Uranium sales to India - Treaties Committee debate


I support the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and also congratulate the acting chair, Senator Birmingham, on the role that he played in the committee. I agree that the treaties considered by the committee should be adopted, as recommended by the committee. I also want to make some comments on the treaty relating to uranium and the peaceful use and sale of uranium. It is important that Australia joins the international arrangements in relation to nuclear fuel.

I am delighted to see that the Prime Minister has adopted this positionalthough I am not sure whether this means the government or the Labor Party have adopted it. I read in the paper that many in the Labor Party are totally opposed, so who knows whether this is government policy or just the Prime Minister's policy or whose policy it is. I see Senator Feeney there, smiling away. Perhaps he knows the Labor Party are going to change their longstanding opposition to uranium sales to India when it comes up at the national conference. But good luck to Senator Cameron and his at least committed colleagues, who will try and maintain the Labor Party on their former pathnot a path I agree with, I might say. I am delighted that Ms Gillard has now adopted the coalition's policy in relation to the sale of uranium to India.

What I really want to comment on, as a Queensland senator, naturally enough, is how this treaty might affect my state of Queensland, which, I would say with some parochial enthusiasm, has vast deposits of good quality uranium. But the Queensland Labor Party is all over the shop in relation to uranium. Premier Bligh has just made yet another commitment that she will not be mining or exporting uranium from Queensland no matter what Ms Gillard or the Labor Party national conference says. So, clearly, the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party are at odds with our current Prime Minister, notwithstanding that Ms Bligh has just recently retired as the national chair of the ALP. So it is very difficult for us Queenslanders to understand just what is Australian Labor Party policy when it comes to uranium.

I am more concerned up my way in the north of Queensland with the electorate of Kennedy, where there are a lot of uranium deposits. In the state seat of Mt Isa, Ms Betty Kiernan is the Labor member for that seat. It is an area which contains a lot of the reserves of uranium in our state. Ms Kiernan is very much in favour of uranium mining and uranium exporting, yet she is in a government led by a Premier and by a party that opposes uranium. This is made more interesting because the former minister for mines and energy in Queensland, Mr Tony McGrady, was the former member for the state seat of Mt Isa in the Queensland parliament. As minister for mines and energy, he opposed uranium and went along with Labor Party policy in Queensland. But, now, Mr McGrady is a lobbyist for the uranium industry. So he is actively supporting the mining and export of uranium in Queensland. I welcome Mr McGrady's conversion to the understanding of the clean and peaceful use of uranium. It is a clean fuel. If we are worried about carbon emissions, why wouldn't we be looking at clean uranium energy around the world I am delighted that the Labor Party seem to be moving towards the selling of uranium to the biggest democracy in the world.

Getting back to the uranium debate in my state of Queensland, which is relevant to this treaty, which the committee has reported upon, it is fascinating that I hear that Mr McGrady, the former state Labor member for Mt Isa and a former mines minister, is now an advocate for uranium and is on the same wavelength, one would think, as Ms Kiernan, the current state Labor member for Mt Isa. But I understand from my friends in the Labor Party that Mr McGrady and Ms Kiernan are sworn enemies, that Mr McGrady is doing everything possible to ensure that Ms Kiernan is not the member for Mt Isa after the next state election. I am not sure whether his enthusiasm to see the sitting Labor member defeated is due to his support for uranium these days or whether it is due to something else. But it does make it rather confusing for those of us in Queensland when trying to understand what the Australian Labor Party's view is on uranium in Queensland. I must ensure there is some time in case any Queensland Labor Party senator might want to participate in the debate and tell the rest of us exactly what Queenslanders can expect from a state government in future should it be that the Labor state government is returned at the next state election. According to all the polls, the chances of that happening are very, very slightbut you never know.

As a voter in the state election, as a Queenslander and as one who is interested in the north of Australia and the wealth that mining has brought to Northern Australia and to North Queensland, I would be interested to know just what the Labor Party policy is in relation to uranium in Queensland. I will watch with great interest and some fascination as to how the party that is the government of Australia, which has a firm and written policy against the sale of uranium to India, treat their Prime Minister and their leader at the national conference, after Ms Gillard, unilaterally I assume, announced that she was going to change sides on the export of uranium to India. So that is interesting and it will be a fascination for all of us in Australia. But as a Queenslander, I am particularly interested in what the Queensland Labor Party policy is in relation to this, what Ms Kiernan's view is and what Mr McGrady's view is. I again congratulate the committee on their work on these treaties. As the acting chairman has recommended, I will certainly be supporting the adoption of this report.

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