The Federal Government should not try to pass legislation that would allow a national radioactive waste dump on Muckaty Land Trust in the Northern Territory before the Federal Court case opposing it lodged by some traditional owners of the Land Trust is heard, Oxfam Australia said today.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 is due to be debated in Parliament this week in the face of opposition from some Aboriginal traditional owners of Muckaty Land Trust who lodged the case with the Federal Court contesting the process used to nominate the land as a radioactive waste site.
In 2007, the then Opposition Labor Party recognised that many Aboriginal people in the Muckaty Land Trust area opposed the waste facility and committed to ‘the centrality of community consultation and support’ for nominating locations for the waste facility.
Oxfam Australia Policy Director James Ensor said it was inappropriate for the government to have the legislation passed before the outcome of the Federal Court case.
“With key issues of ownership, traditional owner consent and affected community support for the radioactive waste facility currently before the Federal Court, the Gillard Government should defer debate on this controversial legislation.
“Oxfam’s objection is not based on being opposed to this facility per se, but as a rights-based development agency we are concerned that passage of this legislation is potentially inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“As a signatory to the Declaration, Australia has committed to obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before adopting laws and policies which may affect them.
“The government must wait for the ruling of the Federal Court rather than attempting to debate and pass the National Radioactive Waste Management legislation this week,” Mr Ensor said.
Oxfam believes the government should reinstate the present Aboriginal Land Rights Act consultative and decision making processes for determining radioactive waste disposal sites.
Notes to editors:
In July 2005 then Science Minister Brendan Nelson announced there would be a national radioactive waste dump in the NT, and in December 2005 The Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA) became law. In September 2007 The Muckaty site was accepted by Science Minister Julie Bishop.
In December 2008 a dedicated Senate Inquiry into the CRWMA called for the swift repeal of the Act, finding it an unsuitable foundation on which to build Australian nuclear waste policy.
In February 2010 Resource Minister Ferguson introduced the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010. The legislation retains all the onerous provisions, and much of the same wording, as the CRWMA.
In mid 2010, Mark Lane Jangala and other traditional owners instructed law firms to commence legal proceedings against the Northern Land Council and the Australian government in the Federal Court of Australia to stop the nomination of Muckaty Station as a nuclear waste storage facility.
For interviews or more information, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Sunita Bose on 0407 555 960.