Parliament: Other Speeches

Nuclear Waste

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I would like to make a brief contribution at this point to this motion and in particular would like to discuss the potential impacts nuclear could have on our food and tourism industry which I feel has not really been discussed enough in the nuclear debate. Like the Hon. Mr Darley said, it is more like a feeling implied. It is difficult to deal with these things in absolutes but at this juncture we can say that there are some concerns that need serious consideration before we proceed.

South Australia’s food and wine industry makes a significant contribution, as we all know, to our state and we rely on our reputation for green, clean food. In 2010-11, the food industry contributed some $14.24 billion in revenue and around 45 per cent of total merchandise exports. One in five workers in South Australia is employed in the food and wine sector. I am concerned that by creating a nuclear waste dump in our state this reputation could potentially be spoiled.

Nuclear energy is known to be a risky and controversial form of energy due to its radiation. In particular, if there was an accident at a dump site or when the waste material is being transported, this could have massive repercussions for our food sector and state’s reputation as a food producer and exporter. We also need to address the impact that nuclear waste storage could have on our tourism industry, as I said, which is itself linked to our food and wine sector.

A nuclear waste dump could discourage visitors from coming here. The tourism industry would face similar risks to our green food industry where, should anything go wrong, this would result in very negative publicity and a downturn in the number of tourists to South Australia. It is disheartening that again I have already heard the potential slogan, ‘SA, the nuclear state’ being discussed.

This is particularly disappointing given that, as the Hon. Mr Malinauskas says, we are only discussing an interim report and should try, as I think he was trying to say, to be as neutral and impartial as possible, and yet in our corridors and our discussions out in the community we already hear potential slogans like ‘SA , the nuclear state’. Whether or not we are truly being impartial, I am not entirely sure.

I am very proud, as I think we all should be, of South Australia’s investment in renewable energy. Like many South Australians, I would much prefer this to be our reputation, rather than our state being used as the world’s dump site. Considering the potential impacts nuclear could have on our food and tourism industries, I find it very concerning that this was barely mentioned in the royal commission’s tentative findings report released last week.

It also makes me wonder how much consultation has occurred with these particular industries thus far. If the minister would like to provide some clarification on that I would be very glad to receive it. I understand that the commission is continuing to seek comment on their tentative findings before it makes any recommendations; however, it seems that there is still a lot of consultation and consideration that needs to be done in the community before any type of formal consideration can be made.

In the year 2000, there was a grassroots people’s movement called the People’s Conference 2000 to discuss the pros and cons of nuclear waste storage, creating a lively forum to examine the issues. Dignity for Disability certainly hopes, as I am sure many others would, that the commissioner will continue to actively seek a range of evidence and opinions and visit the current low-level nuclear waste storage facility near Woomera to take an inventory of how successful the current arrangements are. There were incidents in transporting the 44-gallon drums, now housed at Woomera, from other states to SA and the waste stored there is, on average, as I understand it, low to medium level waste.

I would also like to note that the commission’s public meetings were not broadly publicised—at least, from my impression they were not broadly publicised—and I believe there is still unrest in the community that needs to be addressed. Particularly, we need to ensure that the Aboriginal community, as Mr Darley alluded to, whose land the dump site will be built on, are properly, respectfully and meaningfully consulted. Understandably, this is a very controversial topic and, as a result, the commission should take time to ensure that all members of the community have had an opportunity to contribute their views.

We are talking about a decision that will last for hundreds of thousands of years, not just for one electoral cycle. I would like to think that we could take some time over this, particularly given, as I said, that it is difficult to deal with it in absolutes and there are many different nuanced pros and cons and views.

At this stage, I believe a waste dump could present too great a risk for South Australia, particularly without these factors that I have just outlined being properly considered and discussed; and this is, of course, despite the touted financial benefits that it would bring, and a lot more work needs to be done. Therefore, Dignity for Disability will support the Hon. Mark Parnell’s motion so that this very important and nuanced discussion can continue to occur.