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Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Dunbar
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
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State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous land claimants, Greens, vow to fight nuclear waste dump at Muckaty
AUSTRALIA: Indigenous representatives of Muckaty, Greens and environmentalists are vowing to fight the nuclear waste dump passed by the Australian Senate on March 13.

Source: Independent Media Central Australia

The Greens spokesperson for nuclear issues, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said Labor and the Coalition colluding to pass the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill in the Senate today was "just the beginning of the next phase in the campaign to stop this waste dump".

"The locals don't want it and the Northern Territory government does not want it. Traditional Owners visited the parliament and Dianne Stokes wept here in this very place telling the story of her country. There is a Federal Court case currently unresolved as to the status of this land, yet the Government pushes on - led by an energy and resources minister obsessed with the nuclear industry."

"This legislation does not just represent a problem for Muckaty - it places enormous and virtually unchecked power in the hands of one minister."

The Greens have pushed for the creation of a commission of experts to determine how best to deal with radioactive waste in Australia, rather than concentrating the decision making power into the hands of one minister.

One of the problems seems to lie with which indigenous people the government has chosen to consult with. The Federal Government says the decision does not go against the wishes of traditional land owners in the area, but they are still waiting on the Federal Court decison as to whom the traditional owners of the land are.

The ABC report that, "Lorna Fejo was named in then-prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations. She says she is a traditional owner of the area and is dismayed the
Government has pressed ahead while the legal challenge is unresolved.

“I am really disappointed because all my life things have been taken, taken, taken,” she said.

Penny Phillips also says she is a traditional owner, and says her family has not been consulted about the proposed dump. She says her people do not want the dump on their land.

“I feel really sad, especially for the old, old people that fought for land rights for years and years and years to protect our environment and you get legislation that passed there so they can go destroy our environment,” she said. ...

The nomination of Muckaty as a site was put forward by the Northern Council on allegedly behalf of traditional owners. However, Maurice Blackburn lawyers are representing other traditional owners who are fighting the nomination.

The ABC also report that, "The Territory’s Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, has expressed strident opposition to the plan.

“I’m very disappointed that the Federal Parliament has once again trampled over the rights of Territorians by legislating away our rights in regards to Muckaty Station,” he said…. “My argument all along has been that this is a very big decision for our nation,” he said.

“I expect of our Federal Parliament to make those decisions based on science, not based on a constitutional weakness as to where they can put this waste because all of the other states don’t approve of it going into their particular areas.”

Meanwhile, the Public Health Association of Australia says the Northern Territory nuclear waste dump is not needed for medical wastes.

"Misleading arguments influence nuclear waste dump debate, Public Health Association of Australia, 15 March 12, Linking access to cancer treatment with the need for a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory is shameful and misleading, reflecting the pro-nuclear ideologies of Ministers rather than facts, said Clive Rosewarne, spokesperson for the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).

“Waste from nuclear medicine procedures, the majority of which is for diagnostic services rather than treatment, is low level and short term waste can be stored on site and safely disposed of locally. The small amount of higher level waste from nuclear medicine can also be stored locally, as it is currently,” explained Mr Rosewarne.

“Comments by senior Commonwealth Ministers upon the passing of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill claiming that a dump is needed in order to have a nuclear medicine industry are a gross manipulation of public sentiment and an attempt to create fear in the community over access to health services. It is shameful that senior Ministers are misrepresenting the facts to foster their ideological support of the nuclear industry.

“The increased shipment of radioactive wastes across thousands of kilometres of Australia represents a far greater risk to public health than current storage practices and all of this could be further reduced if the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor was decommissioned and stopped from producing more waste. The only waste stream that requires a dedicated facility is soil waste from former CSIRO work and the ongoing waste generated at the nuclear reactor Lucas Heights.

“There is no long term solution to the highly dangerous radioactive waste produced by the nuclear industry and yet proponents of the industry hide from this fact. Transporting waste thousands of kilometres to a remote site certainly fits the Not In My Backyard syndrome, and attempts to locate the waste out of sight and out of mind.

“The anguish and suffering the passing of this Bill has caused to NT locals represents a low point in this nation’s dealing with Aboriginal people and may have long term health impacts. This does not seem to be of concern for Ministers who have refused to meet with traditional owners opposing the nomination of the Muckaty Station site. It would seem their health is of lower consideration than city folk in this appalling process,” said Mr Rosewarne.

Published: 15.03.2012
Published by: Silja Somby