A snap rally was held outside NSW parliament house on February 22 to protest a bill proposed by Premier Barry O’Farrell to lift the 26-year moratorium on uranium exploration in NSW. The Nature Conservation Council and Beyond Nuclear Initiative organised the rally.
The moratorium on nuclear exploration in NSW began as a bipartisan agreement between Liberal and Labor parties after an investigation found that the effects of mining would be too dangerous.
The rally of about 150 people was lively and colourful with representatives from several political and environmental groups as well as concerned individuals. A petition was circulated to support the moratorium.
Speakers included Labor MP Linda Burney, Genevieve Kelly from the National Tertiary Education Union, Natalie Wasley from Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Jeremy Buckingham from the NSW Greens, Pepe Clarke from Nature Conservation Council and Yukiko Hirano, a Japanese anti-nuclear activist.
Burney said: “You have my assurance that no uranium mining will occur under Labor.” She warned the crowd to not trust O’Farrell, as just six months before he had assured voters he had no plans to pursue the nuclear path.
However, the cheers for Burney turned into boos when someone in the crowd mentioned Labor Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson. Ferguson has endorsed O’Farrell’s decision.
Kelly also spoke out against the bill, giving her full support to keep the 26-year ban in place.
Wasley, who was the rally MC, said the industry is in no way an economic benefit to the country. She said the uranium industry accounts for a slim 0.3% of Australia’s export revenue and a super-slim 0.02% of Australian jobs.
Buckingham said the Greens would stand with Labor in opposing the bill. He said the bill could be successful only if the Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers parties were to support it. He also strongly emphasised the need to embrace renewable energy solutions.
Clarke spoke about the leaks and accidents that occur regularly at Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park. He said that at every stage of the mining process, including exploration, there are risks, toxicity from leaks and accidents that last millennia.
Hirano said nuclear energy has been clearly proven to be unsafe, especially by the disaster that took place less than a year ago at Fukushima.
She pleaded with the crowd to stop the Australian government exporting uranium to Japan (or anywhere else in the world). Much of the uranium in the Fukushima disaster came from Australian uranium mines.
She said that the Japanese people were never consulted on whether they wanted nuclear energy but their government made this decision for them.