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Interview with Grant Cameron
ABC 891 Drive, Adelaide
15 July 2009
GRANT CAMERON: I'm pleased to say the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has given us a call in. Flat chat this afternoon, appreciate the call. Peter Garrett, thank you for calling in.
PETER GARRETT: Hi, Grant.
GRANT CAMERON: Tell us about the rationale behind the decision to give approval to this new uranium mine in the south east - sorry in South Australia.
PETER GARRETT: The rationale is that I have to assess whether or not this proposal will have an impact on the environment, on matters of national environment significance and generally on the environment.
I'm assured, on the basis of the advice that I have and also two independent reviews that I had done in relation to what was being proposed and the conditions that would apply to it that we would be able to meet the highest possible environment protections in relation to the mine. And as a consequence of that it satisfies the requirements for approval.
GRANT CAMERON: The company that's involved with this mine is part of an organisation that ran the Beverly Uranium Mine, which has run into all sorts of trouble not being able to control leaks of extraction fluid from the Beverly mine. Do you know and have you been guaranteed that those similar problems won't happen?
PETER GARRETT: I'm certainly insisting in terms of the approval conditions that I've put in place, Grant that the mine operator has to implement a rigorous monitoring program, they have to demonstrate that they can meet the environmental outcomes that are articulated in the conditions attached to the approval.
And I've made sure that the advice that's come to me both from Geoscience Australia and also from the Supervising Scientists review of the environment report itself confirm that what we're proposing in terms of conditions for the proponent do meet the requirements that I think are necessary, and that's a requirement for world's best practice in environment standards.
My expectation is that the proponent will meet those conditions, there will be ongoing monitoring, and that monitoring will be there to determine and make sure that the conditions are actually met.
GRANT CAMERON: And what if they don't? What if they don't meet those conditions, what punishment or penalties are in place?
PETER GARRETT: Well in relation to the conditions themselves, the South Australian Government has regulatory roles and responsibilities in terms of bonds, and I'll make sure that there is an adequate certainty of the lodgement of bonds and securities to ensure that conditions are properly observed.
That's a condition of the approval. So to that extent it's consistent with the similar kinds of approvals that I've made in relation to other proposals, not only proposals of this kind but proposals say for example, dredging proposals or the like.
We have a monitoring and compliance unit within the Department, and their task and role is to make sure that the conditions that are put in place by a Minister in cases of proposals of this kind are met and observed.
GRANT CAMERON: Does the State Government now assume responsibility for this, or is this still a Federal issue?
PETER GARRETT: Well State Government has ongoing responsibilities in relation to the mine, but the actual conditions that we have applied, and that I've specifically applied in relation to the proposal will also be monitored by the Federal Government.
GRANT CAMERON: How do you respond, Peter Garrett to suggestions by your opposition Environment Minister Greg Hunt who says that you're actually contradicting your own beliefs about uranium mining by approving this new mine in South Australia?
PETER GARRETT: Mr Hunt's as confused on this as he is on what the Coalition should do on climate change. He knows full well that the Labor conference made a decision about expanding policies in relation to uranium mining. I argued and spoke at that national conference the last time that we met. I put my views very strongly. But once the conference had made a decision about that policy and the Government now puts that policy into place my responsibility as an Environment Minister is to accept that that is the policy, I do accept it, and to make sure that any conditions that I have to apply as a regulator are the best that I can apply to protect the environment.
And that is entirely consistent with what I do as a Cabinet Minister. I've been a Cabinet Minister in this Government for some 18 months now, and Greg Hunt should wake up to that fact and recognise that I'm discharging my responsibilities properly.
GRANT CAMERON: Peter Garrett, Federal Environment Minister, thank you for taking the time to talk with us this afternoon.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks, mate.