NSW Liberal leader Peter Debnam has given a clear indication that his party’s flirtation with nuclear energy has come to an end.

Last year the Prime Minister was full of reformist zeal as he harnessed a band of experts to prepare a report on the potential of a uranium based energy future for Australia.

The timing of the release of the expert’s report predicting that nuclear power stations could indeed be practical in a decade or so was the first sign that the Prime Ministerial enthusiasm was waning.

News is buried on Christmas Eve and Mr Debnam’s comments yesterday suggest why: the pollsters have told the Liberals that the public do not want a bar of anything nuclear anywhere near their own back yard.

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Mr Debnam will be relieved that his firm opposition to nuclear power yesterday received little coverage anywhere but on ABC radio, which had reported that those pesky Young Liberals would be following the original Howard line at their federal conference and calling for reactors to replace coal burners as a way of combating global warming.

“I’m looking at new energy sources, not old,” he said. “Nuclear technology is 50 years old – we want to move forward.”

The original Howard proposal to put nuclear power on the political agenda was little more than an attempt to expose the Labor Party as hypocrites who now agreed with increasing uranium exports so other countries could contribute to limiting greenhouse gas emissions while not being prepared to do the same thing at home.

But Australians, it seems, are quite prepared to tolerate a little bit of hypocrisy and there are few politicians more able to handle a view like that than Honest John.