Adjournment Debate – Nuclear inquiry

Monday, 29 July 2019

Mr PITT:  I rise to inform the House of the hapless case of Minister Cameron Dick, the Queensland minister who has once again gone out on local media in my electorate—in fact, on ABC Wide Bay, with David Dowsett the presenter—running a scare campaign on nuclear reactors. Once again, the Labor Party is generally pretty good at scare campaigns; they generally are. But they need to base some of these things around facts if they want to be successful.

I just want to give some quotes from his interview this morning with the ABC. Mr Dick said: ‘If you ask the people of Fukushima, they’ll give you a very clear answer. We know up to a thousand workers died after that nuclear power plant went into meltdown, and that’s in the recent past. Going on about how technology has improved, and we had that terrible incident in Fukushima.’

I’ve actually done some research and what it says is this: there have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated, also as part of a 15-metre tsunami. I believe that has been updated. There has now been one incident of lung cancer which resulted in a fatality and that is a terrible outcome. But I would say to Minister Dick that we want to have an adult conversation with the Australian people. If you want to run a scare campaign you should grow up. The quotes that he has put forward are factually incorrect.

If we want to talk about modern technology, that nuclear power plant consisted of six GE light-water-boiling reactors with a combined capacity of 4.7 gigawatts. That is an enormous generator; very, very large. But we want to compare this with the technology of today. The No. 1 reactor commenced construction in July 1967 and commenced operation in March 1971. Reactors 2 and 3 commenced in July 1974 and March 1976. In between, man landed on the moon! I think things have moved on from that hippie stage in terms of technology. It’s just completely incomparable. I would say to Minister Dick that he really should inform himself. There is an opportunity here to act like an adult and, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that is to be the case.

But all is not lost! I thought I should do some more research, given the member for Oxley’s close relationship with to Minister Dick, I was interested in what the member for Oxley might have said. In fact, would you believe that he is a true believer! In his maiden speech he said:

No other nation is better positioned than Australia to supply the world with its growing demand for resources. Whilst there are no doubt challenges facing the resources sector, we must continue to be steadfast in our support of the sector, as our neighbours China and India, in particular, grow to be 21st century superpowers and pull millions out of poverty.

I agree with the member for Oxley. It’s unusual; it’s a surprise. I think that if the member for Maribyrnong had listened to the member for Oxley there could well have been a different result at the last election.

Minister Dick went—he banged on for quite some time—but this is an absolute clanger: ‘Energy prices are coming down,’ was the claim from Minister Dick. I would say to Minister Dick: bring yourself back up to the electorate. I’m more than happy to put a hundred people in a room who will suggest that their bills haven’t gone down. If we look at who is responsible for the cost of electricity in regional Queensland it is 100 per cent the Queensland state Labor government. They own 70 per cent of the generators, they own all of the transmission and the only retailer in town.

And the latest, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews—I’m sure you’re listening because you really want to hear about this—is that they’ve now invented a demand charge. If you use over 100,000 kilowatt-hours of energy in a year you’ll get slammed for use in peak periods by up to 48c a kilowatt hour. I don’t know anyone who thinks that is a decrease in cost. I’ve been approached by small businesses, from coffee shops all the way through to major energy users. The price has not gone down; it has increased.

So I say to Minister Dick: you have an opportunity to correct the record. You should walk into your own parliament, withdraw those statements and be factual with the people you represent. There is an opportunity here for us all to act like adults and have a conversation. No-one is suggesting we are out to construct nuclear reactors in the middle of Queensland. We need to have a conversation about changing the technology, and the opportunities for Queenslanders and all Australians to get involved with an industry which is used around the world. Is the minister seriously saying that Queensland researchers, Queensland universities, Queensland manufacturers and Queensland individuals who might produce this product and concentrate it for use in other places are not as good as others around the world? I think that is a nonsense. He is letting down the people he represents. He should stop scaring those people—and the horses. We just want to have an adult conversation, but it seems that it may well be impossible.

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