Australias States React Strongly to Switkowski Report
By: Minter EllisonProvided by World Services Group
Australias States React Strongly to Switkowski ReportPublished December 10, 2006 - Victoria, Australia
State Labor governments have reacted swiftly and strongly to the release of the Commonwealth Government's Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review (the Switkowski Report), by seeking to ban the development of nuclear power stations and enrichment facilities within State boundaries.
The Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Bill 2006 (Qld) and the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Bill 2006 (Tas) were recently tabled in the Queensland and Tasmanian Parliaments, respectively, and will:
(a) prohibit the construction or operation of nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment facilities
(b) impose penalties on persons and corporations contravening the prohibitions, and
(c) allow third parties to have standing to bring enforcement proceedings.
In addition, the Tasmanian Bill prohibits prospecting or mining for uranium. Given there are no proven economic uranium deposits in Tasmania, this prohibition is largely symbolic.
The Queensland Bill also empowers the Minister for Mines and Energy to seek a referendum should the Commonwealth Government attempt to override the States' prohibition on the development of nuclear facilities in Queensland.
The Switkowski Report, which outlined the environmental benefits associated with nuclear power, stated that twenty-five nuclear power stations could be built between 2020 and 2050 to produce one third of Australia's electricity.
The Switkowski Report has also provoked the following reactions in other States:
(a) Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter has suggested that further laws be introduced to ban the construction of nuclear power and uranium enrichment plants
(b) Victorian Premier Steve Bracks vowed to introduce a requirement for a referendum on nuclear power to support laws rejecting the use of nuclear power in Victoria and
(c) South Australian Premier Mike Rann ruled out the construction of nuclear power plants or enrichment facilities in South Australia, stating that his Government would legislate against moves to build nuclear power or enrichment plants.
We can therefore expect that other States will follow the lead now set by Queensland and Tasmania, and expand on current legislation dating back at least 20 years which prohibits certain nuclear activities, including:
(a) the Nuclear Activities Regulation Act 1978 (WA)
(b) the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983 (Vic), and
(c) the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986 (NSW).
Attempts by the Commonwealth Government to override the States' prohibitions and pursue a Commonwealth nuclear agenda may raise similar issues to those posed by the recent High Court challenge of Federal workplace relations reforms, which were upheld as constitutionally valid.
Minter Ellison will continue to provide topical updates on developments in the resources and energy sectors, including uranium.
If you would like any further information please contact the Head of our Uranium Focus Group, Kent Grey on +61 8 8233 5402 or the Head of our National Energy and Resources Practice Group, Denis Gately on +61 7 3119 6113.