Sunday, June 04, 2006

The (nuclear) power and the passion

John Howard's set to announce an inquiry into whether or not Australia should build nuclear power plants. The issue is controversial, unsurprisingly, and today, 4 June, the papers are carrying stories about an old Cabinet paper that identified 14 potential sites where the plants could be located.
This is interesting for all sorts of reasons but the one aspect that really appeals to me is the prospect of Peter Garrett playing a strong role in presenting Labor's position.

Garrett's been a little quiet since entering parliament only a year or so ago, but this is precisely the sort of issue to leverage his profile. He's been on ABC radio once or twice since this story first broke but both more senior members, particularly Jenny Macklin and Anthony Albanese may pull rank.

He did make these comments a few weeks ago however:
"...this government has been delinquent and negligent in its ability to actually address climate change. There was nothing virtually in the Budget to deal with it. We were a blocker of Kyoto. We have not supported our renewables and our alternatives in anything like the kind of way we should. We are seeing about a half billion dollars of investment halted in wind. We are seeing the fact that nukes won’t really satisfy the problems of meeting reduction in greenhouse emissions and yet the Prime Minister is prepared to fly the kite."
A full transcript is here.


proud2bkiwi said...

Is the Australian electorate as opposed to nuclear free as New Zealand? Over here it took the likes of David Lange to really cement the nuclear free legacy, but Australia seems to have had a more mixed reaction?? Nuclear free was a major electoral advantage for NZ Labour in 2005, after Brash said it would be "gone by lunchtime" but will Aust Labour enjoy similar support?

backin15 said...

I a word, no. But that doesn't mean there won't be significant opposition to Howard's plans. I was living in NZ when Lange's government refused entry to the Buchanan and I remember Bob Hawke's position was to loudly side with the Americans. I'd say there's two major points of difference between NZ and Australia on nuclear matters. One, the Australian's are the world's largest exporter of uranium and two, Australia military plays a larger role in public life. The military is significant, I think, because there's less mainstream support for the arguments against nuclear energy that are related to its military application.

The third issue that might play a role in this debate is Kyoto. Australia's initial target for CO2 emmission reductions, were it to be a signatory, would have been well within reach but this was not because of a reduction in emmissions, but instead because of changes in landclearing which meant larger carbon sinks. If there's a bilateral agreement on emmissions with the US or any other country, the pressure will go back on to reduce Australia's reliance on coal.

I wasn't in NZ for the last election but did see Brash take a lot of hits over his "gone by lunchtime" comments. He seriously misjudged how definitive the issue is for the general population.

I'm not sure how Labor here will play it which is another reason why I'm interested to see how Garrett positions himself.

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