It comes as the state’s chamber of commerce, Business SA, nailed its own colours firmly to the mast, with chief Nigel McBride saying the organisation was now “advocating actively and positively for a high-level waste repository here in SA”.
InDaily revealed in March that McBride would be joining a business delegation organised by the Committee for Adelaide to tour nuclear sites in Europe, but at the time he insisted he was there to observe and learn, not to advocate.
“People are saying it’s a done deal – it’s not,” he said at the time, adding: “We want to get the facts from the horse’s mouth, of people on the ground working on these things.”
But with a public information campaign gearing up in the wake of the Scarce Royal Commission’s bullish final report, McBride says he is now prepared to take a lead in pushing for the repository to become a reality.
He said “thought leaders” in the community, rather than politicians, should step up to play a prominent role in the debate.
“We’re absolute advocates,” he said of Business SA.
From our point of view, we’re now leading advocates of this proposition
“We don’t believe the Government should lead the debate, we don’t believe the Opposition should lead the debate, [but] I can tell you Business SA is overtly advocating for a high-level nuclear waste facility in SA, subject to an educational process that will get social consent.”
But the influential lobby group’s enthusiasm was not reciprocated by Xenophon at an election forum, co-hosted last night by a range of interest groups including the Wilderness Society and Conservation SA in the marginal electorate of Hindmarsh.
In a packed Glenelg Football clubroom, Karina Lester from the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation pressed Xenophon on where his fledgling party stood on high-level nuclear waste imports.
“Would your party listen to us and support the overwhelming majority of traditional owners who continue to speak out against establishing an international nuclear waste dump?” Lester asked.
Xenophon said: “The short answer is yes, I don’t support importation of high-level waste.”
If a referendum were held tomorrow I can’t see myself supporting it
He has previously endorsed a referendum on the issue, explaining last night that “it seems to me you might get a consensus between the two major parties here in SA and it might be seen as a a done deal [so] it’s important to get the consent of the community”.
However, he added, “if a referendum were held tomorrow I can’t see myself supporting it”.
“I can’t see the benefits are there that outweigh the risks,” he said.
The debate is set to dominate the state political scene in the latter half of the year, with two Citizens’ Juries headlining a broader community consultation.
McBride told InDaily that “having come back from Europe and briefed my board, we’re now absolutely saying this is not only feasible but absolutely viable”.
“From our point of view, we’re now leading advocates of this proposition, because we believe it does stack up,” he said.
He said his visit to nuclear sites in France, Finland and Britain convinced him that “the science and economics do stack up” and “we don’t believe technology is holding us back”.
“Europe demonstrated to us that all of this is in place,” he said.
He maintained the need to reach a social consensus but warned “the enemy of this proposition is misinformation, emotion and fear”, arguing that many environmental opponents of the waste dump were playing to those very elements.
He said many other green movements “right across the world recognise that nuclear is fundamental for us to achieve our climate-change targets for at least the next 50 years”.
“To raise things like Fukushima when we’re not even considering a power plant, let alone a second generation power plant built on a faultline, to me is the kind of mischievous fear campaign that’s the enemy of the mature, informed debate we should be having as a community,” he said.
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