Nuclear Energy

Wednesday, 26 June 2024

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (19:30): I rise tonight to put on record my strong support for the coalition's nuclear power plans and the idea of having nuclear power generation within Australia. Nuclear has delivered so many benefits to so many countries around the world and humanity in general. The splitting of the atom has led to nuclear science, nuclear technology and nuclear medicine. All of us benefit inherently from nuclear fission. Nuclear power generation should not be off the table for ideological or arbitrary reasons or simply because a political party has decided that they don't like it.

The science is absolutely clear that nuclear power will be an integral part of humanity's future. That's not just my view; it's the view of many important people and scientists around the world, including in the countries that are using it. But, if you don't like listening to people from a political party, listen to Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, who said:

I believe nuclear energy will be one of the most important energy sources for centuries to come, long after the oil and gas and coal have run out or run down to a smaller amount nuclear energy will still be available. It is really important that we perfect this technology and make it as safe as we possibly can and constantly work on making it safer. It is the safest already of all the major technologies but it's because I believe it is here for the long term and because it's clean and sustainable that I support it.

Whatever angle you come at this issue of power generation in Australia or Australia's future, if you want to see emissions come down, or indeed Australia ever meet our emissions reductions targets, nuclear will be an essential part of the mix. I don't believe it's bold to say that. Most countries are off track to meet their emissions reductions. There is no credible plan to meet emissions reductions. Nuclear power is one way that Australia can meet emissions reductions, as well as generate power and provide for our security.

Given we have so much of the world's uranium, gas and coal, how can it be, and how can this parliament look itself in the face, that we charge our domestic population through the nose for power from any source? The government say they are succeeding at their plans, but taxpayers paying the bills for expensive energy is not success. Success will be driving the price down. Despite so much gas, coal and uranium, and so many renewables and so many billions of subsidies in renewables for solar and wind, we're still charging pensioners through the nose to heat their homes in winter. We're still bankrupting families with bills that are eye-watering at the moment. It isn't acceptable to the public; it shouldn't be acceptable to the parliament; it wouldn't be acceptable to any rational government that was focused on delivering a better benefit for Australians.

Cheap energy costs is one of the advantages that drove this nation to become prosperous and successful, and it can be again. Nuclear will play an important role in this regardless of this government's opposition. I can say I am proud of the Liberal and National parties for stepping into this space. This policy is here to stay. This policy will remain with the Liberal and National parties for decades to come. This will become part of Australia's energy mix. I think it will become integral to Australia's power generation. Labor premiers think that as well. Peter Malinauskas thinks that, and he says it publicly. He has no problem with a nuclear power generation site in South Australia. One of the sites we have announced that will be looked at for technical feasibility is in South Australia.

This is a very important point: when you look down the generations, I find that young people in Australia today are very open to the benefits of nuclear power generation. They understand nuclear science, nuclear medicine and nuclear technology. They know that this is driving humanity forward. Given that all of the top 20 advanced economies in the world have nuclear or are moving towards nuclear, it's inconceivable that Australia won't do the same. We need the states to lift the bans. We need to have a multiplicity of efforts here. We're going to have nuclear powered submarines. We already have a nuclear reactor in Australia. We have nuclear technology. We're all benefiting from the benefits of the nuclear industry worldwide. We can benefit greatly from nuclear power as well.

So I call on the government to drop the hysteria, to drop the really, really dumb arguments that are not based on science, not based on facts and are not really credible for something so important to humanity. Nuclear power will be part of Australia's energy mix. I don't believe that is controversial to say. It will happen. It is a question of how quickly can we get it to happen, because, if we don't start now, we won't have it in decades to come. If we had started decades ago we would have it today and, given its vital role that it will play in Australia's future, we need to be moving on this. I commend the opposition for bringing this policy forward.