Why the Greens are nuclear-powered frauds
He might have a problem with yellowcake, but with his apocalyptic oratory at the National Press Club this week, Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown showed he’s more than happy to resort to nuclear-powered fraudulence to make his case.
The Senator’s performance in the debate with Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation chairman Ziggy Switkowski at the National Press Club this week was one of the more disingenuous recent contributions to Australian public life.
Since September 11 and throughout the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Senator Brown has been our very own antipodean Noam Chomsky, arguing long and loud that Australia has been suckered into a battle with an illusory enemy at the behest of Uncle Sam.
Judging on his past pronouncements, the Greens Leader has never met a terror suspect he didn’t like. When George W Bush visited in 2003, Brown and fellow Greens Senator Kerry Nettle badgered the American President on the floor of the parliamentary chamber on behalf of former Guantanamo detainees Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks.
Despite Hicks being photographed with a Taliban rocket launcher on his shoulder and having met Osama bin Laden four times (once being an accident, obviously, four times suggesting a pattern of behaviour) this deeply confused individual was successful in acquiring martyr status. This achievement was due in large part to the efforts of Senator Brown who mobilised Green supporters on behalf of a guy who knowingly signed on for the war against civilisation, and rightly paid the price for doing so.
The Greens have shown a consistently blasé attitude towards terrorism, treating it as some hegemonic construct which has been imagined by those in the employ of the military-industrial complex to further their sinister agenda.
Until this week, that is, where their leader declared that it’s far too risky for Australia to develop a nuclear power industry because all those darned terrorists out there will try to blow up our reactors or steal nuclear material to make their own warheads.
Brown argued this week that there had been 650 cases of lost or stolen radioactive material in the past 20 years – failing to mention that they had happened largely in countries which had neither the security or stability of a nation such as ours – and that even transporting the stuff across long distances was too great a risk to countenance in this age of terror.
It’s a pretty spectacular inconsistency from a guy who is on the record as saying the terrorist threat has been overblown, manipulated, used to vilify minorities and further corporate and government agendas. We’ve gone from imagining terrorists, to imagining that the terrorists will bomb us all back to the stone age.
Brown’s sleight of hand will obviously go unnoticed and unchallenged by his supporters. Its truly depressing feature is that it’s the kind of alarmist nonsense which will also be picked up by people who are politically disengaged, and can be easily swayed by all sorts of misinformation and scare-mongering about the expansion of an alternative energy source which could not only make Australia less reliant on coal, but in its most ambitious form, could also make us a whole stack of money if we’re bold enough to embrace a nuclear waste storage industry.
There are a number of public figures of the Green persuasion who have had the wit and humility to revisit their long-standing opposition to nuclear power, and go public as supporters of the industry.
Former NSW Premier Bob Carr, a man who in government set some kind of record for the creation of national parks, is the most high-profile convert to the nuclear cause. For Carr and others this reversal happened gradually at the start of this century as scientific evidence mounted of the existence and implications of climate change.
Despite being a senior member of the Left Faction, Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson is pushing behind the scenes for Labor to take a much more open-minded approach to the nuclear question. Interestingly, Ferguson is also Tourism Minister – and one of the criticisms often made by the likes of Bob Brown is that Australia’s status as a safe and natural environmental haven will be destroyed once we go down the path of nuclear power generation and, specifically, waste storage. As Ziggy Switkowski argued this week, none of this seems to have become an issue in France, where one of the most advanced nuclear power industries in western Europe is in large part located within the wine country.
There are Greens such as Carr who have examined and abandoned their opposition to nuclear power, others who have done so and remained opposed, but you get the sense that Bob Brown occupies his own special category. And that is, the people who are so unthinking and pig-headed on the nuclear question, despite our over-reliance on coal, despite the evidence of climate change, that they will never, ever revisit their own position.
Switkowski is proving to be a very valuable advocate in the case of expanding the nuclear industry in Australia. He’s successfully demolishing some of the mythology which has grown up around events such as Chernobyl, which said more about the marvels of Soviet manufacturing (and rostering) than any dangers innate to the nuclear power industry.
Hopefully he can find a way of expanding his role to targeting those who are loosely speaking on the Left of politics in Australia to encourage them towards a Bob Carr-style rethink on the issue.
If there is one person who has the power to steer Australia towards a mature debate about this issue it’s the South Australian Premier Mike Rann. Despite having received the shock of his political life a few Saturdays ago, Rann still enjoys a comfortable majority, having lost just two seats due to the haphazard nature of the swing to the Liberals. In what will undoubtedly be his final term, Rann could follow the lead of his mentor Bob Carr in revisiting his populist stance against a nuclear industry. Compared to where it was a decade ago the South Australian economy is running like a German band, largely off the back of mining exploration. If Rann were to position himself as a cautious nuclear advocate – and to go so far as to include nuclear waste storage as part of the deal, given SA’s isolation and geographical stability – he would turn the former rustbucket state into the nation’s economic powerhouse.
At present though the debate still remains vulnerable to the kind of nimbyism and hysteria which Bob Brown displayed on Wednesday.
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