Democrats, Greenpeace move against uranium exports


By Lisa Macdonald
Two months ago, Australian Democrats Senator John Coulter presented a bill to prohibit "the exportation of uranium-bearing ore or uranium ore concentrates, the immediate or final destination of which is, or is intended to be, France". In his second reading speech, Coulter argued: "No encouragement of any kind should be given to any nation that tests nuclear weapons and by implication entertains their possible use".
Debate on the Democrats' bill was blocked by the ALP's minister for the environment, Senator John Faulkner, with the support of the Coalition. At the end of September, it appears that the two major parties are not going to allow a vote to be taken on the bill at all.
Yet the results of an AGB-McNair poll conducted for Greenpeace on September 9-10 indicate that the passing of the bill would reflect the wishes of the majority of Australians.
The Greenpeace poll, which surveyed 1000 people nationwide, found that 75% of people want the federal government to stop uranium exports to France.
"The message to the Australian government is loud and clear", said Greenpeace's national nuclear campaign coordinator, Ben Pearson. "Australians do not want to fuel the French nuclear industry with our uranium. The credibility of the Australian protests against French nuclear testing is undermined by our export of uranium to France."
The ALP has severely diluted its policy on uranium exports over the last decade. Nevertheless, current Labor Party policy is still supposed to restrict uranium exports, permanently or for specified periods, to countries that adopt policies or practices that contradict the interests of nuclear non-proliferation. Despite this, all contracts of Australian uranium to France that were operating prior to the announcement of the tests at Moruroa remain firmly in place, as do ERA's profits from the 300 tonnes of uranium it provides France per year.
In an attempt at political blackmail, the federal government's latest response to calls for a ban on uranium exports to France has been to argue — as Senator Gareth Evans did in parliament on September 18 — that Australia would be obliged to pay $80 million in compensation to France if uranium exports were stopped.

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