Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:10): I move:

That the Senate take note of all answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked by the coalition today.

In particular, I wish to focus on the answer to the question that I asked of Senator Farrell, representing the Minister for Resources, relating to a national radioactive waste management facility in which Senator Farrell very much highlighted the problems in relation to radioactive waste storage in Australia. He highlighted the problems that don’t just go back months or years but decades. He gave absolutely no confidence that this Labor government would contribute at all to the solutions to this decades-long problem that has blighted Australia.

Since the Federal Court intervened in this matter on 18 July, there’s been a largely silent and—as we saw today—weak response from the government to that decision. The Albanese government has given no indication that it appreciates the increasing urgency for building this facility. We are seeing a situation where current storage facilities are filling up. There is pressure upon them. There is increasing suggestion that future licences and future operations in relation to nuclear medicine are potentially in doubt without a permanent facility being established. So, although it may have taken decades to get this point, it is now at a stage where it is crucial and increasingly urgent that this matter be addressed by the government of the day.

Not only are those pressures building but Australia’s reputation and standing is now subject to far higher scrutiny when it comes to our nuclear stewardship given the commitments we have made as a result of our AUKUS partnership and our commitment to build nuclear-powered submarines. That means it’s even more important to demonstrate within that stewardship our ability to manage the low- and medium-level waste that we as a nation have already accumulated, particularly as a result of the crucial nuclear medicines that provide so much support to so many Australians.

Senator Farrell’s party has been one of the biggest impediments to resolving this decades-long imbroglio. The Labor Party has been one of the biggest impediments time and time again. I can remember when the Howard government had a proposal for resolving the issue of a low- and medium-level storage facility. At that stage it was the South Australian Labor government, under Mike Rann, that exploited that proposal for base political purposes. They did so despite the same Labor government, just a few years later, having the gall to pursue and propose the expansion of South Australia’s role in the nuclear industry.

Now we see both the Albanese government and the Malinauskas government, despite pretending to be the architects of the AUKUS agreement, all but promoting the legal challenge to the Napandee site and certainly failing to give any certainty that that facility will go ahead. It is time for the hypocrisy to end and the national interest to be put first. It is time for the Albanese government to commit to delivering this facility, as planned, in a region and a community that has supported this proposal, on private freehold land that has been voluntarily offered up for this proposed facility. All of the boxes have been ticked in terms of getting this done. At a bare minimum, the Albanese Labor government should be making crystal clear that they will appeal this decision, that they will stand by the original decision made, that they will seek to pursue the construction of this facility in the national interest and that they will pursue all legal avenues to do so.

But, indeed, they could go further, and they should consider going further, to consider legislating a remedy to this court decision. We saw this government only a couple of months ago do just that when it lost a legal case in relation to the Russian Federation’s access to land in Canberra for its future embassy site. In losing that legal position, the government acted to legislate a remedy for it, and they enjoyed the support of the coalition, and the issue was resolved through this parliament in the space of a day. They could and should at least consider and assess perusing a similar type of pathway to bring the decade-long saga to an end, to give certainty to nuclear medicine and science in Australia, to give certainty to the Kimba community and to ensure that we have the type of facility built that Australia needs.