Greens welcome Muckaty settlement

NT Greens are celebrating the epic victory of Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust over Commonwealth attempts to impose nuclear waste on their country.

NT Greens were among the first Territorians to begin organising almost nine years ago, when then-minister Brendan Nelson first declared that the NT would be targeted for Commonwealth nuclear waste. Commonwealth legislation, brought in under Howard but then rebadged under Labor, sought to convince Territorians that any necessary power to override opposition would be invoked. Three defence sites were short listed, before amendments that allowed land councils to nominate Aboriginal land. The listing of two sites in Central Australia, and one in Katherine, helped build solidarity across the length of the Territory, and opponents of nuclear waste from each of those early targets threw their weight behind colleagues in the Barkly once attention firmly focussed on Manuwangku at Muckaty Station.

The laws which invited NT Land Councils to nominate aboriginal land for the privilege of hosting the nation's most radioactive wastes declared any such nomination would be valid, regardless of whether the nomination process was compliant with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT). The Federal Court agreed it was worth investigation, among other matters, whether this extreme provision was being relied upon. When the challenge came to court, the Commonwealth found that, far from intimidated by 7 years of living under the threat posed by this heavy handed legislation, Traditional Owners opposed to the plan stood stronger than ever.

WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has been an invaluable ally to the fight against imposition of nuclear waste, which was led by Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust. Now that the Commonwealth and NLC have settled the Federal case, and withdrawn their nomination of Manuwangku, Government has suggested that a further nomination, perhaps even elsewhere at Muckaty, might be forthcoming. As strategically unwise as this would appear, there's now a clear requirement to overturn the laws that target the NT.

Senator Ludlam is at the forefront of a proactive agenda to establish a national Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of radioactive waste management in Australia. After decades of attempting to pick a vulnerable postcode to impose the unwanted waste by brute force, we still don't even have a complete inventory of all relevant materials. Greens say It's time to put all options on the table, and earn social license for whatever management can be agreed upon. Other nations have made durable decisions about waste management through broad, open processes: but so far Australia has only tried the brute force approach that failed at Muckaty.

This month, we've all seen that when Traditional Owners standing strong are backed by environmentalists and unions, that brute force of the Commonwealth Government can be withstood. Recognising that there's still a long road towards responsible management, and unfinished business on addressing the deficit of need that distorts decision making in communities like the Barkly, for now it is time to celebrate the historic achievement of this winning formula.