The Hon. Rob Lucas MLC

The Hon

Rob Lucas MLC

Treasurer

Speeches

Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) (Public Money) Amendment Bill

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS ( 15:32 :57 ): I rise to speak at the second reading of this bill. I am delighted to be able to address some comments to the general issue covered by the bill but also the specific nature of some aspects of the proposed legislation. The bill does give members in this chamber, Mr President, as I am sure you would probably be aware, cause to drop their jaws in disbelief at the hypocrisy of members of the Labor Party and the Labor government on the issue of nuclear waste.

On other occasions, others have referred to this Labor government's hypocrisy on a range of issues, including privatisation and other issues, but this issue of nuclear waste is one where the hypocrisy of the Labor government, the Premier, senior ministers and backbenchers is stunningly evident to all and sundry. I want to refer to some comments made by the then member for West Torrens, Mr Koutsantonis, on 8 July 2002. I quote the member for West Torrens:

…now members opposite want the nation's nuclear waste and radioactive waste stored in South Australia. They do not have the courage to say that we are prepared to store South Australia's waste in a central location, but not New South Wales', not Victoria's, not Tasmania's, not Western Australia's, not the Northern Territory's and not the ACT's. They are representing interstate interests, not South Australia ' s. They refuse to put South Australia first.

They insist on putting their federal colleagues ahead of their own constituents, and I have nothing but contempt for members opposite. They are disgraceful; they are a rabble; they are rudderless and leaderless. I cannot believe that any member opposite would a dvocate storing New South Wales' radioactive waste in South Australia. Why? Because John Howard says that the safest place is South Australia. Members opposite think South Australia is the nation ' s dumping ground. If they had their choice they would take off ' SA— the Festival State' and put on 'SA—the Dumping State' . That is what members opposite want for South Australia. Their vision for South Australia and the future is that we become the world ' s nuclear waste dump. Members opposite are saying, ' That ' s what we want. '

He continued:

I have been informed by our very good Minister for Tourism that members opposite are not only jeopardising the future of South Australian children by having the nuclear waste storage dump in South Australia but also damaging our exports. Worldwide we are considered cutting edge in agriculture and wine development. The solution of members opposite is to add to that a little rider, ' SA Great—wine production, agriculture, nuclear waste ' . That is the message from members opposite; that is their vision for South Australia.

I can imagine members opposite going to school children throughout South Australia and saying, ' We want you to recycle, we want you to save our heritage, we want you to protect the Gammon Ranges; but we also want you to take on the responsibility of the nation and have nuclear waste from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart and Perth stored in our backyards. ' That is their legacy—the legacy of contempt for South Australians and the future. They are attempting to impose their contempt on future generations, and I will not stand for it.

I repeat that I am quoting the then member for West Torrens. He was vigorous, he was passionate at the time. Let me repeat: he said, 'I will not stand for it.' That was the bold assertion of the member for West Torrens. Let me continue with the contribution from the member for West Torrens, Mr Koutsantonis. He said:

If you think that we are not prepared to call a referendum on this issue, just try us. Nothing would please me more than to stand outside my local polling booth on the Saturday before the federal election and say, ' Vote no to the Liberal ' s nuclear waste dump. ' Nothing would please me more, but the experts, the electoral geniuses opposite who are now in opposition, think it is madness. They think we would never do it, that we do not have the courage. We are happy to pull the trigger, no problem whatsoever. We will pull the trigger and it will be your colleagues in Canberra who will pay the price because you have run down this state long enough. It ends today.

This government will not stand by and watch members opposite ruin our future, ruin our heritage. They have done enough damage to our heritage by selling off the assets we owned. We are not going to let them destroy our image as a state. We are going to fight every chance we get to stop their federal government depositing their rubbish and waste in South Australia. It is absolutely absurd for members to say that we are playing politics, given the rubbish they put out during the election campaign that we want nuclear waste stored locally.

We are going to set up an independent EPA, unlike the EPA that those opposite had. Our EPA will do an audit on this waste, and we might set up a storage facility for ourselves, but we will not be storing anyone else ' s nuclear waste in those facilities. We will not do it. It will not become an industry that we will be proud of. Radioactive waste will not become our main export or import. Our exports will be cars, wine, aquaculture, our people and our lifestyles. It will not be nuclear waste.

The speech, masquerading as a diatribe, from the then member for West Torrens went on at considerable length. The significant quote from the early part of that speech gives an indication of the nature and flavour of the position of the Labor Party, the Labor government, when elected in 2002. Members will be aware that that debate was a debate about low-level radioactive waste. That debate was a debate about where we would store the sort of waste that is currently stored in the cupboards, under the stairwells at the existing Royal Adelaide Hospital and at a number of other sites in metropolitan Adelaide. It was not a debate about medium and high-level nuclear waste.

The hypocrisy of the member for West Torrens, who just happens to be of course now the Treasurer and the minister for energy or resources and, together with the Premier of South Australia, Mr Weatherill, one of the key ministers leading the charge for not a low-level nuclear waste dump in South Australia collecting the waste from just the other states of Australia, but we now have this same person leading the charge for a dump in South Australia for medium and high-level waste, not just from Australia, if there was to be any, but from all around the world.

It is no wonder that people in South Australia shake their heads whenever they hear Mr Koutsantonis, the Treasurer—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: I just point out to the honourable minister that he is on his feet giving a speech.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I think the Minister for Police is treating minister Koutsantonis with the contempt he deserves—

The PRESIDENT: Just get on with your speech.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —and I can only support the Minister for Police in that contempt that he is showing his lower house colleague and soon to be leadership rival for the Labor Party after 2018. He is an ambitious young man, and his ambition knows no limits. Let's refer, now that he has ceased dumping on his lower house colleague, the Treasurer—

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins interjecting:

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Indeed. It is unsurprising that people treat with contempt the statements, the positions, the pronouncements of the Labor government and its senior ministers and representatives like the Premier and the Treasurer. When they fought elections on the principles behind this particular issue they made claims, they ran advertising campaigns, they attacked and pilloried the former member for Davenport, Iain Evans, and they attacked the former federal minister, senator Nick Minchin, on the issue.

They made to the people of South Australia extravagant claims, laced with this sort of inflammatory language that the member for West Torrens used in that particular speech. Let me repeat it: he has 'nothing but contempt for the Liberals, they are disgraceful, they are a rabble, they are rudderless'. He said that we were 'jeopardising the future of South Australian children by having the [low level] nuclear waste storage dump in South Australia but also damaging our exports'.

Yet, he is a man of infinite capacity to bend over backwards in any particular direction at any particular time depending on the way the winds of political fortune may well suit him. It is extraordinarily valuable for a Labor minister and a Labor member to have a flexible backbone. It is extraordinarily valuable for the member for West Torrens, as he was then, for the Premier, as he is now, and for the others to have an eminently flexible backbone because it means you can twist yourself in any particular direction that you wish on a particular issue.

You do not have to believe in anything; all you have to believe in is what you think at any particular time may well get you elected. If in 2002 you think that a particular political stance will allow you to be elected, you can adopt that stance on low-level nuclear waste storage facilities in South Australia, but if in 2016 you decide that you want to support medium and high-level nuclear waste storage dumping in South Australia, if you have that flexible backbone you can twist and turn and change your position completely.

As I said, I was not at the forefront—my colleague the member for Davenport was—in supporting the then position of the federal Liberal Party and the federal government about storage for low-level nuclear waste. At least if in the end the state Liberal Party in South Australia, having received the results of the nuclear waste royal commission, decided to go down a particular path of supporting storage of waste in South Australia, it would be consistent with the position we argued for passionately in the period leading up to the 2002 election and then after the 2002 election.

To use the language of the member for West Torrens, I have nothing but contempt for members of the Labor Party and the Labor government who have no principles, who have no beliefs other than the infinite capacity, as I said, to bend over backwards in any particular direction at any particular time when they see a political advantage for themselves. I could wax lyrical for hours on this issue, but I will not. I think I have made my point about the evident and arrant hypocrisy of the Labor government on this particular issue.

This bill is seeking to remove section 13 of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, an act which, I might add, was introduced at the time in relation to high-level nuclear waste storage facilities in South Australia by the former Liberal government. Section 13 provides:

Despite any other Act or law to the contrary, no public money may be appropriated, expended or advanced to any person for the purpose of encouraging or financing any activity associated with the construction or operation of a nuclear waste storage facility in this State.

We are advised that the royal commission will release its final report on 6 May. We have seen the tentative findings. If we follow the signposts from the tentative findings of the royal commissioner, it would appear to indicate that the royal commission's final report may well recommend against mining enrichment and nuclear power but might recommend further investigation of a nuclear waste dump or, in the language of the royal commissioner, a nuclear waste storage facility, to be established in South Australia if there is community consent to do so.

This bill, which seeks to remove section 13, was introduced into the House of Assembly on 9 March and seeks, for some unusual reason that I am sure will be teased out in the committee stage of the debate, to operate retrospectively from the day the bill was introduced into parliament, that is, 9 March.

During the committee stage of the debate in the other place, the government maintained that they had not acted contrary to section 13 of the law; if that is the case, one wonders about the need for retrospective application of the bill. If the government's position is that they have not acted contrary to section 13, why would they seek to have this operate retrospectively from 9 March? On my behalf, the shadow minister's office has filed amendments along those lines, and I understand that the Hon. Mr Parnell has also filed amendments along those lines to explore the issue of retrospectivity.

Again, given the leadership on this issue was from my colleague the member for Stuart, our amendment is slightly different both in form and effect from the amendment of the Hon. Mr Parnell; when we get to the committee stage, we will be able to explore the differences. Nevertheless, the principle, in relation at least to that aspect of retrospectivity, will appear to be consistent, but the positions of the Liberal Party and the Hon. Mr Parnell, in terms of what might continue in the future and when this bill might be enacted, are slightly different in the nature of the two amendments to be moved by me and the Hon. Mr Parnell.

With that, I indicate that we will support the second reading of the bill. We will be moving our amendment and we will explore that during the committee stage of the debate.

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