I've been thinking about this great push to nuclear power in Australia, and wondering why it's happening. Modern politicians don't push hard on something like this without a reason. They'll either think it's electorally successful, or have some other motive for pushing it.
Howard's motives are pretty easy to discern. Nuclear, like the mythical "clean coal", allows him to effectively do nothing that changes the status quo while still being able to say he's doing something. It takes the heat off doing something real like giving carbon a price. It's also, of course, completely the opposite of his espoused economic ideals: he's picking the winner, rather than pricing in the external cost and letting the market decide. Who woulda thunk that the old anti-Communist would go for a planned economy?
There's another thing Howard knows here, and that's Labor being hopelessly split about the issue. The conference seems to have decided to expand uranium mining, which means every argument put forward by Peter Garrett can be deflected by pointing out how he has compromised his principles. Easy to attack someone for compromising his principles when you yourself don't have any to compromise.
Labor's support for nukes is altogether less obvious. The CFMEU is powerful within Labor, but I can't see that as being the reason.
Do Labor have some kind of polling data that shows Australians support expansion of the nuclear industry? I seriously doubt it. Most Australians' understanding of nuclear energy is limited to Hiroshima and Chernobyl, which aren't exactly positive images. It just seems really bizarre that Labor would think they're on a winner with the electorate here. Unless there's marginal seats to be had around Roxby Downs, Jabiluka and Ranger, which still seems like a lot of work for a few seats.
Which of course leaves us to the usual corrupting influence: money. But even there, either the mining companies are getting a really great deal or the donations have only been made recently. Searching for this finds that in 2004-2006 (financial years) mining and logging ("resource" being the euphemism) companies donated $368,350 to political parties. Of this, a large proportion appears to be coal companies and Gunns (old growth forestry).
Of those with a direct interest in uranium mining: Rio Tinto (including their coal subsidiary's donations), owner of Ranger and Jabiluka mines, donated $12,000; BHP (again including their coal subsidiary's donations), owner of the Olympic Dam mine, gave $31,850.
So if these electoral donations have resulted in the expansion of uranium mining and the possible introduction of nuclear power in Australia, it represents and incredible return on investment for these companies.
I don't get it. Why the push for nukes Krudd?