FORMER Prime Minister Bob Hawke has called for Australia to embrace nuclear waste storage in a bid to improve the economy and save the planet from "total destruction".
Speaking to a huge crowd at Woodford Folk Festival yesterday, Mr Hawke said the government should do more work towards an affirmative decision on nuclear waste being stored in Australia.
"It would be an essential part of the attack that must be made on this grievously dangerous, creeping global warming," he said.
"It would be a win for Australia because have no doubt, that the countries presently in the world who are producing energy through nuclear stations would pay well for the storage of nuclear waste."
Mr Hawke said it could also lead to the improvement of living conditions for underprivileged Aboriginal Australians, if a portion of funds created by the storage of nuclear waste were set aside for indigenous communities.
While his stance nuclear energy was supported by some, it drew opposition from many in the crowd.
One festival goer shouted "no thank you" during the former PMs speech, and during question time anther said he was not prepared to deal with the risks involved in storing nuclear waste anywhere in Australia.
Mr Hawke said it was essential that emotion was removed from the debate, and rational thinking employed for the sake of future generations.
His speech came the day after he surprised Woodfordians on the festival's opening night by breaking out in song in front of a crowd of thousands in the Amphitheatre.
The 87-year-old looked frail as he was helped across the stage but as he sang Waltzing Matilda a chorus of festival goers joined him from their grassy, hillside seats.
Mr Hawke said Woodfordia was uniquely Australian.
"And there's something else that's uniquely Australian, and that's Waltzing Matilda," he said before singing the first words.
Paul Kelly, who performed later with Charlie Owen, said Mr Hawke's rendition was possibly the high point of his (Kelly's) showbiz career.