Monday, October 15, 2007 at 08:08AM
Before any investment is entered into we should assess the political environment in terms of its acceptability to what is proposed. As Australia is home to the largest reserves of uranium then the Australian political scene is of immense interest to us.
One of our readers has sent us his view, which makes interesting reading below:
Anyone with an interest in Australian uranium properties is probably also curious about local attitudes toward exploration and exporting. The current liberal government has a forward thinking approach to nuclear energy already signing agreements with China, Japan, India and most recently Russia, however Australia is at an important cross road in federal politics. With an election announced on November 24th and the opposition labor party currently streets ahead in polls, it may be an important time to look closely at their uranium position.
As you probably know, for 25 years labor has maintained its “three mines” policy restricting uranium mining to existing projects. In April this year labor, led by Kevin Rudd voted 205 to 190 to abandon the old policy. This seems positive but there’s a catch. Currently the decision to mine uranium is left up to individual states and although most states oblige and profit, there are important exceptions.
Alan Carpenter, the labor Premier of Western Australia is steadfast in blocking uranium mining. His position is becoming increasingly uncomfortable as the federal government explores options to alter his perception. It is likely that a change in federal power and a labor prime minister may prove more persuasive. Queensland’s premier Beattie was also against anything uranium but has recently softened his stance. During his state party conference in July 2007, premier Beattie changed his rhetoric from blocking uranium mining to assuring local members that uranium enrichment is not on the agenda, a significant back flip.
The plot thickened when Premier Beattie announced his imminent retirement after nine years in power. He named Annah Bligh as his successor and begs the obvious question, “Who is Annah Bligh?”
Annah comes from a strong labor left background. She has been groomed for the leadership role over the last two years with key portfolios in finance and business related areas. Her views on uranium have reflected her outgoing premier to date. On the 18th of May 2006 she addressed the Queensland Media Club seeking clean energy alternatives for her party stating, “Companies that want to explore for and mine uranium must work with scientists to lobby politicians and the public. Convincing them that the safety concerns that existed two decades ago, that we are somehow now in a position to resolve them.” By August 2006 her words had softened when Annah told the Courier Mail in Brisbane she was “Keeping an open mind towards uranium and labour’s no new mines policy” (22/08/2006). By March 2007 the government had received a report indicating that uranium mining would not adversely impact Queensland’s huge coal industry. The three mines policy was dropped in late April with both Beattie and Annah Bligh’s blessing.
Since April this year, the now Premier Bligh has sent mixed messages. She firstly reiterated her opposition to establishing a nuclear power industry in Queensland stating she would strictly limit its involvement to extracting uranium for export overseas. This sounds positive but in contrast on September 14th 2007 Annah Bligh gave an “unequivocal” commitment to the ban on uranium mining through a spokesperson, (source Bloomberg.com). It will be interesting to finally get a statement straight from the horse’s mouth.
When it comes down to it, Australia has a federal government that is aggressively pro uranium. They are currently pursuing uranium supply agreements internationally. States such as South Australia are supportive. The federal government controls mining approvals in the Northern Territory and the Tasmanian government has just made uranium mining legal. This leaves Queensland and Western Australia in lone opposition. Federal power is likely to change late 2007 and will be headed Kevin Rudd, a strong uranium advocate. He will probably have more influence on all eight state leaders who are from within his own party.
It seems that most leaders including Australia’s now understand that when it comes to nuclear energy it is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. The people are slower to catch on and I sometimes wonder if the end game has already been decided for us. While the politicians talk tough on uranium mining in Queensland and Western Australia, state governments continue approving exploration licenses. This makes no sense unless future plans include a political change of heart. It may be strategic for some states to feign opposition to uranium and wait for an evil higher power in ‘the federal government’ to forcefully intervene. Watch this space!!!!
Paul Trevethan (Queenslander!)
If you would like to send us a ‘Johnny on the spot’ review of an area near you regarding any aspect of uranium mining we will do our best to publish it. By pooling our knowledge we will all be better informed and hopefully make better investment decisions going forward.
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