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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Australia could be 'nuclear dump'
Bob Hawke
Hawke sees his plan as an act of "environmental responsibility"
Australia should offer to store the world's nuclear waste in its vast desert interior, says former prime minister Bob Hawke.

The country provided the safest geological location in the world to store such waste, Mr Hawke said.

The scheme would also mean "a massive bonus" for the Australian economy, the former Labor Party leader added.

But the idea has been dismissed by current Labor politicians, aboriginal leaders and environmentalists.

Mr Hawke said his plan made sense from an environmental point of view.

"It follows from that that if you are environmentally conscious and you believe that environmental issues are global in their dimension and you have the safest way possible of dealing with this issue - then I think you have an obligation to consider doing it," he told the BBC.

Environmentalists disagreed, with Greenpeace Australia describing Mr Hawke as having an "outdated mentality."

National dump

Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott said Mr Hawke's idea was a "visionary suggestion," but added that were "a lot of politics in this."

Our country, our water source, our lifestyles are more important than money
Nina Brown, Aboriginal Activist

Mr Hawke's remarks came after the government recently failed to agree a scheme for a national dump to store Australia's own nuclear waste.

The plans were scrapped after Australian states failure to agree on a location, although three potential sites in the Outback are being considered.

Current Labor leader Kim Beazley described Mr Hawke's idea as "well outside" party policy.

Nuclear tests

Mr Hawke, who served as prime minister for eight years to 1991, also said the funds generated by the plan could be used to help Australia's underprivileged Aboriginal communities.

But Aboriginal leaders remain unconvinced.

"Our country, our water source, our lifestyles are more important than money. They know about atomic tests, they know about the effects and they've heard these lines before that they will be remunerated and that it will be safe, " said Aboriginal activist Nina Brown.

Nuclear tests carried out by the UK in the Australian Outback in the 1950's remain controversial.

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