Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick recently visited Whyalla ahead of two public hearings in Kimba and Hawker for the federal inquiry into the selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility.
Senator Patrick, who initiated the Senate inquiry, said he was ‘very concerned’ how fair the selection process for the site had been so far.
“I want to make sure that even the people who are on the other side of the decision can say that it was a fair process,” he said.
My worry is that even if we get across the line in Kimba or Hawker, we will have a bitterly divided community. It is simply better to find a site with broad community support.Senator Rex Patrick
“At these hearings we want to hear different perspectives from people in the community not so much on whether there should or shouldn’t be a facility, but on whether this process has been run fairly.”
Mr Patrick said there is a site in Western Australia which has ‘considerable support’ as a location for a nuclear waste facility, and believes it should be included in the nuclear discussion.
“We shouldn’t be holding back on that particular site. My worry is that even if we get across the line in Kimba or Hawker, we’ll have a bitterly divided community,” he said.
“It is simply better to find a site with broad community support and recognise that as a very positive thing for such a facility That’s why I don’t want the Western Australia site ruled out.”
However Mr Patrick is concerned that the decision to establish a low-level nuclear waste facility in South Australia is already a ‘done deal’, given statements made by Resources Minister Matt Canavan.
“Minister Canavan wants to get this done and dusted by the election. That indicates there is a political element to this,” he said. In the wake of BAE Systems being selected to create nine Future Frigates, and the benefits that may bring Whyalla, Senator Patrick said he would remain a strong advocate in the use of Australian steel in that project.
“It’s not just Whyalla that benefits from this, it’s Port Kembla and companies like Bisalloy that produce specialty steel,” he said.
Senator Patrick visited Fisk Street Primary School and Stuart High School to speak with local students.