will take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM-If you could, Minister. These folk have been phoning, they have been writing letters, they visited his office a couple of times, they visited here in the House and they have invited him on a number of occasions to meet with him in Tennant or somewhere close to there, or anywhere actually, over a period of about five years. If you can respond with any indication at all that the minister has even once taken the slightest interest in those invitations that would be great.

Senator Sherry-I can only take it on notice.

Senator LUDLAM-That is okay. I understand. Thanks, Chair. That is all I have got.

 

 

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