The federal government is desperate to dump nuclear waste in South Australia. A campaign of bribery led by Liberal resources minister and pro-Adani crusader Matt Canavan is under way to find a location.
The campaign has divided the two prospective towns, Kimba and Hawker.
Hawker is an old railway town in the Flinders Ranges, and Kimba an outpost on the Eyre Peninsula. Both have suffered long-term economic decline.
Attempting to capitalise on the sense of neglect in both towns, the government has tripled the “incentive package”, from $10 million to $31 million, for whichever community ends up hosting the nuclear waste dump. One of the towns, it is promised, will be saved from decay and will have plenty of funds for social services, infrastructure and community and cultural initiatives.
This has been slammed by locals as bribery. They argue communities should have a right to basic services and infrastructure funding without being forced to accept toxic waste.
The timing of the announcement is deliberate. Later this month, both towns will hold postal votes to gauge support for the waste dump, which the government hopes will legitimise the project.
“It’s a deceptive ploy to introduce it just before the postal vote”, Kimba resident Katrina told Red Flag. “I see it as a manipulation tactic.”
And it’s not the only one. A five-night excursion to Lucas Heights was recently organised by the government for Kimba’s school students, referred to in the Murdoch press as a “nuclear fact-finding tour”. It can be safely assumed that the “facts” presented by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation excluded mention of various leaks that have occurred at technologically advanced waste dumps around the world (for example, New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant facility, where a drum exploded and contaminated workers in 2014).
Additionally, the vast majority of Adnyamathanha people, whose country includes one of the proposed sites, are being denied the opportunity to take part in the vote. By drawing extremely strict area boundaries, the Liberals have ensured that only around 300 of the approximately 2,500 Adnyamathanha people will have any say over whether hazardous waste will be stored on their land for centuries. The land is culturally significant and dangerous for nuclear waste, as it is both an alluvial floodplain and seismically active.
“It’s divide and conquer”, Regina McKenzie, a leading Indigenous anti-dump campaigner, told Red Flag. “This is a horrible thing to do to this nation, who survived the early atrocities inflicted on us. Now again the government is causing irreparable harm to our families, people and country. I find this disgusting, and it’s cultural genocide; this whole process is genocidal!”
Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the government expects to announce the dump site by November.