Premier outlines path forward for nuclear discussion

Posted 14 November 2016

The State Government has decided that discussion should continue on a proposed nuclear waste facility in South Australia.

The Government has also concluded the only path forward is the restoration of bipartisanship and broad social consent secured through a State-wide referendum.

A diverse range of community views were uncovered through an unprecedented State-wide consultation program and two Citizens’ Juries.

This consultation process has helped guide the government’s next steps on this matter.

The Government believes continued public debate about South Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important, however an absence of bipartisanship stands in the way of any meaningful progress.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall withdrew the Liberal Party’s support before the process had been completed, removing the bipartisanship the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission said was critical to the process.

If broad social consent were to be achieved through a referendum, local Aboriginal people would be given a final right of veto on any future facility.

This final right of veto would exist if a proposed facility would impact upon their lands and would not be overridden by the broader community.

The Labor Party has yet to change its policy on this matter, but at the recent party convention, the Premier was permitted to continue the public consultation process

The Government’s full response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission will be delivered in the Parliament tomorrow.

Background

In February 2015, the Government announced it would establish a Royal Commission to investigate the State’s possible further involvement in nuclear fuel cycle.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, headed by former Governor Kevin Scarce, delivered its report in May of this year.

The first Citizens’ Jury met in June and July this year to deliberate on the Royal Commission Report and set the agenda for a three-month state-wide consultation process.

The Jury identified the establishment of a waste disposal facility as the most significant aspect of the Commission’s report.

Guided by the first jury, the State Government’s Consultation and Response Agency (CARA) undertook the largest consultation program in the state’s history.

CARA visited more than 125 sites across South Australia, including all major regional centres and more than 60 remote towns and 30 Aboriginal communities.

The consultation program included:

  • 17,000 face-to-face conversations
  • 33,000 online conversations
  • 4500 online surveys
  • 1150 letters, emails and phone calls

A Community Views Report collated the views of more than 50,000 people involved in the consultation process.

A representative survey found 43 per cent of people supported or strongly supported pursuing a nuclear waste disposal facility, while 37% opposed or strongly opposed and the remaining 20% were undecided.

The second Citizens’ Jury sat on October 8-9, October 29-30 and November 5-6, working together over six days to develop a report which will help inform the State Government on the next steps as it prepares its response to the Royal Commission.

The group heard from more than 100 witnesses including environmental, economics, safety and industry experts, as well as community and Aboriginal representation.

The jury delivered its report earlier this month, with two-thirds of jurors opting to not pursue a nuclear waste disposal facility.

Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill

I believe continued public debate about South Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important and ultimately it is a matter that the people should decide, not political parties.

As I have previously stated, a large and controversial issue such as this would always be a test of our democracy.

I am supportive of a continued debate on this issue – I am not supportive of shutting down democracy.

We have listened to the diverse points of view and have tried to carefully balance what we’ve heard to map out our next steps.

We will not pursue a change to our policy, but if the mood in the community shifts and bipartisanship is re-established we will remain open to this question.