Melbourne, June 27 : The Kevin Rudd-led Labor Government in Australia needs to rethink its policy on nuclear energy if it does not want to be placed in a precarious position twenty years from now, said a union leader and a former state Prime Minister.
Paul Howes, the head of the Australian Workers' Union (AWU), the country's biggest blue-collar union, and former New South Wales Labor premier Bob Carr said the Rudd Government needed to purge its prejudices and embrace a nuclear power industry.
Their advocacy came at the annual Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Washington after a debate on climate change.
Howes told The Australian that "if we are going to be a green Labor Government, then we have to look at nuclear. If we don't start today, we are going to put ourselves in a very precarious position in 10, 15 or 20 years' time."
"I've told ministers in the Rudd Government this is my view and the view of my union. I can't tell you how concerned I am about this. It's the greatest challenge the union movement has faced since trade liberalisation in the 1980s, if not greater. The only option for us, in my view, is nuclear. If we are going to reduce our carbon output and still want to have heavy industry then we have to look at renewable and new sources of energy and that means nuclear," he added.
Carr told The Australian that nuclear power was the critical bridge between the carbon era and energy from renewable sources.
"There is no other bridging technology to get us from this catastrophic burning of coal and oil into the era of cheap and infinite renewable power. We all want to get there. But it's decades off and we need a bridge. The best thing the Western world can do to stop the melting of the polar ice caps is to sponsor the production of the most modern nuclear power plants," he said.
Rudd, however, insists that Australia can meet its carbon emission reduction targets without resorting to nuclear power.
Labor's national conference last year dumped the party's 25-year ban on new uranium mines, but reaffirmed its stance against the development of a nuclear power industry.
The Howes-Carr position signals a profound unease within the labour movement about the Rudd Government's approach. This is also spreading into the business sector.