Former prime minister Bob Hawke’s assertion that nuclear power is the salvation for a planet ravaged by global warming divided the crowd at the Woodford Folk Festival, north of Brisbane, on Wednesday.
But it was his assertion that Australia should take on the world’s nuclear waste that had the crowd most worked up, prompting several calls of “no thanks” from the audience.
On Tuesday night, singer Paul Kelly said Mr Hawke was a hard act to follow after he had the crowd singing along to Waltzing Matilda at the festival’s opening ceremony (watch below).
But Wednesday’s address under the big top did not meet with universal acclaim.
“The time has come when we’ve got to think big if we’re going to face the big issues of our time,” Mr Hawke told those assembled.
“We’re going to have to be prepared to think about changes that are quite radical.”
That comment was greeted with a round of applause.
Then he began to elaborate, advocating nuclear power.
“Nuclear power would be a win for the environment and an essential part of the attacking that must be made on this grievous and dangerous global warming,” he said.
“It would be a win for the global environment and a win for Australia.”
Mr Hawke said science also pointed to Australia being the safest geologically to store the world’s nuclear waste.
“I have no doubt that countries who are producing nuclear energy would pay well for the storage of their nuclear waste.”
Mr Hawke said Australia would benefit financially from the transaction and could use profits towards ending indigenous poverty.
“Nuclear power would be a win for the environment and an essential part of the attacking that must be made on this grievous and dangerous global warming.”
Former PM Bob Hawke
The controversial speech began benignly enough with one of Mr Hawke’s old chestnuts – the abolition of state governments.
There were too many parliaments in Australia, all considering very similar issues, he said.
“What we have today, as I’ve said before, basically represents the meandering of British explorers across the Australian continent more than 200 years ago,” he said.
But Australian states should be kept as separate entities for the purpose of sporting games, he added.