Nuclear Poker: The Premier declares his hand but who will win?

John Spoehr

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationEditorial


Tom Playford initiated a Royal Commission into the Electricity Industry in South Australia to bring the industry under greater public control. He was fed up with the privately run Adelaide Electric Supply Company (AESC) and was open to radical change. By the mid-1940s, most states had nationalised their electricity industries.

The logic of the argument was compelling at the time. The AESC was extracting unacceptably high dividends for its shareholders and was slow to bring electrification to South Australia’s regions. After some cajoling, Playford managed to get enough of his Liberal colleagues to join with Labor to pass the necessary legislation, creating one of the state’s most influential public enterprises – the Electricity Trust of South Australia.

Unlike Jay Weatherill’s pursuit of a nuclear industry in South Australia, Playford had history on his side. Nationalisation of the electricity industry followed a global popular movement for change. Most believed the industry needed to be a servant of the community rather than one of its masters. Bringing the industry under public control was part of the great post-war social democratic revolution, one that profoundly shaped Australia’s post-war development. This was the nuclear age, a time when the terrifying power of atomic energy was unleashed as a terrifying and cataclysmic weapon. The memories of this horror live on like a long dark shadow over post-war generations. Though there have been few of them, each nuclear accident awakens latent fears, reminding us that they can have horrific consequences...
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Specialist publicationThe Adelaide Review
PublisherThe Adelaide Review
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2016


  • Nuclear energy
  • Nuclear waste
  • Nuclear waste dump
  • South Australia


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