ALP national conference has fallen in behind the Prime Minister to ensure container ships full of uranium will be exported to India.
The amendment to the party platform – which prohibited exports to the country because it had failed to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — was moved by Julia Gillard and seconded by South Australian premier Jay Weatherill. Left and right were broadly split, defectors cancelled each other out, and the vote was won 206-185.
Gillard said that as the party of “hard decisions” it had to move in the Asian century to secure jobs for workers. She said it was “intellectually indefensible” that Labor didn’t currently sell uranium to India while it offloaded it to China, the US and Japan.”
She argued that the NPT didn’t prevent nuclear fuel being sold beyond signatory countries – it was only Labor’s platform that prevented it.
Warning of a “green pulsating nuclear light” replacing the light on the hill, a fired-up Doug Cameron unleashed on the unpopular PM. “Prime Minister you are wrong, minsters you are wrong, premier, you are wrong…this is the wrong thing to do, the real argument here is how a country that has three wars with its neighbours.”
“The test for the Labor Party is are jobs more important than nuclear proliferation? I say no. I say no twice. You better get a better plan, Prime Minister,” Cameron stormed.
Eyeballing his lower house bete noire seated just metres away, Cameron accused the leader of outright subterfuge.
“If the US cannot get stringent safeguards how are you going to do it?,” he said, adding that it would be an “absolute tragedy for the Labor Party if this goes through.”
But it was not enough, despite other barnstorming contributions.
In comments that immediately prompted wild applause, Anthony Albanese reckoned “friendship isn’t built on subservience, it’s built on respect.”
A choked-up Stephen Conroy talked about his family’s struggles dealing with leaks from the Windscale (now Sellafield) power plant in Cumbria. At one point milk was banned, Conroy said, just as a waiter walked past the podium carrying two bottles of skim for the coffee machine.
“I never voted for it and I’m not going to vote for it today,” he said.
Responding to persistent heckling, the Right’s Michelle Rowland, speaking for the amendment, said the most popular last name in her electorate was “Singh” and that for many, the uranium issue was a reason for Indians not to vote Labor. The inner city contingent that favoured the ban was out of touch, she said.
“Just because you order the butter chicken from Indian Home Diner in Glebe Point Road doesn’t make you an expert.”
Ambitious AWU secretary Paul Howes, witnessed earlier attempting to settle his differences with John Faulkner after his faction killed the elder statesman’s much-needed party reforms, bizarrely accused Cameron of playing up for the cameras, a rather strange pronouncement given Howes’ fondness for the little red light.
“I believe that the 400 million people who live in India without power should have power and electricity.”
La Trobe MP Laura Smyth summed up by stating that while it was easy to make partial and circumstantial exceptions it is “always harder to stick by a cause that you actually believe in.”
Crikey understands that the Right’s decision to bring on the uranium debate was a direct response to the Left’s eagerness to proceed with same-sex marriage.
Conference continues this afternoon with the Kevin Rudd foreign affairs show.