State opposition attacks government over Orica explosives ship

THE state opposition has renewed its attack on the government over the Orica explosives ship, saying Premier Barry O’Farrell needed to come to Newcastle to explain what was going on.

Orica is back in the headlines again after a union inspection of a ship in the port revealed it was using a flag of convenience vessel to store 3000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate explosive.

Hear part of the press conference by clicking below

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Pictures by Dean Osland

The explosives had been made on Kooragang Island for use in the Hunter Valley coal industry but it remains unclear why Orica was unable to store the material on land.

Deputy Opposition leader Linda Burney said the government needed to explain to the public why Orica was using government-owned wharves to load the explosives.

Maritime Union of Australia Newcastle secretary Glen Williams said the union’s concern was with the state of the ship that Orica had used to store the explosive.

‘‘There are people on this ship who have been on since March last year without a break, working 12 hours a day on terrible rates of pay,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘We’re glad, though, that Orica has agreed to meet with the union to discuss future arrangements.’’

Environment Minister Robyn Parker said Orica had obtained the necessary approvals to load the ship but she reminded the company of its obligations to keep the public informed.

“I will be talking with Orica today and impressing on them the crucial role they play in the Newcastle community in relation to all their activities and their obligation to proactively work and communicate with the local community,’’ Ms Parker said.

‘‘Orica needs to be continually informing the local community about what they are doing and reassuring them that their activities will not impact on the community or the environment in any way.”

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