Protesters step up campaign against nuclear waste dump

THE Northern Territory government has accused the Commonwealth of exploiting ''political expediency'' by pushing ahead with plans for a nuclear waste dump in the top end.

After seven years in the planning, a nuclear dump at remote Muckaty cattle station, more than 120 kilometres from Tennant Creek, is still caught in red tape and subject to a Federal Court challenge by traditional owners.

The federal Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, said the government would respect the outcome of the Federal Court's decision and not act until the court case was resolved. But local opposition to the plan has shown no sign of waning.

Yesterday, the Maritime Union of Australia led a passionate protest at Darwin port against the plan, calling for a full and independent inquiry into the proposal.

The Northern Territory Lands and Planning Minister, Gerry McCarthy, told the Herald the decision to use the NT for a national waste dump site had been based on political expediency, not science. ''The Commonwealth should go back and base its decision on science. It should also consult with Territorians and not exploit our weaker constitutional position for its political expediency,'' he said.

NT union organiser Thomas Mayor said the MUA resolved at its February national conference to support traditional owners who have been dismayed by the prospect of nuclear waste on their lands.

"The MUA is very concerned that our members would have to handle this waste when it enters the Port of Darwin bound for Muckaty when the emergency response capabilities in Darwin do not exist for such a dangerous cargo,'' he said. ''We're not so much saying there shouldn't be a nuclear waste dump anywhere, but we're opposing it in the absence of an independent and transparent inquiry into the science and world's best practice.''

Muckaty area traditional owner Bunny Nabarula, 83, said she, too, wanted to enjoy her local area.

"We don't want any waste stored in our country. We're thinking about our children, our grandchildren and the country. We want to be able to enjoy our country, not have it spoiled," she said.

Earlier this year, legislation passed Parliament naming Muckaty as the only place now under active consideration.

Cat Beaton, nuclear-free campaigner at the NT Environment Centre, said: ''While the government have not shown us the science or a legitimate need to establish a remote waste repository in the NT, we have shown them that we will not take this lying down.''

Mr Ferguson said the government had a ''long-standing and bipartisan agreement'' with the local community, backed by law, that Lucas Heights not become a national nuclear waste repository.

Federal Court action against the NT plans was launched in 2010 and the matter is due to be heard again in November. The action is being led by five groups of traditional owners of the area who say a small group of traditional owners gave permission for the site to be used as a waste dump without their permission.

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