Labor, Greens, socialists debate uranium mining


Fiona Roberts, Melbourne

On June 5, 180 people attended a debate on uranium mining at the Northcote Town Hall organised by the Socialist Alliance. The speakers were Martin Ferguson, Labor MP for the federal seat of Batman; Dr Jim Green, the national uranium campaigner for Friends of the Earth; Chris Chaplin, the Greens Party candidate for the Victorian state seat of Preston; and Sue Bolton, the national trade union coordinator for the Socialist Alliance.

A common point raised by all four speakers, including Ferguson, was that PM John Howard was using the issue of nuclear energy to push for an expansion of Australia's uranium export market. Currently, Australia provides 18% of the world's uranium supply, exporting to Britain, France, South Korea, Japan, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Canada and the United States.

While Bolton, Green and Chaplin argued against uranium mining, Ferguson said the expected increase in Australian uranium exports in the future would be of "great benefit to Australia".

Bolton noted that while Ferguson had stated that "nuclear energy was irrelevant" to Australia's energy needs, both the Coalition government and the ALP supported an expansion of uranium exports. She pointed out that the major impact of closing down the entire Australian uranium mining industry would be a cut in the profits of major corporations such as BHP. This company owns what is potentially the largest uranium mine in the world, situated at Roxby Downs in South Australia.

Bolton said that what is required to stop the current push for an increase in Australian uranium exports is a united opposition campaign based on "people power" in the streets and workplaces.

Later in discussion, one audience member praised Ferguson for attending the night's debate, but went on to say: "What I don't understand is why you're not a member of the Liberal Party."

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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