Australia's Labor reverses position on uranium mining
Jul 24, 2006, 14:38 GMT
Sydney - Australia's opposition Labor Party has changed tack and will not oppose new uranium mines or an increase in uranium exports.
'Banning new uranium mines would not limit the export of Australian uranium to the world - it would simply favour incumbent producers,' Labor leader Kim Beazley said Monday. 'We must move from a focus on no new mines to a focus on the terms and conditions under which we export uranium.'
Labor's previous position, held for more than 20 years, was to limit the number of uranium mines in Australia to the current three.
The backflip is a response to Prime Minister John Howard's declaration that Australia should become an 'energy superpower' and export unlimited amounts of coal, gas and uranium.
Howard has also committed the government to look again at the nuclear option as oil prices soar and worries increase about the greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired electricity plants that the country relies on for almost 90 per cent of its power.
Uranium prices are surging, and Australia holds 40 per cent of the nuclear feedstock's easily recoverable reserves.
Australia has a small research reactor in Sydney but has no commercial nuclear-power plants. Labor is against nuclear-power plants, as are the minor parties.
Greens member of parliament Bob Brown, speaking last month after Howard first broached the subject, alleged the government had already made up its mind to build nuclear-power plants.
'His talk about a public debate is a complete sham,' Brown said. 'We are going headlong into becoming a major agent in the nuclear proliferation right around the world.'
Beazley reaffirmed that the party that was last in government in 1996 continued in its opposition to nuclear power.
'I am not going to move to support enrichment and nuclear power because I think that's the policy of an idiot,' he said in a speech in Sydney.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur