A new stage in fight against radioactive waste bill



‘We have spent two very productive days at Parliament House speaking about our concerns regarding the proposed Kimba dump site and the Government's attempts to pass legislation that intentionally takes away our rights to judicial review. Thank you to all of our supporters who helped get us there, this has been a long and expensive fight, but our voices are being heard.’

Toni Scott, Sue Woolford, Kellie Hunt - No Radioactive Waste On Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA, Jason Bilney - Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson, Dawn Taylor, BDAC Board Member with One Nation Advisor Jennifer Game. Photo courtesy of Kellie Hunt with the permission of Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation.

This message from the No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA group (No Rad Waste) was a good intimation that day to anxious followers that the hoped for blocking in the Senate of the Coalition’s Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020 was indeed going to happen. ACF’s progressive checking of the Senate Agenda had already revealed that the Bill, listed as number 8 on Monday 9/11, had by Tuesday 10/11 slipped to number 23. On Wednesday 11/11 it had disappeared off the list.

Did this mean the government, knowing it didn’t have the numbers, had given up on the legislation — at least for the present?

Hope was confirmed for sure the next day. An Adelaide Advertiser’s 12th November article heading read: ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation torpedoes Kimba nuclear waste dump in SA.’

The article confirmed ‘The One Nation leader… has confirmed she will not back legislation to build the nuclear waste storage site at Napandee farm, near Kimba.’ The article then went on to explain that ‘Without One Nation’s two crucial votes — and Labor, the Greens, and independent senator Rex Patrick not backing the Bill — the government does not have enough votes for it to pass parliament without changes.’

As Senator Hanson had told The Advertiser reporter, she ‘had serious concerns about the process to select Napandee, the level of community support, the waste site being built on farming land, and the facility storing intermediate radioactive waste above ground.’


'So with the government unable to get the Senate numbers, what will happen next?'


So in the long journey of nearly five years since the Australian federal government's renewed search for a national radioactive waste facility, it seems a new stage has been reached.

Here’s a question: did the federal Minister for Resources overreach himself? With the power to simply name the government’s preferred site, Minister Keith Pitt went a step further by presenting to Parliament the naming of the site. This meant that a passing of the government’s Amendment Bill would block off the chances for any opponent group to take the processes leading to that decision to the courts — no judicial review.

I wrote of the progress of the bill in the House and later of the Senate Inquiry hearings. In a style reminiscent of recently ex-Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, in the inquiry Labor Senators Carr and Gallacher chose to side with government in their questioning, comments and final vote.

However Labor, with their knowledge of community concerns, decided to follow Senator Jenny McAllister’s dissenting report and its unease regarding judicial review. Their resolution was ‘to ask for the amendment of removing the name of the Napandee site with the proviso, “Should our amendment be unsuccessful, we will oppose the Bill in the Senate.”’

The reasons? ‘This is a contentious issue and should have the highest levels of scrutiny to ensure that the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice have been applied given the national significance of this matter.’ This from the leader of the Opposition in the Senate, SA Senator Penny Wong’s Office to the Josephite SA Reconciliation Circle on 26th October.

In the meantime, president of No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA Peter Woolford had first heard of the Minister’s Pitt’s long awaited visit to Kimba and the Napandee site via an ABC’s North and West reporter on Tuesday October 27th. The Minister eventually confirmed that four of their group were permitted to meet with him. As well, of course, were meetings with the executive of the pro-dump District Council of Kimba and theWorking for Future pro-dump group

‘A PR box ticking exercise’ was how Woolford named the Minister’s visit with their group. After the event it was harder to be dispassionate: ‘Pitt and Ramsey (the federal Member) certainly know what we think and the impact it’s had… it certainly got a little heated at times... We had 45 minutes and we raised many issues relating to the doubling handling of ILW (intermediate-level waste), the vote unfairness, jobs, judicial review etc.’ 

With three crossbench votes needed in addition to the Greens and Labor to defeat the Bill, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC), headed by Chair Jason Bilney had long planned to travel to Canberra to meet with legislators. COVID restrictions meant that the vital trip was delayed but perhaps providence meant that it took place at just the right time for the November Senate session. Both key opposition groups have long supported each others’ concerns.

So with the government unable to get the Senate numbers, what will happen next?

Minister Pitt insists he is not giving up on the legislation. Expert in radiation impacts Dr Tilman Ruff has recently called out Pitt’s recent declaration of ‘the urgent need of this facility’ in ‘saving lives’ as ‘reckless claims.’  

Independent SA Senator Rex Patrick has long been involved with both BDAC and No Rad Waste groups. The Advertiser November 12th report above continued with the voice representing the other two of the vital No votes: ‘I want to make the right decision, not for the interim, I want to make the right decision for future generations,’ Senator Hanson said. ‘I’m not going to be badgered or pushed into this… It’s about looking after the people of SA, but also the whole of Australia.’

The SA Stock Journal’s September survey recorded 70 per cent of respondents were against the federal nuclear dump plan. In Aboriginal Way Spring 2020, Karina Lester, Chair of YNTAC, reported that four Aboriginal groups ‘right across the state’ including the Yankunyjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation have ‘submitted their concern.’

In November, it’s good to hear that South Australians aren’t alone in actively recognising that simply storing above ground, for at least ‘decades,’ nuclear waste that will be radioactive for 10,000 years is a pertinent national issue.



Michele MadiganMichele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who has spent over 40 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of SA, in Adelaide and in country SA. Her work has included advocacy and support for senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy in their successful 1998-2004 campaign against the proposed national radioactive dump.

Main image: Toni Scott, Sue Woolford, Kellie Hunt - No Radioactive Waste On Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA, Jason Bilney - Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson, Dawn Taylor, BDAC Board Member with One Nation Advisor Jennifer Game. Photo courtesy of Kellie Hunt with the permission of Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation.

Topic tags: Michele Madigan, Radioactive Waste Management Bill, Barngarla, Kimba, South Australia, nuclear dump



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Existing comments

The first win of a hard fight for these people. They are doing it using their own money, on their own time and fighting against insurmountable odds. They are not just fighting for Kimba but all of Eyre Peninsula and South Australia. They are not just fighting for the here and now but for future generations. True hero’s.

Debra Carlaw | 18 November 2020  

We use nuclear medicine for the benefit of all people who have the need for this type of treatment. When are we going to have a genuine debate about this and other sensitive waste disposal issues and accept responsibility for the provision of such facilities. NIMBY is not good enough in the 21st century. Let's have some courage in these matters.

Alan Ruff | 18 November 2020  

I entirely agree we need to take responsibility for this waste. Putting waste that is highly radioactive for 10,000 years in a temporary shed with no long term plan for disposal whatsoever is not good enough, and just kicks the can down the road. The regulator ARPANSA has said the waste can safely stay at Lucas Heights for decades. We need an open independent review of both production and disposal of nuclear waste, and do the job properly.

Margaret Beavis | 18 November 2020  

Thank you for this article, Michele, and congratulations to all of those who made great efforts to reach this situation. The federal government went to great lengths to confound a fair and open survey of the issue. Farmlands and Aboriginal sites of significance are not appropriate places for the storage of nuclear waste. There needs to be an in-depth scientific study to determine the most appropriate location of such a site. Let us hope that the current impasse in the Senate will help this to occur.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 18 November 2020  

Many thanks to Michele Madigan, for keeping us up to date on this long and sad story of the government's attempt to dump the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor waste on a distant rural community. The "nuclear medicine" argument - portraying the dump as a medical necessity is a tawdry lie - the wastes are not medical, they come from the operation of the nuclear reactor itself Looking further at this issue - all medical radioisotopes can now be produced in a cyclotron, with no need of a nuclear reactor. In fact 'medical' nuclear reactors are the fig leaf on the 'peaceful ' nuclear industry, which is itself a fig leaf on the nuclear weapons industry. There will come a day when the world wakes up to the need to stop making radioactive trash altogether. IN the meantime, Australia needs to deal with its Lucas Heights radioactive trash in an intelligent way, starting with an independent national inquiry into radioactive waste management, (not a half-baked plan from Dr Adi Paterson (the suddenly and mysteriously departed CEO of ANSTO)

Noel Wauchope | 19 November 2020  

Congratulations. Another long hard struggle for First Nation peoples (FNP) too, in this case the Barngarla people whose land this is. The Barngarla EXCLUDED from the vote demonstrates the Australian State’s disregard for FNP- so utterly disrespectful. In 2020 FNP still denied equal rights to other citizens of this land. Then, later the Federal Govt pushing an appalling bill which would also deny any legal review. All outrageous. What has Australia come to? This is a real attack on FNP, on democracy; the whole process terribly flawed. A goodthing the bill not presented. The Australian Government must change the way they do business -they need to work with traditional cultural authorities / the traditional owners /custodians of the land from the outset. First Nations people here and across Australia must be provided with resources and funding to ensure independent legal assistance in any matters regarding their lands/ waters or indeed lives. These people hold great knowledge of their lands too, which can assist govenrments. Going to them first may have prevented this costly debacle! There are other concerns too. The 1993 Native Title Act has been wound back repeatedly as have other land, water and heritage acts over the past 23 years. Native title itself now supports the extractive/ mining industries and big business at great cost to the FNP -hence Juukan Gorge destructionn and Djab Wurrung Direction tree destruction. On the former read e.g. Professor Jon Altman’s article "THE NATIVE TITLE ACT SUPPORTS MINERAL EXTRACTION AND HERITAGE DESTRUCTION” (June 2020) https://arena.org.au/the-native-title-act-supports-mineral-extraction-and-heritage-destruction/ . Of great concern is the proposed new WA Aboriginal cultural heritage bill which has many flaws. Heritage experts inclusive of FNP say another like- Juukan Gorge destruction is likely-e.g read “ JUUKAN GORGE DESTRUCTION STILL POSSIBLE UNDER NEW HERITAGE LEGISLATION, ABORIGINAL LEADERS SAY” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-08/juukan-gorge-repeat-possible-under-proposed-wa-law-leaders/12639846 . In November WA Minister AA Ben Wyatt denied calls for longer consultation period- the bill is highly complex and more about harm minimisation than protection! Now we have just heard appalling news “THE NT GOVERNMENT APPROVES MCARTHUR RIVER MINE EXPANSION AGAINST ADVICE OF SACRED SITES AUTHORITY” (19th Nov) https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/nt-government-approves-mcarthur-river-mine-expansion/12900514?fbclid=IwAR37rdMK5xUF-73qIe188qvXgILqn4PIJRaxAxuQFT-Y0ImME0S1x1QOn1M Time is long overdue for the Australian State to sit down with First Nations directly to negotiate treaties. Listen to this request again of Yolgnu leader, Yingiya Mark Guyula MLA (fr Geneva UN April 2018) “CALLING FOR SELF DETERMINATION, SOVEREIGNTY & TREATY NEGOTIATION” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ax5h6RWlWlA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2g8tOnoQOdsF104D9zbBAdQp07zEwJdyc2jCR1T-ZdUgnVkbtVrfP_LL8 Listen to the people of this land , build relationships, work with FNP -time to negotiate federal Treaty/ies

Georgina Gartland | 20 November 2020  

I think Alan Ruff got it right. There comes a stage where you need to move beyond protests and protest movements when discussing the future of nuclear energy and waste disposal. Margaret Beavis and Andy Alcock are also right. The matter needs to be investigated carefully by appropriate people.

Edward Fido | 20 November 2020  

Thank you everybody for stopping the nuclear waste dump at Napandee. My father Norm cleared the mallee and melaleuca uncinata scrub from these paddocks. We sat around the kitchen table in 1965 and looked for a name for our property using the first letters of our christian names, my dad NP my mum DA my sister NA and myself EE. We came up with Napandee. It was hard work for many years clearing the mallee roots but in the end it became a wonderful property for growing wheat. The property was in our family for 60 years. I can understand the Barngala's deep connection to the land. There are places in Australia where the Indigenous people stayed away from. Places that made them sick, perhaps because of radiation. The first step looking for a nuclear dump site should be to consult with them, save a lot of grief for everyone.

Ean Nielsen | 23 November 2020  

NUCLEAR WASTE disposal SHOULD BE mandatory URANIUM MINER RESPONSIBILITY as cradle to grave projects - OR URANIUM MINING AND EXPORT BANNED, immediately. Why make others do the dirty work, finding solutions? Why sell uranium without a solution in place for legacy waste? If this were any other ingredient, it would be withdrawn from the market! Government having had more than 40 years to find a trash can for residual or returned nuclear waste - whilst exporting uranium ore. As a responsible action in 2018, the USA administration suspended building new nuclear power plants required for their electricity, PENDING A SOLUTION TO 40 YEARS OF BUILT UP NUCLEAR WASTE. They import uranium from Australia. We should do the same. Ban export until a safe solution is found, and miners become responsible for the sale of uranium ore to the world. We should be concerned as to what our customers use this ore for at a time of nuclear powered missile build-up and countries threatening others. Ironic, if Australia would be hit by a nuclear powered missile in the future, powered by our uranium and made from our iron ore! Thank you to all who push for options, unsatisfied with the final decision resting on Kimba in South Australia, for Australia's and overseas nuclear waste disposal. This is likened to placing a 'reverse uranium mine' in the vicinity of citizens. And all should see it this way. How large will it be? I would be interesting from an academic perspective to have another poll in 2021, to see if the outcome is the same, if any have changed their minds, moved or died. This time add the indigenous votes that matter. What did all vote YES or NO for, having had few of the answers? This should not be the worry of individuals, but that of our Government, and the end responsibility of our uranium miners. These miners are staying silent on the subject, having benefitted from the sale of uranium ore. Why ask farmers to volunteer their farm? This is NOT the only option. Why not make it mandatory of uranium miners to volunteer their emptying mines. These are short term of only 20-30 years. The transport infrastructure and township is ALREADY there. Just place it back into hole of where it came AS URANIUM ORE. This would ensure the hole (void) is rehabilitated at customer expense. No new environment or farm would be harmed by this process. Here is the world's answer from an exporting country. Why should other's have to do the dirty work of uranium miners? The other option is for URANIUM MINERS to pay for nuclear waste facilities having benefitted from the sale of uranium ore. Or ban uranium mining entirely! They cannot have their yellow cake and not dispose or take responsibility for having sold it, or a disposal system in place for the (radioactive) crumbs too! This is no ordinary ingredient. And they would know it! These mines are short lived! There is a hole waiting to retake nuclear waste. Other ores extracted as bonus. Here is the answer. Ask uranium miners to take back their legacy waste. No new uranium mine should be approved anywhere in the world in 2020 without capacity to retake and dispose of nuclear waste, having benefitted from the sale of uranium ore and export. This should be mandatory!!!!! Why build monuments to it, or destroy more environment and farms? Dispose of it. Nuclear waste recycling markets and industry is being explored, or in the pipeline overseas. We may not need to approve more uranium mines in the future! Perhaps our uranium miners will become responsible recyclers, as a new industry?

Claudia Tregoning | 20 December 2020  


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