Kimba is a very small town (population ≈ 1,000) in the state of South Australia, 176 miles northwest of Adelaide. After seven years of investigations and studies and local voting it was chosen as the site for the safekeeping of medically-related low-level nuclear waste, currently spread around hospitals. Done and dusted? These days? Hardly. Along comes the Barngarla (Aboriginal) people and the Federal Court, and a federal Government afraid to take them on. Project abandoned tout de suite.
Imagine how difficult it will be to find a site anywhere in Australia to store high-level nuclear waste of the kind produced by American and British nuclear submarines, which Australia is buying (eventually) under the AUKUS arrangement. As for nuclear power, forget it. Even if the law were changed to allow it, there is no site anywhere in Australia which won’t have a local Aboriginal person or two ready to object on cultural or spiritual grounds, lawyers willing to take the case, and judges willing to side with indigenous sensitivities, however outlandish.
I recently wrote in The Pipeline about the Australian oil and gas company Santos being stopped from drilling in the Timor Sea by Tiwi islander Dennis Tipakalippa. The Tiwi islands are nearly 90 miles from Santos' Barossa gas project. Mr Tipakalippa claimed that he was not consulted and that the sea is like his community’s mother. A court and then an appeal court agreed. Of course they did. Was there any doubt?
Some months later, I read that Santos thinks it might shortly get the all clear. It shouldn’t bank on it. Isabelle Lami Lami, an inhabitant of Minjilang on Croker Island, yet some distance again from the drilling, claims that the consultation process with her people was perfunctory. Apparently, sacred sites in the sea could be harmed.
We also have our rainbow serpent, who protects us and our community; she cannot be disrupted, disturbed or harmed in any way.
There it is. We have to leave it to the CEO of Santos and his lawyers to wrestle with the challenge of persuading Ms Lami Lami, her fellow islanders, and maybe a leftist judge or two, that the rainbow serpent won’t be harmed in any way. I simply can’t imagine how that can be done. On the other hand, possibly the rainbow serpent can be appeased with bucket loads of money. Those who have not come face-to-face with the serpent in question can only speculate.
A potential worry too is whether the rainbow serpent will threaten national security by being discomforted by Australian nuclear subs roaming the area. Worry not. Those subs will be a very long time in the making. And no doubt the honourable Chinese will delay overt acts of aggression until we Australians have adequately appeased the rainbow serpent, ensured we have adequate supplies of energy, have worked out where to put nuclear waste and, after some decades of time, have acquired a few subs.