“Good morning everyone and I extend a warm welcome to Sydney Town Hall. I would also like to acknowledge members of the Legislative Council, City of Sydney and Local Government Councillors and especially to all participants in the ‘Women’s Walk for Peace’.
On behalf of the Lord Mayor and the City of Sydney, I’m pleased to welcome you all to our beautiful city. I’d also like to extend the Lord Mayor’s apologies that she isn’t able to be here this morning. As a member of the Sydney Mayors for Peace, she supports your goals of a safe and sustainable environment, globally and locally.
While the agreement signed in March between the US and Russia to reduce the number of their nuclear arms is welcome, it still ‘entitles’ – if that’s the right word! – each country to hold 1550 nuclear warheads apiece. That’s more than enough devastation and death!!! In a world of increasing inequalities, when climate change means we will still – despite advanced technologies – struggle to feed the global population, when children in developing countries still die of quite minor ailments, when many lack access to education or the most basic social services, how can we justify the money spent on weapons of mass destruction?
As Australians, we cannot absolve ourselves for responsibility for nuclear arms if we are prepared to mine and sell uranium. We must acknowledge we are fuelling the risk. We are also supporting an industry which is water intensive and which impacts severely – through inappropriate disposal of waste tailings – on the environment and on the indigenous people of Australia, most of whom are bitterly opposed to a waste dump on their lands.
To quote the Australian Conservation Foundation, uranium mining in Australia “poses serious, continuing and unresolved problems and fails to meet key environmental sustainability criteria…. “The …industry in Australia has a record of failed standards, radioactive leaks and spills, unresolved long-lived radioactive waste problems, disproportionate impacts on traditional owners, and health and safety risks for workers – including incidents of uranium in the drinking water at two of the three operational mines.
Even a 2003 Senate inquiry found “a pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” and concluded that “changes were necessary in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from serious or irreversible damage”. They are strong words. But the mine sites and proposed dumping grounds are a long way from the centres of population, and a long way from the attention range of most Australians.
Your Walk for Peace and your petition to the Prime Minister will help raise the profile of this hugely important issue. I acknowledge your dedication and hope your efforts will make all Australians think again. Thank you.”
Di Tornai Independent Councillor City of Sydney