A nuclear coastline and AI-generated mutant fish: Dutton labels Labor ‘childish’ as social media campaign ramps up | Australian politics

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has complained the government’s scrutiny of his yet-to-be-announced nuclear power plan is “childish”, as Labor seeks to emulate a successful anti-nuclear push from Kevin Rudd’s 2007 campaign.

A social media spat is emerging over the Coalition’s nuclear policy, with Labor raising fears about mutated fish with AI-generated images and one minister posting daily reminders that the opposition is yet to outline its plan – despite first raising it two years ago.

Dutton’s long-delayed policy is now likely to land within weeks but so far the Coalition leader has only said the proposed plants would likely be based around the sites of existing coal-fired power stations.

Anthony Albanese told the Nine newspapers on Sunday that Labor would ramp up its scrutiny, saying the government would “raise this every day between now and the election” and that “we will join communities in campaigning against” nuclear plants.

And in a social media post on Wednesday, the prime minister posted 10 photos of beautiful beach and waterway locations, including Newcastle, Bribie Island, the Whitsundays, Hunter Valley, Gippsland and Collie.

“What do all these beautiful parts of Australia have in common? They’re at risk of a nuclear reactor in their back yard under Peter Dutton,” Albanese claimed – an assertion rejected by Dutton.

What do these beautiful parts of Australia have in common?

They’re at risk of a nuclear reactor in their backyard under Peter Dutton.

Australians have waited 673 days for details on Peter Dutton’s nuclear plan. He still won’t say what cities and towns he’ll put under threat. pic.twitter.com/KiG4CcljBZ

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) June 4, 2024

Some of those regions have been tipped as potential locations for the Coalition’s nuclear plan, as they have current coal plants nearby – but other locations in Albanese’s post, such as the Barossa Valley and Jervis Bay, are not situated close to operating coal stations.

In the 1960s, Jervis Bay was considered as a site for a nuclear power plant, but those plans were delayed and then scrapped in the 1970s.

Albanese’s post also bears resemblance to a Labor Party ad, run in Queensland at the 2007 election which raised concerns about then prime minister John Howard’s support for nuclear energy.

A 2007 Labor party advertisement authorised by Labor’s campaign director Tim Gartrell, who is now Anthony Albanese’s chief of staff.

“John Howard says a nuclear industry is a solution to climate change. But he won’t say where the reactors should go,” the ad’s voiceover says.

The ad uses images of waterways in Queensland, claiming Howard “refuses to talk about a list of possible sites for reactors” including Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, “even Bribie Island”.

The ad was authorised by Labor’s 2007 campaign director Tim Gartrell, who is now Albanese’s chief of staff.

The Labor advertisment’s “list of possible sites” may refer to an often-cited 2007 report from The Australia Institute on possible nuclear sites, which stated locations such as Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Bribie Island, Port Stephens, Central Coast, Botany Bay, Port Kembla. Jervis Bay or Sussex Inlet, South Gippsland, Port Phillip, Mt Gambier, Port Adelaide and Port Augusta could also be potential sites.

But Dutton hit back at Albanese’s social media post with a video of his own. Referencing a screenshot of Albanese’s claim of possible nuclear locations, Dutton responded “not only is it false, it’s also childish”.

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“Australians expect better than this from their prime minister,” the opposition leader said.

“No one is proposing that a zero-emissions nuclear power plant would be built on anything other than an end-of-life coal-fired power station site.”

Dutton went on to call Albanese “childish” twice more, and accused him of a “scare campaign”.

Meanwhile, since 21 May the energy minister, Chris Bowen, has posted a daily counter of how long it has been since Dutton began talking about nuclear.

“It has been 673 days since Peter Dutton first said the LNP would go down the path of risky reactors. 673 days, still no detail,” Bowen wrote on Twitter/X on Wednesday.

The minister has recently labelled the Coalition’s nuclear plan “mythical” while needling opposition MPs to release “locations, costings and timelines”.

Dan Repacholi, the member for Hunter – a coalmining region and possible site for a nuclear plant – this week posted an image, which appeared to be generated by artificial intelligence, showing a fisherman holding a fish with four eyes, standing in front of a nuclear plant.

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“What fishing in Lake Macquarie will look like with Peter Dutton’s risky nuclear power plants,” he wrote.

Labor sources have spoken of highlighting the “three-eyed fish” trope that exists in the mind of some citizens when people think of nuclear energy, a reference to fish featured in TV comedy show The Simpsons which have mutated as a result of the town’s nuclear power plant.

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