New Federal laws on nuclear waste have no impact on Muckaty legal challenge

13 March 2012
Maurice Blackburn lawyers say the passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill today will not affect the Federal court challenge over the nuclear waste dump at Muckaty near Tennant Creek.

In 2007, the Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty as a proposed site for the deposit of radioactive materials under the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005. The new Act repeals the old Act, but provides for nominations under the old act to continue.

Elizabeth O'Shea, lawyer for a number of traditional owners representing five different groups with an interest in Muckaty said:

"The legal case continues regardless of the passage of this legislation. This law does not dilute the resolve of Traditional Owners who are opposed to the Muckaty nuclear dump. They did not give consent and were not sufficiently consulted over the nomination of their land for Australia's first radioactive waste dump. They want to keep the land safe for their communities, their children and future generations."

Traditional Owner and Applicant in the proceedings, Lorna Fejo said: "it's our land and we are going to continue fighting for it. It's my heritage and no one has the right to take that away from us. I am still opposed to the dump in spite of this Bill passing."

Legal proceedings against the Federal Government and the Northern Land Council (NLC) were started in June 2010 and a mediation held last year failed to reach agreement over the land. The case goes back to the Federal Court for a two-day hearing on procedural matters at the end of the month. Ron Merkel QC is appearing for the traditional owners.

"There are allegations that the NLC engaged in misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty by their actions in nominating the Muckaty site. These are important claims to have resolved in court before any further assessment of the Muckaty site goes ahead," said Ms O'Shea.

"The National Radioactive Waste Management Act offers some minimal procedural fairness provisions which must be followed in the process of declaring the site of the dump. It also preserves the only nomination currently on foot - Muckaty - and does not remedy the alleged substantial flaws in that nomination which are the subject of the Federal Court challenge. The challenge will go ahead and the Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson has maintained that he will respect the outcome of the Federal Court case."

Maurice Blackburn is conducting this matter on a pro bono basis through its Social Justice Practice.

Related media statements
Fresh evidence boosts traditional owners legal challenge to Muckaty Station nuclear waste dump, 9 May 2011
Law firm takes step towards Aboriginal reconciliation, 24 March 2011
Indigenous owners launch Federal legal challenge over Australia's first nuclear waste dump, 3 June 2010

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