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Nuclear / Steve Pohlner
Cash flow ... Bob Hawke believes there is money to be earnt from storing nuclear waste / Steve Pohlner

FORMER prime minister Bob Hawke says Australia should become the dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste.

In a speech at a gathering of Oxford University graduates in Sydney last night, the former Labor prime minister said his party should abandon the three mines policy on uranium and promote Australia as a safe repository for the waste.

The money Australia received for being a global repository could be used for environmental programs, he said.

"Australia has the geologically safest places in the world for the storage of waste," Mr Hawke said.

"What Australia should do in my judgement, as an act of economic sanity ... and environmental responsibility, (is) say we will take the world's nuclear waste."

Mr Hawke later said the initiative would give Australia a huge source of income.

"If we were to do that, we would have a source of income ... which we could hypothecate to environmental issues in this country - salinity, also to Aborigines because this would be in an area where the Aboriginal people would be and I have reason to believe that we could negotiate with them," he said.

"We could revolutionise the economics of Australia if we do this."

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, also an Oxford graduate, joked about Mr Hawke's proposal after the speech.

"Bob is a father figure in the Labor Party; that's well outside the platform", he said.

Health Minister Tony Abbott praised the idea, but admitted it may be difficult to act on it.

"It is a visionary suggestion but unfortunately there are a lot of politics in this," he said.

"Now right at the moment, we can't even get agreement on where to put a nuclear repository for Australia's waste, let alone a repository for the world's waste.

"That is the kind of parochialism that would need to be overcome."

Mr Hawke said he had already raised the idea with the Greens.

"One of them, I'm not going to talk about his name, his initial reaction was 'oh, s--t, and then when I went through these things and what it could mean, he said this should be talked about," Mr Hawke said.

"I know in our party, the Labor Party, there'll be people who'll just be horrified, but they were horrified about some of the things I proposed with my colleagues in '83-'84 - tariffs, and so on.

"You talk them through."

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