Qld State ALP reaffirms support for uranium ban

There has been a positive response to the reaffirmation of Queensland ALP opposition to uranium mining, announced in state Parliament on April 16.

Friends of the Earth media release

“Environmentalists welcome the State ALP’s reaffirmation of their policy of opposition to uranium mining in Queensland” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Ms Robin Taubenfeld.

Yesterday Jackie Trad, State ALP member for South Brisbane tabled a report, published by environmental groups and trade unions, in State Parliament.

The report, “High Risk – Low Return: The case against uranium mining in Queensland” exposes the State Government’s claims about jobs and royalties as being without substance.

Jackie Trad MP argued that the uranium industry was only likely to create 155 long-term jobs, according to a Deloitte Access Economics report from 2008.
Jackie Trad MP argued that the risk to agricultural and tourism jobs far outweighed claims made by the Premier, claiming “The risks to both the reputation and sustainability of our agricultural industry and food security from uranium mining are real.”

Ms Trad has said that “Queenslanders need to ask themselves this very important question – is the small economic return on uranium mining worth the risk it poses to established industries, our precious environment and the health and safety of workers?”
Robin Taubenfeld said “State investment in renewable energy would create more jobs. The uranium industry has a terrible accident history and this poses a significant threat to the environment and our way of life in Queensland.”

For further media comment contact Jim Green, Friends of the Earth spokesperson on 0417 318 368. The “High Risk – Low Return” report can be downloaded from www.qnfa.org.

Transcript of the Parliamentary debate is attached below.

Queensland Hansard – Tuesday 16 April 2013 – pages 940 - 941

Ms TRAD (South Brisbane—ALP) (11.30 am):
The LNP’s decision to overturn Labor’s 23-year ban on uranium mining in Queensland has no economic justification and is a betrayal of the Premier’s clear commitment to the people of Queensland, both before and after the state election. Let me begin by addressing the Premier’s poor excuse for breaking his commitment to Queenslanders. Apparently, Julia Gillard made him do it. What an irony! When it comes to funding absolute basics like better education for our kids or support for people with a disability, the Premier is gung-ho and takes the fight up to the Commonwealth. But when it comes to uranium mining and keeping an election commitment he scurries off quickly to hide behind the Prime Minister’s skirts. Even by the Premier’s own admission, the decision to break a key election promise was made with no modelling on the number of jobs to be created or on any increased investment in regional Queensland. In fact, documents obtained under right to information reveal that the only investigation undertaken by the government was its direct contact with the uranium industry to provide them with the information on the economic benefits of opening up the industry to Queensland.

There has been a decided lack of transparency around the LNP’s decision to lift the ban on uranium mining in Queensland. Even under the Queensland Resources Council’s most optimistic and over-inflated scenario, Queensland would only get $900 million in estimated royalties from uranium mining. This would equate to an average royalty gain of $30 million per annum or just one per cent of current royalty income. In comparison, the value of Queensland’s total agricultural exports last financial year exceeded $7 billion. In October last year there was much hype and rhetoric from the LNP about the uranium industry creating thousands of Queensland jobs—once again with no evidence to substantiate these claims.

Consequently, it is of note that there is a current conspicuous silence on the number of uranium jobs to be created in the implementation committee’s report and the minister’s own press release. Is that because when the LNP finally got around to looking into it the facts bear out what Deloitte concluded only a few years ago? That is, in Queensland only 155 direct jobs would be created from uranium mining over the long term. One hundred and fifty-five jobs only make up 0.6 per cent of the 28,000 full-time jobs lost under the Newman government’s first year in office or 0.3 per cent of the jobs currently supported by the Great Barrier Reef or 0.2 per cent of the agricultural jobs in Queensland. I make these comparisons with agriculture and tourism because these are two established industries which are placed at greatest risk by a uranium industry in Queensland.

Mr Cripps: How?

Ms TRAD: Haven’t you read the report, Minister?

Mr Cripps: How are they placed at risk?


I take on board the minister’s interjection. It just proves that he has not read the report. I will quote from the report, if the minister will listen. The implementation committee report clearly identifies two significant problems with the uranium industry: transportation and the management of radioactive mine water—two problems for which the committee failed to find any adequate solutions.

On the issue of transportation, the minister still refuses to rule out shipping uranium over the Great Barrier Reef, threatening Queensland’s greatest environmental asset and 60,000 Queensland jobs. On the issue of storing and treating radioactive mine water, history shows the risks are even higher. In 2009 the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory was found to be leaking 100,000 litres per day of contaminated mine water into the earth below Kakadu. In the same year a poorly engineered dam collapsed, releasing six million litres of contaminated water into Kakadu. The implementation committee report acknowledged the potential impacts on water and that these groundwater resources are ‘extremely important for irrigation and stock watering with approximately 1,500 megalitres of water per day being drawn from the Great Artesian Basin alone’.

The risks to both the reputation and sustainability of our agricultural industry and food security from uranium mining are real. On the same day the implementation committee handed down its report, environmental groups and unions joined together to release an alternative report highlighting the many risks associated with mining. I table a copy of the report for the benefit of the House.

Tabled paper: Document titled ‘High risk—low return: the case against uranium mining in Queensland’.

I take this opportunity to thank the organisations which collaborated on the report for their hard work and dedication to this issue, particularly Robin Taubenfeld from the Nuclear Free Alliance. In conclusion, the Economist in March last year featured a comprehensive investigative economic analysis of the nuclear industry and concluded, ‘Barring major technological developments, nuclear power will continue to be a creature of politics not economics.’ This is poor economics and poor politics.