Outrage in Northern Territories as Government bulldozes opposition to nuke dump
The Northern Territories have suffered what will almost certainly be a fatal blow in their efforts to block federal plans to dump all of Australia's nuclear waste in the sparsely populated state.The battle to determine the future of the country's nuclear waste has been raging since the federal announcement that a central site would be built in the Territories (see related story).
Environmentalists and the state government have reacted angrily to Canberra's bullish approach to the problem as Parliament enacted the new Radioactive Waste Management Bill which will overrule state attempts to stop the dump from being built.
In August the Northern Territory Parliament passed a motion condemning the plans and calling on the Federal Government to respect the state's sovereignty.
But by passing the new bill this week, Canberra has effectively gone over the northern state's head in an effort to stop what it has called 'delaying tactics'.
The bill overrides all current and future state legislation, as well as aboriginal land rights, and give the science minister 'absolute discretion' to determine the site of the dump.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has been quick to condemn the new law, describing it as an "undemocratic exercise of Commonwealth powers to override the legal rights of communities to protect themselves against radioactive risks."
"The Federal Government cannot be trusted on radioactive waste," said ACF nuclear campaigner David Noonan.
"They tried - and failed - to impose a dump on South Australians, they misled Northern Territorians before last year's federal election, now they are acting to override the will of State and Territory parliaments and people."
His colleague Dave Sweeney added: "Having failed to convince Territorians to embrace a nuclear dump, the Federal Government is now racing to coerce them."
"This is bad policy and bad process. All Australians should be concerned at the bad precedent this sets. It's a heavy-handed attempt to remove the right of communities to determine their own future."
The federal Government is refusing to take this latest development lying down.
The Chief Minister, Clare Martin, told Australia's ABC network: "Territorians are very tough.
"We will fight and we will use people power, we will use all the ability we have to influence the vote in the Senate and I put senators now on warning.
"I'll be there, I'll be talking and so will a lot of Territorians."
By Sam Bond