Australian government’s planned Nuclear Waste Bill discriminates against Aborigines, says Uniting Church

Uniting Church of Australia
Synod of South Australia  Submission No.11
Submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee – RE: Inquiry into National Radioactive

Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill
2020

On behalf of the Uniting Church in South Australia, we make this submission to express our views
regarding the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill. The Uniting Church in South
Australia stands proudly in covenantal relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal Islander Christian
Congress (UAICC). The UAICC have expressed distress for the National Radioactive Waste
Management Act to specify a site near Kimba for a nuclear waste facility. Our paramount concern is
the lack of consultation by the federal government with the Barngarla people, the Traditional Owners
of the site.
***
The explanatory memorandum of the Bill states, “The Commonwealth engaged extensively with
communities and undertook an evidence-based approach to gathering and analysing the available
information about each of the shortlisted sites to consider various aspects of site suitability and
identify key risks.” The notion that the Commonwealth engaged extensively with the community
regarding the facility in Kimba is not adequate truth telling. The federal government excluded
Barngarla Traditional Owners from a ‘community ballot’ in 2019. The Barngarla Determination
Aboriginal Corporation initiated a separate, confidential postal survey of Traditional Owners,
conducted by Australian Election Company. This resulted in 100% of respondents voting ‘no’ to the
proposed nuclear facility. The Uniting Church in South Australia stands against the oppression of First
People. We urge the Commonwealth to truly engage with the Barngarla people and hear their voices.
***
The longstanding relationship between the Uniting Church in South Australia and the UAICC has been
life giving. Uniting Church personnel have learnt to see beyond earthly possessions. Likewise, to truly
respect the relationship between First People and their Country. We lament the historical wrongs
done to First People such as the dispossession of land. We stand in solidarity with First People against
stopping such inequalities. We urge the Commonwealth to empower First People by listening to their
voices.
***
  We recommend that:
1. The Senate Economics Legislation Committee should recommend the withdrawal or rejection of the
National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020 (in which case a number of following
recommendations are redundant) and repeal of the National Radioactive Waste Management
Amendment Act.
***
2. The Committee should recommend repeal of the NRWM Act 2012 Section 12(1)(c) & 13(1), and of
the Bill’s sections 34GA(1)(c) and 34GB(1), as unacceptable draconian overrides of existing State and
Commonwealth legal protections for Indigenous people’s heritage and traditions.
***
3. The Committee should undertake a review of the potential impact of the existing Act, the proposed
 amendments and the proposed  nuclear waste facility on Aboriginal rights, interests and traditions …..
***
4. The Committee should assess the compatibility of the Act, the Bill with the UN Declaration on the Rights
 of Indigenous People, in particular the right of free, prior and informed consent..
***
5 The Committee should recommend that the federal government adopt the proposal from the then
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherell, in 2017, that traditional owners should have a right of veto
over any proposed nuclear waste facility on their lands…….
***
6. The Committee should recommend withdrawal or rejection of the Bill on the grounds that the
government’s own benchmark for broad community support has not been met (43.8% support
among eligible voters in the combined ballots)
***
7. The Committee should recommend that the Bill is withdrawn, and the federal government’s nuclear
 waste agenda put on hold, until such time as public opinion among other relevant stakeholders is

determined (including state-wide opinion in South Australia, and opinion along potential transport

corridors

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