Government answers to Greens questions regarding Muckaty radioactive sites matters

Songlines has spliced the Senate questions and answers together in order to make it easier to follow. All care taken during this process but refer to the originals for authoritative sources.

questions
Muckaty Land Trust
26 Feb 2013 | Scott Ludlam
Nuclear
(Question No. 2556)

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 20 November 2012:

(1) Has the Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Martin Ferguson, visited the Muckaty Land Trust in the Northern Territory:
(a) if so: (i) when did this occur, (ii) at whose invitation, (iii) with whom did the Minister meet, (iv) who accompanied the Minister on the trip, (v) did the Minister meet with any Muckaty Traditional Owners or representatives of the Northern Land Council to discuss the proposal for a national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, and (vi) can the Minister provide notes or records arising from the meetings; and
(b) if not, why did the Deputy Secretary of the department recently state at a presentation at St Ignatius College, Riverview in Sydney, that the Minister has visited the Muckaty Land Trust.

Senator Chris Evans: The Minister for Resources and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1) (a) On 3 March 2010, the Minister met a delegation of Ngapa persons including a member of the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust and representatives of the Northern Land Council (NLC) in Darwin, including in relation to the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010. The Minister attended this meeting at the invitation of the NLC. One Departmental representative and one advisor from the Minister’s office attended the meeting. There were no records or notes that arose from the meeting. The Minister has not been on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust land (Muckaty Outstation).
(b) See answer to Question 1 a).

(2) If an alternative site is nominated on the Muckaty Land Trust to be assessed for a national nuclear waste facility, will a site assessment comparable to that previously undertaken by Parsons Brinckerhoff, which examined four sites in the Northern Territory, be required.

(2) Yes. A site assessment will be conducted regarding any additional sites which may be nominated under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012.

(3) Has any work been done to prepare a tender for assessment of an alternative site at Muckaty or elsewhere.

(3) No. However, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, Rule 7.7 provides that in order to draw the market’s early attention to potential procurement opportunities, each agency publish an annual procurement plan on AusTender containing a short strategic procurement outlook.

On 3 September 2012, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism updated its Strategic Procurement Outlook, to incorporate the possibility of a need for biophysical characterisation of potential radioactive waste management site(s). This information is publically available on the AusTender website.

(4) Has preparation of a tender and award of a contract been budgeted; if so, how much would this cost and what timeframes are being considered.

(4) If site characterisations for additional sites are undertaken in the 2012-13 financial year, funding would be provided for under Program 1 Annual Administered Expenses (Radioactive Waste Management), Budget Portfolio Statements 2012-13, Budget Related Paper No.1.17, Resources Energy and Tourism Portfolio, (see page 25). Any future tender process will be conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and outcomes on costs and timeframes will be determined by this process.

(5) Can the Minister provide all correspondence with the Northern Land Council (NLC) relating to the proposed additional site to be nominated on the Muckaty Land Trust.

(5) It would be inappropriate to pre-empt the proper conduct of the statutory process by releasing any correspondence or documentation relating to a potential additional nomination of land on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust.

(6) Has the department engaged in any formal or informal discussions or consultations about other potential sites outside of the Muckaty Land Trust for a national radioactive waste facility.

(6) No.

(7) Was a meeting convened by the NLC on the Muckaty Land Trust on Wednesday, 7 November 2012, to discuss a proposed new site for a national radioactive waste dump.

(7) Yes.

(8) Which Commonwealth officers attended the meeting, who invited them and what was the purpose of their attendance.

(8) Two Departmental Officers from the Resources Division attended the meeting on the invitation of the Northern Land Council. The purpose of their attendance was to provide information and respond to questions regarding the passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 and radioactive waste management policy.

(9) Were Northern Territory police stationed at the turnoff to Muckaty Station as people arrived to attend the meeting; if so:
(a) were the Commonwealth officers aware prior to their arrival that the police would be there;
(b) what was the rationale for the deployment of police; and
(c) who requested the police to be present.

(9) Yes.
(a) No – they were advised on arrival.
(b-c) Questions regarding the rationale for the deployment of local police on the turnoff to Muckaty Station are a matter for the Northern Territory Police.

(10) Is it standard practice for police resources to be deployed around a community meeting.

(10) See answers to Question 9.

(11) Can copies be provided of:
(a) the invitation given to the Minister or department to attend the meeting; and
(b) any presentation notes that were delivered or distributed to people at the meeting.

(11) See answer to Question 5.

(12) What was the outcome of the meeting.

(12) The outcome for the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism of the meeting was the provision of factual information and responses to questions raised by the attendees on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 and radioactive waste management policy.

(13) What follow-up actions have been undertaken or committed to by any federal officers or agencies.

(13) Departmental officers offered to respond to any subsequent requests for information on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 and radioactive waste management policy.
On 28 November 2012 a delegation from the Northern Land Council visited the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) campus at Lucas Heights in New South Wales. Information was provided on the generic concept design work and ANSTO officers provided factual information on radiation and radioactive waste and conducted a tour of the premises, including the radioactive waste inventories held at Lucas Heights.

(14) Did the NLC provide the Commonwealth with information about who had been invited to, and/or was in attendance at, the meeting.

(14) The NLC did not advise the Department of the names of those invited or who attended the meeting on 7 November 2012.

(15) Did the Minister or departmental officers request the:
(a) attendance; and
(b) non-attendance, of particular people; if so, who.

(15) (a) – (b) No.

(16) Given that the NLC Principal Legal Officer, Mr Ron Levy, indicated at a press conference on Crab Claw Island on Tuesday, 13 November 2012, that a specific site is known to the NLC, was the specific site for an alternative or additional nomination discussed at the 7 November 2012 meeting on the Muckaty Land Trust; if so, was the alternate site referred to with a name or geographical location.

(16) Additional areas of land on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust for potential nomination were identified at the 7 November 2012 meeting.

The specific location of any nomination that may be made will be identified through the statutory process. This includes consultations with traditional Aboriginal owners, interested Aboriginals, and Aboriginal communities or groups that may be affected by a proposed nomination.

If an additional nomination is made, section 8(2) of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 provides that a nomination must include:

survey points (if available);

geographical coordinates; and

portion numbers, title identifier or volume and folio numbers etc (where these are appropriate descriptors of the nomination).

(17) Can the Minister provide the precise geographical location of the proposed location of the alternative site referred to by Mr Levy.

(17) See answer to Question 16.

(18) Has an assessment been made of the impact any further site nomination on the Muckaty Land Trust would have on the current Federal Court action contesting the current site nomination; if so, can the assessment be provided.

(18) No assessment has been sought on the impact of further site nominations on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust (or from another Land Council). The Department has had discussions on the matter with its legal advisors, however providing material as a result of these discussions would result in the Department waiving legal privilege.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 was first introduced in February 2010; four months before the Applicants lodged their application in the Federal Court. The Bill always anticipated the ability for additional nominations to be made either by the NLC or the other Land Councils in the Northern Territory.
Any impacts of subsequent nominations on the Federal Court matter are a question for the Court.

(19) Has the Commonwealth Government attended or been notified of any other meetings convened by the NLC to discuss the proposed nomination of an additional site on the Muckaty Land Trust; if so, can any written or electronic correspondence from the NLC with regard to these meetings be provided by the department.

(19) The Department has not attended or been notified of any other meetings convened by the NLC to discuss the proposed nomination of an additional site on the Muckaty Aboriginal Land Trust land.

(20) Is the department aware of any future consultation meetings planned regarding the proposed additional site.

(20) No.

(21) Has the Minister or department discussed with the NLC granting West Banka Banka Station as Aboriginal land as a benefit for nominating an additional site on the Muckaty Land Trust for a national nuclear waste facility.

(21) Yes. At the time of the 2007 nomination, the then Howard Government and Department discussed with the NLC the possibility of scheduling the western portion of Banka Banka Station as Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 as a regional benefit. The current Minister and Department have discussed that arrangement with the NLC in relation to both the 2007 nomination and any additional nomination on Muckaty Station. The Indigenous Land Corporation purchased Banka Banka West in October 2010.

(22) Can the department provide all correspondence and notes relating to compensation for any additional site nomination made on the Muckaty Land Trust or any alternate site.

(22) See answer to Question 5.

(23) What is the relationship between Traditional Owners of West Banka Banka Station and Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust.

(23) Matters relating to traditional ownership should be referred to the Northern Land Council.

(Ends)

Note by songlines: For an authoritative version of the questions and answers refer to Hansard.

See also http://www.openaustralia.org/senate/?id=2013-02-25.140.1&s=Muckaty#g141.1