In the latest news bulletins from Tokyo, contaminated groundwater from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant is freely leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
The horrendous consequences of the earthquake/tsunami which destroyed the plant in 2011 are mounting with every passing day.
Would someone please inform Australia’s leading nuclear energy apologist, “Ziggy” Switkowski? But let’s go back a little …
On March 11, 2011, one of the world’s worst natural disasters occurred in Japan – a violent offshore earthquake followed by a tsunami which destroyed coastal towns as well as the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. A total of 15,000 people were killed and another 2,000 remain missing. The damage bill of $US345 billion (and rising) makes it the costliest disaster in recorded history. Mark Willacy, the ABC’s North Asia correspondent, has written a confronting account of the disaster, Fukushima (Pan Macmillan Australia, July 2013) and stands to win his second Walkley award later this year. (His first was for his courageous coverage of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq).
Japan has now suspended its nuclear energy programme and other countries have followed suit in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. But the pro-nuclear lobby in Australia, led by Zygmunt Switkowski, remains in full song.
Who can forget Switkowski’s chillingly cheery message in The Sydney Morning Herald days after the Japanese tragedy when tens of thousands of people were fleeing their homes as the nuclear meltdown unfolded?
He opined that “there have been no deaths, and radiation-induced illnesses have struck fewer than 20 emergency workers thus far – mercifully low numbers. Or that the excess radiation exposure to the Japanese population outside the plants may not be as great as that received during a chest x-ray.” (SMH, April 2, 2011).
He wasn’t finished yet. “Critics hint darkly at undisclosed nuclear accidents, genetic abnormalities and radiation-induced cancers – never once verified even as large populations and the nuclear industry have been monitored since Hiroshina/Nagasaki and Chernobyl.”
And then a rousing conclusion: “Experts will identify opportunities for improvement, and conclude that the best option for clean, industrial strength base-load power remain nuclear energy.”
A Howard favourite
Just to be clear, Switkowski is the Chancellor of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), one of the nation’s foremost palaces of scientific learning. He is the former chairman of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) at Lucas Heights.
Always a favourite of Prime Minister John Howard, Switkowski was appointed CEO of Telstra in 1999 and held the job until 2004.
During his time with the Telco giant he supervised its full privatisation through its T1, T2 and T3 sell-off phases.
When he was sacked from Telstra two years before the end of his contract, he walked away with a soothing $2.1 million payout. During his time in the job, Telstra’s shares dropped from $8 to $5, enraging droves of “mum and dad” shareholders who were sucked into Howard’s share-owning democracy.
Apart from his RMIT position, Switkowski has picked up a string of lucrative directorships: he holds the chairmanship of Suncorp Metway banking and insurance group and is a director of Tabcorp Holdings, Oil Search and Lynas Corporation.
There are many Polish-born migrants who have contributed mightily to Australia in recent years, including David Helfgott, Magda Szubanski, Keith Urban, Jim Spigelman, Sam Stosur, Michael Kasprowicz, Michael Klim and Karl Kruszelnicki. Is it too much to ask Dr Ziggy Strangelovski to follow their lead?