ALP's Ferguson urges Australia to take the uranium lead

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    ALP's Ferguson urges Australia to take the uranium lead

    Ben Sharples

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    BEEFED up security, a welcoming party from the Fremantle Anti-Nuclear Group, and a united front from both sides of federal politics saw the opening of the Australian Uranium Conference in Fremantle today.

    Shadow minister for primary industries, resources, forestry and tourism, Martin Ferguson, opened the conference talking up the environmental, economic and ethical benefits of uranium mining for Australia, but warned the country needed to take a leading role.

    Australia has to face up to its responsibilities in the uranium game - responsibilities that have come with being the owners of globally important uranium resources, Ferguson said.

    "We are unprepared as a nation to deal with the global energy and associated climate change issues that now loom large on the horizon," Ferguson said. "As a nation we don't have a clear view about the role of nuclear power in the world, we don't have a clear view of the strategic nature of Australia's uranium resources."

    On the environmental front, Ferguson talked of China's growing demand for energy and Australia's responsibility to clean up its use of "dirty" coal.

    "Wind farms, solar energy and renewable energies cannot solve China's problems alone China must have the ability to use other sources as a cleaner energy mix including LNG and uranium, subject to non-proliferation safeguards," Ferguson said.

    "We are close to being the largest exporter [of uranium] in the world and we can't escape those facts."

    In a pre-recorded video speech, McFarlane said if Australia did not deal itself into the market the country would not only miss out on the economic benefit but also the potential to set the rules for the use of uranium around the world.

    "Australia has some of the most stringent safeguards associated with the export of uranium and the use of that uranium by the customer country either we deal ourselves in or deal ourselves out," McFarlane said.

    The shadow minister said he had a vision of Australia being the largest exporter of uranium to countries around the globe, supporting development of new mines and appreciating the economic, social and environmental benefits coming from the industry here in Australia.

    In his five-minute speech, McFarlane could not resist the opportunity to take a swipe at Western Australian Premier and Labor colleague, Geoff Gallop, who has taken a very public anti-uranium stance.

    "It's disappointing that you're having it (the uranium conference) in a state where the Premier, Geoff Gallop, is refusing to allow that state to participate in million dollars of exports and thousands of jobs as a result of being unable to export uranium," McFarlane said.

    "Other states like South Australia have already made that decision and are moving forward."

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