This week, federal resource minister Gary Gray is talking radioactive waste with Aboriginal people in remote central Australia.
Six years ago an Aboriginal clan group, the Northern Land Council (NLC) and the then Howard government signed a secret deal to develop Australia’s first purpose-built national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
The commercial-in-confidence plan saw the clan group “volunteer” an area of the shared Muckaty Land Trust for the burial and above ground storage of radioactive waste in return for federal payments, promises and a “package of benefits” worth around $12m.
The deal was not known about or supported by the rest of the Muckaty Traditional Owners and remains the source of bitter contest, deep opposition and a Federal Court challenge. Now Gray is back to talk with the NLC about a second site nomination on Muckaty. Unfortunately the new plan appears to follow the old pattern of secrecy, exclusion and contest.