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Lawyers shun nuclear waste laws

Lawyers shun nuclear waste laws

The law firm acting pro bono for the Muckaty legal challenge says new federal laws on nuclear waste will have no impact on their case.


Maurice Blackburn lawyers says the passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill will not affect the Federal court challenge over the nuclear waste dump at Muckaty near Tennant Creek. 

In 2007, the Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty as a proposed site for the deposit of radioactive materials under the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005.  The new Act repeals the old act, but provides for nominations under the old act to continue.

The legal case will continue regardless of the passage of this legislation, said Elizabeth O’Shea, lawyer for a number of traditional owners representing five different groups with an interest in Muckaty.

“This law does not dilute the resolve of Traditional Owners who are opposed to the Muckaty nuclear dump. They did not give consent and were not sufficiently consulted over the nomination of their land for Australia's first radioactive waste dump. They want to keep the land safe for their communities,  their children and future generations."

Traditional owner and applicant in the proceedings, Lorna Fejo, said she is still opposed to the dump in spite of the bill.

“it’s our land and we are going to continue fighting for it. It’s my heritage and no one has the right to take that away from us. I am still opposed to the dump in spite of this bill passing. 

Legal proceedings against the Federal Government and the Northern Land Council (NLC) began in June 2010 and a mediation held last year failed to reach agreement over the land. The case goes back to the Federal Court for a two-day hearing on procedural matters at the end of the month. Ron Merkel QC is appearing for the traditional owners.

“There are allegations that the NLC engaged in misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty by their actions in nominating the Muckaty site. These are important claims to have resolved in court before any further assessment of the Muckaty site goes ahead,” said O’Shea.

“The National Radioactive Waste Management Act offers some minimal procedural fairness provisions which must be followed in the process of declaring the site of the dump. It also preserves the only nomination currently on foot - Muckaty – and does not remedy the alleged substantial flaws in that nomination which are the subject of the Federal Court challenge. The challenge will go ahead and the Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson has maintained that he will respect the outcome of the Federal Court case.” 


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