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Peter Dutton's nuclear power policy is a 'suicide note'

By Jim Green - posted Monday, 8 April 2024

A February 26, page-one article in the Australian ran under the headline 'Powerful majority supports nuclear option for energy security'.

"Labor is now at risk of ending up on the wrong side of history in its fanatical opposition to nuclear power," political editor Simon Benson wrote, and Labor "ignores this community sentiment potentially at its peril".

The Murdoch papers ran hard with the story, as did Sky News. The Murdoch-Sky media frenzy was based on the results of a Newspoll survey which found 55 percent support for replacing coal-fired power plants with (non-existent) small modular nuclear reactors.


But the 55 percent majority was slim, not 'powerful', and the Newspoll survey was a crude example of push-polling as discussed by polling experts Kevin Bonham and Murray Goot, and by economist Prof. John Quiggin.

To note just one example of the bias, if NuScale Power's 77-megawatt reactors were chosen to replace coal plants, 277 nuclear reactors would be required, not 'several' as the Newspoll survey question stated. And if we use NuScale's latest construction cost estimate, the cost would be A$656 billion.

'Suicide note'

Tony Barry, a former deputy state director and strategist for the Victorian Liberal Party, describes the Coalition's decision to make nuclear power the centrepiece of its energy and climate policy as "the longest suicide note in Australian political history".

Barry is now a director at the research consultancy RedBridge. On the strength of a detailed RedBridge analysis of Australians' attitudes to nuclear power, he says that just 35 percent of Australians support nuclear power and that only coal is less popular. If the Coalition is to have any chance of winning the next election it will not be with nuclear power, he states.

Peter Dutton's positioning of the Coalition is all wrong, Barry says , and the party continues to play to "internal audiences" -- in particular the right-wing echo-chamber typified by Murdoch's 'Sky after dark'.


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appears unconcerned by Murdoch push-polling purporting to show majority support for nuclear power. Speaking in parliament, he compared Peter Dutton to a nuclear reactor: "One is risky, expensive, divisive and toxic; the other is a nuclear reactor. The bad news for the Liberal Party is that you can put both on a corflute, and we certainly intend to do so."

'Stark raving mad'

The Murdoch-Coalition echo-chamber is drinking its own bathwater by taking pro-nuclear push-polling seriously.

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About the Author

Dr Jim Green is the editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter and the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

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