Friends of the Earth Australia is today releasing a detailed report on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (NRWMA). The report ‒ written by Monash University fifth-year law student Amanda Ngo ‒ comes against the backdrop of the federal government's targeting of a site near Hawker in SA's Flinders Ranges for a national radioactive waste store and repository.
The NRWMA is heavy-handed, undemocratic legislation that gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility. In so doing the Minister must "take into account any relevant comments by persons with a right or interest in the land" but there is no requirement to secure consent.
Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.
The NRWMA disempowers Traditional Owners ‒ in this case Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners ‒ in multiple ways, including:
- The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent.
- The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.
- The NRWMA curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage.
- The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners have been clear in their opposition to the planned radioactive waste facility in the Flinders Ranges. "I call upon the Federal and State Governments to put an end to this volatile position that the Adnyamathanha people are facing," said Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Enice Marsh. "Native Title and the Aboriginal Heritage Act are not protecting our land. This needs a complete review or a Royal Commission. The Barndioota site in the Flinders Ranges must be struck off as a potential radioactive waste dump site and the National Radioactive Waste Management Act needs to be amended to give us the right to say 'no'."
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives on Yappala Station near the proposed dump site, said: "The NRWMA is a political attack on Adnyamathanha women's spiritual beliefs. The destruction of our culture and significant woman's sites is a form of assimilation and thus breaches Article 8.1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The NRWMA also breaches Article 25 of the UN Declaration which refers to our spiritual relationship with the land and the right to maintain and strengthen our culture. This is a breach of our Aboriginal human rights and our people and amounts to cultural genocide."
The NRWMA has been criticised in both Senate Inquiries and a Federal Court challenge to an earlier federal government attempt to impose a national radioactive waste facility at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.
The NRWMA also puts the federal government's radioactive waste agenda above environmental protection as it seeks to curtail the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said: "A senior government official claims the NRWMA is based on 'world's best practice'. In fact, the legislation systematically disempowers local communities and Traditional Owners and weakens environmental protections. It needs to be radically amended or replaced with legislation that protects the environment and gives local communities and Traditional Owners the right to say no to nuclear waste dumps."
Amanda Ngo's paper, 'National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012', is posted at http://tinyurl.com/nrwma-2017