Trade union support strengthens NT nuclear waste dump campaign

Beyond Nuclear Initiative released the statement below on May 17.

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Muckaty traditional owners have welcomed news that Australia’s peak trade union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has today committed to actively support the campaign against a proposed radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.

The ACTU National Congress unanimously passed a motion (full text below) expressing “disappointment that the highly contested Muckaty Land Trust site will continue to be pursued” and agreeing to stand “in solidarity with Traditional Owners and communities resisting federal government plans for a radioactive waste dump”.

The move comes as a further blow to plans by federal resources Minister Martin Ferguson to advance the highly contested waste dump site at Muckaty.

Recent legislation, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA), names Muckaty as the only site to be further assessed for a national radioactive dump and allows the minister to override any state or territory law that would hinder the dump being built. But the plan faces growing political, legal and community challenges.

Muckaty traditional owner and hip-hop artist Kylie Sambo attended the Congress in Sydney to share her community’s story with delegates and call on union representatives to support her family’s struggle.

“We have been saying no for a long time and the government has not been listening, so we are very happy the unions are supporting us to say no to the waste dump,” said Sambo. “We are working hard to look after our country and need lots of support.

“Today the unions passed this motion in Sydney and next week the community is holding a protest in Tennant Creek to mark five years since Muckaty was nominated as the possible waste dump. It is time that the government listened to all the traditional owners because we are not going to stop until they stop”.

Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator Natalie Wasley said the ACTU position highlights the growing national opposition to the Muckaty plan: “The proposed radioactive waste dump at Muckaty is opposed by the Northern Territory government, national health and environment organisations, residents and pastoralists across the Barkly region and the wider NT community. Senior traditional owners of the Muckaty Land Trust have also launched a federal court action against the site nomination.

“As well as supporting the community’s right to say no, workers on the frontline of loading and transporting radioactive materials earmarked for Muckaty are at risk. It is important, appropriate and appreciated that the ACTU has taken a clear stand on the health and environmental risks of the Muckaty dump plan.

“A secretive, top down decide-announce-defend approach to such an important national issue will continue to be met with resistance. Rather than spending another decade attempting to force a waste dump on an unwilling community and jurisdiction, the government must now hear and heed the call for a comprehensive commission in radioactive waste management in Australia.”

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Motion adopted at ACTU Congress 2012

Pursuant to standing policy, Congress:

1. Acknowledges that the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act has been repealed, but expresses disappointment that the highly contested Muckaty Land Trust site will continue to be pursued under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act.

2. Stands in solidarity with Traditional Owners and communities resisting federal government plans for a radioactive waste dump and commits to supporting trade unions refusing to cooperate with implementation of the policy.

3. Rejects any legislation which would continue to target a site on the Muckaty Land Trust, or any site in Australia for a nuclear waste dump that is not based on recognised scientific and international best practices.

4. Notes the recent application by ANSTO for reprocessed spent fuel waste to return to the Lucas Heights facility in Sydney and acknowledges this as an opportunity to review radioactive waste management in Australia by conducting an independent and comprehensive public commission into all aspects of radioactive waste transport, storage and management in Australia.