As Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s struggle to oust union strongman John Setka from the party stumbles along, another rift is opening in the Labor movement. Labor is still unable to make up its mind whether it wants to return to its blue-collar roots, or just keep on its disastrous path of becoming the party of inner-city watermelon elites.

Nuclear energy policy is shaping up as yet another fault-line for a Labor party which can’t decide if it’s beer’n’parmy Arthur, or quinoa’n’almond milk Martha.

The Australian Workers’ Union will call on Australia to drop restrictions on nuclear power in a significant break from the Labor Party and other unions.

Labor has tried to straddle the barbed-wire between workers and watermelons on nuclear energy since the Hawke government compromised with the Three-Mine policy in the 1980s. Hawke wanted to avoid antagonising the urban left for whom anti-nuclear activism was a totemic fetish, while still not risking votes in mining states. The workers are arking up.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton on Friday will tell a parliamentary roundtable — chaired by former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce — that Australia’s approach to nuclear energy is “stuck in a time warp”.

Mr Walton told The Australian on Thursday “partisan pigheadedness” on nuclear energy was holding back Australia’s ability to keep up with international competitors.

“Thirty-one advanced economies — the likes of the US, UK, Switzerland, France, Sweden, South Korea, and Finland — all rely on nuclear power in their energy mix. Yet here we’re stuck in a time warp,” Mr Walton said.

“Continuing to adopt a position of ideological extremism on nuclear technology is an economic own-goal we can’t afford to keep kicking … Australia’s energy sector is a shameful mess. In terms of global competitiveness Australia’s energy infrastructure has fallen off a cliff — from 29th in the world in 2009 to 55th today.

This is almost entirely the fault of the green-left and their obsession with climate change. Reliable power supplies, like coal plants, have been forced to close, while starry-eyed Labor state governments are switching to unreliable, ruinously expensive “renewables”.

“Most of our energy crisis is due to partisan pigheadedness — on both sides. So those of us on the progressive side of politics can’t continue to reflexively reject zero-emission compromise options.

“We should drop the federal ban on nuclear power generation as well as the state-based bans on new uranium mines. If industry sees value in the Australian market it should be free to invest without being blocked by outdated fears. Our energy debate should be about pragmatics, not 20th-century ideology.”

His new pro-nuclear move revives calls from his predecessor as AWU secretary, Paul Howes, in 2009 for a review into Australia’s stance on nuclear. Mr Howes’s push at the time was rejected by then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

If Labor should learn anything from its May election loss, it’s that nonsense such as anti-nuclear might please urban elites, but the vast swathes of electorates in blue-collar, mining areas have had enough. Meanwhile, the Coalition government is listening to the growing calls for nuclear power.

“If you want zero emissions and a renewable energy future, nuclear has to be part of the mix,” Mr Joyce said, while commending the AWU for its nuclear stance.


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