1 September 2010 - Labor must re-affirm uranium support, despite Greens deal

The Australian uranium industry will seek assurances from Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Labor’s agreement to consider Greens policy proposals will not result in Labor abandoning its support for uranium mining and exports.

In April 2007 the ALP adopted a policy allowing new uranium mines to be developed, provided they met environmental and nuclear safeguards requirements.

“The Australian Uranium Association will be writing to the Prime Minister seeking an assurance that the ALP will not adopt the Greens’ policy position on prohibiting uranium mining,” said Michael Angwin, Chief Executive Officer of the Association.

“Even signalling that an Australian Government might be re-considering a well-established policy permitting the international supply of uranium would damage Australia’s reputation and would be contrary to the national interest,” Mr Angwin said.

“Actually implementing such a retrograde policy would make Australia an international laughing stock. It would damage our reputation as a reliable supplier, especially for big customers for our natural resources, like China and Japan, which are currently seeking to secure long-term uranium supplies. It would put jobs at risk,” Mr Angwin said.

In the run-up to the election, the Greens proposed extending the planned Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) to uranium mining. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson publicly rejected that position and has provided a written assurance to the AUA that this will not occur.

“At the heart of that assurance is the acknowledgment of Labor’s continuing support for the development of the uranium industry. We will also ask Ms Gillard to affirm the Minister’s assurance regarding the MRRT, if that proceeds,” Mr Angwin said.

The uranium industry is an important contributor to the Australian economy, earning export revenues around a billion dollars a year and providing several thousand direct and indirect jobs.

Since the ALP adopted its pro-uranium policy in 2007, uranium companies have responded by spending hundreds of millions of dollars exploring for uranium and developing projects. A fourth mine is soon to begin production in South Australia and six major projects are under development.

The uranium industry is also an important contributor to the international fight against global climate change. Australia’s annual uranium exports help electricity utilities overseas avoid around 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise be produced by fossil-fuelled power stations.

“The carbon offset associated with uranium exports is Australia’s biggest single contribution to climate change mitigation. I will be asking the Prime Minister to reaffirm her party’s support for this,” Mr Angwin said.