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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Aboriginal insecurity: thinking on vines and fig trees. Part 3. Muck to Muckaty

A national speaking tour, From the Heart - For the Heartland, by Traditional Owners of the four proposed nuclear dump sites in the Northern Territory has just concluded.
The Traditional Owners represented Fishers Ridge (near Katherine), Muckaty (near Tennant Creek), Mt Everard and Harts Range (near Alice Springs)
This document comes from the Warlmanpa people, Traditional Owners of Muckaty Station. Muckaty has only recently been added to the list of proposed sites at the request of the Northern Land Council. Only one family group at Muckaty is supportive of placing a nuclear waste dump there. The majority are against the proposal and are not supported in this by the Northern Land Council. This contrasts to the support given by Central Land Council to the Traditional Owners at Mt Everard and Harts Range.
Prior to the inclusion of Muckaty, Fishers Ridge was the only proposed site within the area covered by Northern Land Council. However, heavy rainfall and floodwaters which resulted in the proposed dump site being inundated mean that, in all likelihood, Fishers Ridge is a clear non-starter. This would have left no proposed dump site in the Northern Land Council area. That would have meant that the two remaining proposed sites were both in the Central Land Council area and CLC is supporting the opposition of the Traditional Owners.
So, Miss Eagle's nose tells her that something is fishy about the Muckaty proposal.
There is an old saying which Miss Eagle (a Napanangka) is in the habit of applying to everything.
Cui Bono? Who benefits?
Who benefits, indeed?
Aside for the long-term interests of the nuclear industry, there are two beneficiaries in the short-term. Clearly the Howard Government who is doing the bidding of its constituency. But it is clear that the Northern Land Council wants to be seen as a clear player in the search for a dump. Why?
Why - when the majority of the Traditional Owners at Muckaty are against the proposal? Could it possibly be that the Northern Land Council itself would be a beneficiary of some kind if a site was chose within Northern Land Council boundaries? Would it receive brokerage fees from a proposal which could bring in to the community - so its supporters say - about $12 million? Northern Land Council has never been overwhelmingly effective in the area immediately north of Tennant Creek. The best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour.
Miss Eagle thinks that the Muckaty proposal has not a thing to do with the views or the welfare of the Traditional Owners and the community at Muckaty. It has more to do with Northern Land Council and the King of Yirrkala, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, whose personal fiefdom the NLC has been.
The Howard Government is looking for a dump site for nuclear waste. As Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation has put it: the policy of the Howard Government is that Australia becomes the world's nuclear quarry and the world's nuclear waste dump. The Northern Territory Government does not support the nuclear waste dump proposal. The Port of Darwin is significant is the quarry-dump scenario since it is believed that Darwin will become the key port, the key transport hub in Australia's servicing of the world nuclear industry.
John Howard - the recovering climate change septic - is telling us ad infinitum, ad nauseam that nuclear power stations dotted the length of Australia's eastern seaboard will be the solution to carbon emissions and climate change. It will be a clean fuel. A clean fuel, eh? Compare to what? Coal. True - when thinking of air pollution, nuclear power might be preferable. But just as there is waste from coal, there is waste from the nuclear industry. The government intends to put this in drums in the ground.
The waste that will go into the dump concludes:
  • approx. 50 cubic metres of highly radioactive waste produced from reprocessing more than a thousand existing and future spent reactor fuel roads from Lucas Heights in Sydney. This will be arriving over the next 40 years and it is expected that it will come through the Port of Darwin.
  • approx. 130 drum per year of radioactive, compactible low-level solid waste comprising vials, gloves etc - again from Lucas Heights.
  • approx. 20 drums per year of drums of solidified radioactive 'sludge' produced in the treatment of reactor wastewaters courtesy of Lucas Heights.
  • Hundreds of tonnes of radioactive non-compactible contaminated items including materials from the decommissioned old Lucas Heights reactor, pipes, and machinery.
  • A stockpile of over 5,000 drums of low-level radioactive waste which will be shipped from Lucas Heights.
  • Over 800 drums of historical wastes including radioactive thorium, beryllium and uranium from Lucas Heights.
  • Over 2000 litres of radioactive contaminated charcoal ex Lucas Heights.
  • Around ten cubic metres of highly dangerous solidified molybdenum long-lived intermediate level waste produced by Lucas Heights.
  • Over 2000 cubic metres of radio active contaminated soil currently stored at Woomera.
  • Other Commonwealth Defence Department and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) historic radioactive waste.

So Miss Eagle smiles a wry smile. When needs must, strange bedfellows arise. The Howard Government has wanted to eliminate the land councils. Now, it may need a Land Council to get what it wants. Mmm.....

The Traditional Owners have come up with their own symbol which they are asking people to wear to protest the use and pollution of their lands.
Dianne Stokes, a Traditional Owner of Muckaty and a Warrumunga/Warlmanpa woman of the Kalumpurlpa community says:
Top to bottom we got bush tucker right through the country. Whoever is taking this waste dump into our country needs to come back and talk to the Traditional Owners. We're not happy to have all of this stuff. We don't want it, it's not our spirit. Our spirit is our country, our country where our ancestors been born. Before towns, before hospitals, before cities. We want our country to be safe.
What do Ministers in the Howard Government have to say?
  • Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, has said:
I would rather have it in the Northern Territory than in Mount Barker just down the road from my electorate office.
  • Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defence and formerly Science Minister, has said:
...why on earth can't people in the middle of nowhere have low level and intermediate level waste?
  • Julie Bishop, formerly Science Minister and currently Minister for Education, has said:
...all the sites in the NT are well away from houses...some distance from any form of civilization.
Miss Eagle finds it obscene that we have as Minister for Education someone who cannot even recognise or acknowledge the locale of one of the oldest - if not the oldest - cultures in the world. There are none so blind as they who will not see.