MEETING WITH SEN. ROBERT HILL, FEDERAL ENVIRONMENT MINISTER
(MAL BROUGH’S OFFICE) 29TH MAY 2001
Sen. Hill explained why he chose to assess on Preliminary Documents – basically because his department (Environment Australia - EA) would then conduct environmental studies in an independent manner. If assessment had been by EIS, the proponent (Steritech) would pay for this and, therefore, the manner chosen was likely to be less biased. (“He who pays the piper…”)
He stated that he would seek advice from international bodies regarding this application and that all advice received would be publicly available (although he did not say whether this was going to be before or after he made the decision). He also stated that he would make his decision without fear or favour. On the matter of international experts, it was pointed out to him that many food irradiation studies had been done in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Authority too! We also mentioned the Codex Alimentarius proposed changes for food irradiation and left him a copy of this information.
Sen. Hill did stress that he was able to asses ONLY on environmental issues, not on others – although he did express concern that, with a simple application to a local council for a Change of Use of some (State-owned) land, we could end up with a nuclear facility.
He said that our State Government could stop this application now, by refusing to let them use the land and suggested we lobby Beattie & friends to that effect. (However, it is unlikely that Beattie will listen to anyone for the next 3 years, with the sort of majority he has.)
He stated that he had received copies of 160 submissions to Steritech’s Preliminary Documents. We believe there were many more, as these were only the ones passed to Mal Brough for forwarding.
We pointed out that the procedure under the EPBC Act was a little flawed. We had to make submissions to the proponent – who apparently does not have to acknowledge receipt of our submissions – nobody, as far as we are aware has received any notification from Steritech that their concerns are being addressed. We asked if there were any requirements unde the Act for Steritech to:
The Minister said he would find out the answers to the above.
It appears that Steritech don’t HAVE to issue Revised Documents for public comment (as stated in the EPBC flowchart available on their website – www.ea.gov.au). They could decide to collate all information and make a submission to EA with no further public consultation. We have asked for clarification on this point.
If this is true, all public consultation now ceases. The Minster will make his decision (on environmental grounds only) and, if approved, all Steritech have to do now is build, and apply for a licence from Queensland Radiation Health for a licence to own, use, store and transport radioactive materials – a rubber-stamp operation by a bureaucrat – not even sanctioned or signed off by the Health Minister.
We also pointed out the huge hole in State Government responsibility. Qld Environmental Protection Agency are “not concerned, as Qld Health have responsibility”. The EPA does not even list nuclear facilities as Environmentally Relevant Activities (despite requests to the previous Minister for this to be changed). Qld Radiation Health are concerned only with radiation matters, not environmental ones. So nobody is taking care of our environment as far as this plant is concerned.
Mal Brough was asked if the Federal Liberal party would be issuing a public statement clearly stating their position on both the nuclear irradiation plant and food irradiation, but he merely re-stated his personal position, which is to listen to the people of Narangba and take into account their concerns.
It was good to have the opportunity to meet with Sen. Hill and put to him our concerns face-to-face (rather than have Steritech whitewash their application and ignore our submissions). However, it will probably be an election issue – perhaps the good Senator will refuse the application (on sound environment grounds, of course) to enable Mal Brough to be returned (current majority 0.9%). We can but hope!
(NB Italics are mine!)
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