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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 36

(Question No. 4040)


Mr Milton asked the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services, upon notice, on 21 May 1986:

(1) Is it a fact that a container of radioactive technetium was stolen from Upper Ferntree Gully railway station on 1 May 1986.

(2) Was his Department responsible for the transport of this material from Lucas Heights NSW to the William Angliss Hospital in Ferntree Gully.

(3) If not (a) what section of the journey was his Department responsible for and (b) what other Government departments and private organisations also had responsibility.

(4) What time did the container arrive at the railway station.

(5) What (a) time was it noticed that the container was missing and (b) who discovered that it was missing.

(6) Which Federal and State authorities (a) were notified of the theft and (b) were they notified immediately; if not, why not.

(7) From which part of the railway station was it stolen.

(8) Was the container unattended at the time; if so, why.

(9) Did railway staff at Upper Ferntree Gully receive (a) prior advice of the consignment and (b) prior precautionary instructions; if not, why not.

(10) If prior precautionary instructions were received (a) what were they and (b) were they followed.

(11) What mode of transport is used to carry the material from the station to the hospital.

(12) How long did it take to locate the container.

(13) Had the container been interfered with; if so, was there any escape of radioactive material.

(14) What are the destinations of radioactive material that his Department is responsible for transporting from Lucas Heights.

(15) What modes of transport does his Department employ to deliver this material.

(16) What section of his Department has direct responsibility for the transport of this material.

(17) Are companies engaged by his Department to transport this material; if so (a) must they be specially licensed to carry the material and (b) does this requirement vary from State to State and according to the quantities being transported.

(18) Is his Department responsible for ensuring State departmental staff involved in the transport of this material are instructed in its proper handling; if not, which department has this responsibility.

(19) What (a) regulations must his Department comply with in the transport of this material and (b) were they complied with in the case of the Upper Ferntree Gully consignment.

(20) What general precautions does his Department take to ensure that the material reaches its destination without interference or damage.

(21) Has his Department experienced previous thefts or loss of radioactive material while in transit.

(22) What steps has he taken or will take to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.


Mr Uren —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) No.

(3) (a) Pickup from Ansett Airlines at Melbourne Airport for delivery to Spencer Street Railway Station; (b) Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC)-delivery from Lucas Heights to Sydney Airport; Ansett Airlines-delivery from Sydney to Melbourne Airports; Metropolitan Rail Division of the Victorian Metropolitan Transit Authority-delivery from Spencer Street Railway Station to Upper Ferntree Gully Railway Station; Radclin Pty Ltd-delivery from Upper Ferntree Gully Station to William Angliss Hospital, Ferntree Gully.

(4) 0825 Hours on 1 May 1986.

(5) (a) 0830 Hours; (b) the group Station Master

(6) I understand that the Victorian State Police were notified by the Metropolitan Rail Division immediately the consignment was determined to be missing. The Victorian Department of Health was notified by Radclin Pty Ltd at approximately 1400 hours.

(7) Western end of the platform.

(8) Yes. At the time it was unattained the material was under the control of the Metropolitan Rail Division.

(9) and (10) At the request of the AAEC, my Department has been delivering radiopharmaceuticals to to Metropolitan Rail at Spencer Street for onforwarding to Upper Ferntree Gully Station for a number of years.

Metropolitan Rail was aware of the consignment on 1 May 1986 which was transported by rail to the requirements of the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail, and the Australian Code of Practice for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Substances. Packages of radioactive material despatched by the AAEC carry labelling and instructions as indicated in reply to the Member's question No. 4038 (refer Hansard of 16 September 1986). Any additional instructions to transport personnel are the responsibility of the carrier, in this case Metropolitan Rail.

(11) The consignee Radclin Pty Ltd provides the transport from the Railway Station to William Angliss Hospital. I understand a vehicle with a portable lead container is used.

(12) The empty container was located on 1 May 1986 and the contents were located on 9 May 1986.

(13) Yes: No.

(14) My Department is not responsible for transporting radioactive material from Lucas Heights. However, my Department does transport radioactive material on behalf of AAEC from Ansett Airlines at Tullamarine to the following destinations in Melbourne and suburbs:

Sacred Heart Private Hospital;

Radclin Pty Ltd, c/- Sacred Heart Private Hospital;

Australian Radiation Laboratories;

Austin Hospital;

Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital;

Repatriation General Hospital;

St Vincents Hospital;

The Royal Childrens Hospital;

Peter McCallum Clinic;

Queen Victoria Medical Centre;

Prince Henry's Hospital;

Alfreed Hospital;

St Francis Xavier Cabrini Private Hospital;

Box Hill Hospital;

Radclin Pty Ltd, c/- The Royal Southern Memorial Hospital;

Footscray Scanning Clinic;

Royal Melbourne Hospital;

Epworth Private Hospital;

St Andrew's Private Hospital;

Radclin Pty Ltd, c/- Mercy Public Hospital;

Metropolitan Railway Division Spencer Street for delivery to: William Angliss Hospital, Upper Ferntree Gully, Frankston District Hospital, Radiation Clinic, Dandenong, Gippsland Base Hospital, Sale, St John of God Hospital, Ballarat, La Trobe Valley Hospital, Moe, Geelong Hospital, Geelong, Mount Alverna Hospital, Bendigo.

(15) My Department delivers the material by road using its own dedicated vehicle.

(16) The Freight Section of the Transport and Storage Division.

(17) No, Apart from Metropolitan Rail which was engaged with the agreement of the AAEC. I understand that differences do exist between the various States concerning licensing requirements for the transport of radioactive materials.

(18) No. The primary responsibility for ensuring that personnel involved in the transport of radioactive material are instructed as necessary in its safe handling rests with the carrier organisation. It should be noted however that the stringent packaging requirements specified in the Australian Code of Practices for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Substances mean that the contribution required by the carrier towards ensuring safety during transport is minimised. The overall responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the applicable requirements for the safe transport of radioactive materials by road and rail within each State rests with the designated Competent Authority in each State which in most cases is the State Health Department.

(19) (a) My Department must comply with the regulations as laid down in the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail, published in the Commonwealth Gazette No. P 8, 9 April 1984; (b) All regulations were followed except for the external placarding of the Commonwealth vehicle. Although the vehicle had a placard advising MEDICAL SUPPLIES it did not have the correct placard in accordance with the Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail. This has subsequently been rectified.

(20) The precautions taken by my Department are as follows: (i) Consignments are collected in a radio controlled lock up van; (ii) All deliveries are either signed for or placed in special security areas to which the driver has keys; (iii) The drivers wear a film badge which is checked each week by the Australian Radiation Laboratory. To date all readings have been well below the acceptable safety level.

(21) My Department has not experienced thefts or losses of radioactive material whilst it has been in its possession. However, it is aware that on three occasions radiopharmaceuticals whilst under the control of the Metropolitan Rail Authority were misdirected causing late delivery.

(22) It is understood that the Metropolitan Transit Authority is implementing procedures to improve the method of control over the movement of the material.