Environmental and civil society groups have warned the government nuclear power has “no role” in Australia as crossbench independents urge it to recognise climate change as a health issue.
On Monday submissions to the inquiry on nuclear power will close. A diverse group of stakeholders has called on the government to rule-out changing the law to allow nuclear energy in Australia.
Signatories to the statement include union peak bodies, the Public Health Association of Australia, Uniting and Catholic church organisations, the Smart Energy Council, the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, climate action groups, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The anti-nuclear group warned it is “a dangerous distraction from real movement on the pressing energy decisions and climate actions we need”.
“If Australia’s energy future was solely a choice between coal and nuclear then a nuclear debate would be needed. But it is not,” they said in a statement.
“Our nation has extensive renewable energy options and resources and Australians have shown clear support for increased use of renewable and genuinely clean energy sources.”
The energy minister Angus Taylor has so far refused to rule out nuclear energy, leading to a fierce backlash from Labor, which has called on the government to name proposed sites for reactors.
Ziggy Switkowski, who headed a 2006 review of nuclear power for the Howard government, has told the inquiry that the technology had no chance of being introduced unless Australia had a coherent energy policy but nevertheless agreed the prohibition should be lifted.
Climate crisis confronts Morrison
When parliament resumes on Monday Scott Morrison will play host to Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama.
Defence, labour mobility, trade, investment, illegal fishing and climate change are all on the agenda for the bilateral meeting. Bainimarama was heavily critical of Morrison at the Pacific Islands forum, saying the Australian PM had insulted and alienated Pacific leaders over his failure to back stronger emissions targets.
The climate crisis will also be forced back onto the agenda by the member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, who will bring a motion, seconded by independent MP Helen Haines, calling on the government to decarbonise the economy by 2050 to reduce the health impact and linking it to extreme weather events.
Earlier in September the Australian Medical Association formally declared climate change a health emergency; Steggall’s call will be backed by peak health bodies pointing to heat related illnesses, respiratory diseases and hypoallergenic conditions caused by global heating.
Australia is in the grip of early-spring fires in New South Wales and Queensland and a drought that could see parts of NSW run out of water as early as November.
Steggall said the “unprecedented fires” and the “shocking drought” are “events causing terrible health impacts which are going to get more severe as the world continues to warm”.
Labor to push for answers on Liu
Labor will continue pursuing the government over its refusal to answer why Liberal MP Gladys Liu failed to declare her affiliation with Chinese government linked associations and whether the prime minister received a security briefing before Liu was preselected.
On Sunday Anthony Albanese said Labor expects Liu to make “a statement to the parliament about the contradictions in the statements that she has made”.
On Monday Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick will renew his push for a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s economic and security relationship with China, which was first defeated last Monday by the Coalition and Labor.
Patrick told Guardian Australia the controversy over Liu strengthens the case for an inquiry because China is “popping up in the news every day”, with each individual event and flashpoint in the relationship “adding to calls” for a broader inquiry. However, the Centre Alliance senator said Liu is “not directly relevant” to its terms.
Patrick is also waiting on advice from the clerk and the president of the Senate, after he referred comments by embattled construction unionist John Setka warning of “consequences” if the Senate passes the Coalition’s union deregistration bill to determine if they could amount to interference with senators’ duties.
“I don’t think any member or senator should be threatened in respect of the choice of how they vote – you can criticise, yes, you can argue the merits [of decisions] – but not threaten,” he said. “The Senate should have zero tolerance for it.”
Patrick is mulling a range of further improvements to the Ensuring Integrity bill to ensure it only captures the most serious breaches of law rather than triggering deregistration of unions and disqualification of officials for misdemeanours. However, the bill will not be voted on until the October sitting.