Senator Rex Patrick has called the site selection for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility “an absolute sham”, claiming Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan ignored a potential site at Leonora in Western Australia.
Mr Patrick made the claims on last week following a visit to the site located 16 kilometres west of Leonora.
He said Mr Canavan “is determined to rush to select one of the South Australian sites.”
“Minister Canavan needs to more properly engage the proponents of the proposed site near the central WA mining township of Leonora or risk the whole selection process being confirmed as an absolute sham”, Mr Patrick said.
“I already hold enough concern in the selection process to have initiated a Senate Inquiry into it, but after visiting the Leonora site, I am convinced it is becoming a farce.”
Mr Patrick likened the lack of understanding of ‘broad community support’ to a running a race where participants are told they do not need to know where the finish line is.
The Leonora site was nominated in August last year, but Mr Canavan did not consider it due to the advancement of the sites in Kimba and Hawker.
Mr Patrick said that lead him to believe that a South Australian site was a “done deal”.
“It appears as though the new site is a ‘faster runner’ in the race, but won’t be allowed to participate because the Minister is determined to rush to select one of the South Australian sites despite there being a divided community.”
However, Mr Canavan said the government would not progress detailed assessment of other nominations until the results of the votes in the two South Australian communities were known.
“We have well advanced proposals from three sites in South Australia, one near Hawker and two near Kimba,” he said.
“These communities have been involved in extensive consultation and discussion about the site selection.”
No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA president Peter Woolford said it was important Mr Canavan made the right decision.
“...if there is a site on offer that meets all criteria, exhibits broad community support and is not on agricultural land, we believe he should be giving it serious consideration,” he said.
“We look forward to Minister Canavan’s explanation as to why he does not deem the Leonora proposal suitable for further investigation.”
However, Working for Kimba’s Future spokesperson Meagan Lienert said the group have been through three years of fighting to have the discussion about hosting the facility and two nomination processes.
“To suggest we should halt our process, and our right to vote and decide on whether this facility goes ahead here, so that a late application from Western Australia could start a new 60-day exploratory process that might lead to a second, year-long technical and consultation phase is absurd,” Mrs Lienert said.
“I don’t know why South Australian Senator Rex Patrick is saying South Australians should be denied our voice now and vote at the last minute, for a project that we have been fighting for, for so three years for the long term benefits of our community, the region and SA.
“I also don’t know why he’s claiming everyone in Leonora in Western Australia says they want this project, when the media reports are that Traditional landowners there already have a petition with 500 signatures opposing it.”