Challenges in the pursuit of reform

Advocacy in support of policy reform is a challenging business. Persistence, even doggedness, is essential. Unfailing optimism helps. And patience is more a necessity than a virtue.

A recent experience illustrates the point. The Australian Uranium Association continues to pursue one of its fundamental policy reform objectives – the removal of all legislated prohibitions on uranium mining in Australian States and Territories.

In June, the AUA’s CEO, Michael Angwin, met NSW Resources Minister, Chris Hartcher, and raised the issue with him.  He received a cordial hearing and a not-unusual request to submit in writing the Association’s arguments and evidence supporting the removal of the uranium ban.

The letter was duly sent, on 23 June. (Click on the link below to read the letter).

On 1 August, a small front page article in the Sydney Morning Herald said the NSW Resources Minister was considering making the necessary legislative changes to permit uranium exploration and mining. A spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher had told the SMH that Federal Minister Ferguson’s comments urging removal of the ban “deserved consideration”.

In the NSW Parliament, the article attracted the attention of the NSW Labor Opposition and the NSW Greens.   Mr Hartcher then issued a statement saying: “Contrary to reports in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Government has no plans to overturn the state’s ban on uranium mining and exploration”. The Sydney Morning Herald interpreted the ‘no plans’ comment to mean the Government was still considering the change.

Subsequently, Premier O’Farrell was asked in Parliament if the NSW Government was considering lifting the ban. His response was: “No”.

In retrospect, our optimism might have led us to hold higher expectations of speedy change than were warranted. We understand that fundamental changes of policy such as this require painstaking preparation. The AUA will continue to make representations to the NSW Government about the removal of the bans and, perhaps, our patience will eventually be rewarded.