1 February 2020
"Today's decision by the Federal Government to select Napandee near Kimba as the site for a new National Radioactive Waste Management Facility must be properly scrutinised by the Senate as enabling legislation passes through the Parliament,” said Senator Rex Patrick.
"Whilst the decision by 62% of the community to back the facility being built must be respected, so too must the views of those who were under the impression that the facility would not go ahead without 'broad community support'", said Senator Patrick.
Broad community support should involve, as a minimum, a 65% vote in favour of the facility, indigenous approval and agreement from all of the immediate neighbours to the planned facilities.
Repeatedly Minister Canavan has refused under questioning to detail exactly what constituted 'broad community support'. He originally signalled 65% as a threshold number in the community vote in response to a question asked of him in the Senate in March 2017. He subsequently refused to re-state that number. That left many with the reasonably view that the Government would select a site no matter what the vote outcome was.
"It is a shame that the Minister wasn't upfront with everyone about the criteria that needed to be met. It's not proper in any circumstance to have the vote and then declare the success threshold after the vote has been counted", said Senator Patrick.
"It reminds me of the idiom coined by Joseph Stalin - 'It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes'. Perhaps it's a saying that Minister Canavan picked up and retained from his university days, when he was a self-confessed Marxist.
It is noted that the Bungala people have an appeal before the Full Federal Court in relation to the election process and it is not clear how the views of the immediate neighbours to the Napandee site have been taken into account.
"I understand that Australia needs a site to deal with Australia’s low and intermediate level waste. As enabling legislation is brought before the Parliament I will seek to refer it to a Senate Committee where the decision made by the Government can be thoroughly scrutinised.