Passing Nuclear Waste Legislation ahead of Federal Court ruling is disappointing: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 13 Mar 2012

Legislation that will allow a radioactive waste dump to be built on Indigenous land in the Northern Territory should not have been considered in the Federal Parliament until the Federal Court case contesting the use of the land is heard, Oxfam said today.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 was passed through the Senate today before the Federal Court case contesting the process used to nominate the Muckaty Land Trust has even begun.

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 disappointing for the government to have passed the legislation before the outcome of the Federal Court case.

“By passing this legislation before the outcome of the Federal Court case, the government has created further distress for a community already divided over this issue,” Mr Ensor said.

Mr Ensor said while Oxfam was not opposed to the facility in itself, it was concerned that the passage of the legislation was 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,” Mr Ensor said.

“It is important that any activity that has a long-term and significant impact on an Indigenous community, access to their traditional estate or cultural practices be decided in a consultative and transparent way.”

Oxfam Australia believes the government should reinstate the present Aboriginal Land Rights Act consultative and decision making processes for determining radioactive waste disposal sites.

For media enquiries please contact Oxfam Media Coordinator Laurelle Keough 0409 960 100.