Victory to Julia Gillard as Labor national conference agrees to uranium exports to India

Good for the miners and Australia generally -- but usually a big Leftist boogeyman

LABOR has committed to a controversial plan to export uranium to India after a fiery debate at the national conference.

The move was one of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's personal policy plans, and she opened debate this morning, telling the conference: "We are at the right time in the history of the world to seize a new era of opportunity in this, the Asian century."

Ms Gillard announced the plan to overturn Australia's ban on uranium sales to India just weeks ago, with the issue sparking questions of whether Queensland will begin uranium mining.

The amendment to Labor's platform was carried, 206 votes to 185, but was one of the most heated and divisive of the conference.

Labor ministers Anthony Albanese, Stephen Conroy and Peter Garrett spoke passionately against the plan, to cheers from the public gallery.

Mr Conroy became visibly emotional over the issue, speaking about his family's experiences living near a nuclear plant in the UK, which he said had "leaked everywhere" in 1957.

Mr Conroy appeared close to tears when he told how his uncle had used a geiger scale to measure for radiation from the Windscale fire. "I've never voted for it, and I'm not going to vote for it today," he said.

Left firebrand Doug Cameron had led the charge against the proposed sale, saying, "Prime Minister you are wrong." "Forget all the arguments about jobs, it's a sideshow."

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill seconded the Prime Minister's proposal on uranium, and was supported by Labor ministers Martin Ferguson and Stephen Smith.

Anti-uranium protesters gathered in Darling Harbour with cries of "shame".

In Brisbane, Premier Anna Bligh backed exports to India and said Mining Minster Stirling Hinchliffe had exercised her proxy at the national conference to support the move.

"But that has no bearing whatsoever on what we decided here in Queensland," she said. "We've made a decision, we won't be mining uranium and nothing that happens at federal conference will change that."

Ms Bligh denied she was being contradictory in supporting uranium exports but banning its mining in Queensland. "We've been very clear, in Queensland there's no place for uranium mining," she said.

"This is a very big product that is exported out of South Australia the question of where it is exported to is one for the Federal Government."

However, the Labor Party's Left faction won a consolation prize on the day it lost the fight to stop Australia selling uranium to India. At the ALP national conference on Sunday, delegates endorsed establishing a southern hemisphere nuclear weapons free zone treaty.

Labor senator Louise Pratt told the conference the decision to overturn the ban on uranium sales to India was disappointing and not enough had been done to eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

"I certainly don't want my home state of Western Australia being part of this trade," Senator Pratt said. "But we must do everything we can to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons."


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