Northern Territory chief minister Clare
Martin has warned Prime Minister John Howard to
be ready for a tough battle over a government
proposal to build a nuclear waste dump in the
Ms Martin's discussed the issue with Mr
Howard in Canberra on Tuesday after former Labor
prime minister Bob Hawke intensified an already
heated debate over the issue by calling for
Australia to open itself up as the world's
nuclear waste dump.
The federal government announced in July that
one of three Commonwealth-owned areas in the
Northern Territory would be the site of the
controversial radioactive dump for Australian
Federal Science Minister Brendan Nelson says
tenders will soon be called to choose between
the three nominated ex-defence sites.
But Mr Hawke said on MOnday evening that
Australia, one of the world's biggest exporters
of uranium, has the most geologically stable
sites in the world for the storage of nuclear
waste and would revolutionise its economics by
developing such a project.
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane
immediately dismissed the suggestion, saying it
would be illegal under existing legislation to
bring nuclear waste to Australia and there is no
move to review the laws.
Ms Martin also rejected Mr Hawke's proposal
and warned that the territory was prepared for a
long and hard fight to block the government's
"Certainly (Mr Howard) said, from a
commonwealth point of view, that they've got to
site a dump somewhere," she said.
"I said 'Well, not in the Territory'.
"Probably, to be honest, we've reached a
stalemate about it.
"I said very clearly, 'We're going to fight
this, we're going to use all the capacity we
The federal government has not ruled out
using its powers over the territory to push
ahead with the dump.
The territory's pioneering euthanasia laws
were over-ridden by the federal government in
1997 after a private members bill was passed by
The Northern Territory is seen by the
government as its best chance of going ahead
with the dump after all the states rejected the
Mr Hawke told a Sydney dinner for Oxford
University graduates it would be economically
responsible to open the country up to the
world's nuclear waste.
"I have a view of what we should do that
would revolutionise the Australian economy and
would also make an enormous contribution to the
world environment," Mr Hawke said.
"Australia has the geologically safest places
in the world for the storage of (nuclear)
"What Australia should do, in my judgment, as
an act of economic responsibility, is say we
will take the world's nuclear waste."
He said the income from a global repository
could be used for environmental programs and
"revolutionise the economics of Australia".
Mr Hawke's call was also rejected by federal
deputy opposition leader Jenny Macklin who cited
security and environmental reasons for opposing
"Consistent with the ALP's platform, federal
Labor remains opposed to the importation and
storage of foreign nuclear waste in Australia,"
"We cannot allow Australia to be the world's
dumping ground for nuclear waste."
Anthony Albanese, Labor's environment
spokesman, called Mr Hawke's comments a silly
proposal while industry spokesman Stephen Smith
said Australia should steer clear of the nuclear
However, Associate Professor Bob Hunter, the
national president of Scientists for Global
Responsibility, said the idea of a nuclear
repository in Australia was based on sound
"In terms of Australia's future economic
potential - and that's what Bob Hawke was
talking about - it makes quite a bit of sense,"
He said that having control of the uranium
mining and export process and requiring that the
spent fuel be returned to Australia was "quite
Greenpeace said there was no economic case
for Australia to become the world's nuclear
Copyright © 2005 AAP