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Thursday, 8 June 1989
Page: 3703


Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(6.25) —I am not familiar with the details of this matter. However, I am able to supply the honourable senator with some information. The first thing I should say is that the size and operating costs of the Office of the Supervising Scientist are very close to those estimated in 1978 by the then Government as being necessary for the organisation to carry out the research and other statutory functions envisaged by the Ranger inquiry.


Senator Crichton-Browne —They didn't imagine that there would be only three mines.


Senator BUTTON —I do not know what it imagined. It was the Ranger inquiry, was it not? The Office of the Supervising Scientist currently has a total permanent staff of 67-43 of them are in Jabiru, two are in Darwin and 22 are in Sydney--


Senator Crichton-Browne —And temporaries? He had 72.3 staff in 1987-88; he has 73.4 staff in 1988-89 Budget figures.


Senator BUTTON —That may be right; I do not want to dispute that as I am not in a position to do so. In light of the work being done it is considered more cost effective to locate in Sydney those people who do not need to be in the Northern Territory to carry out their functions. With regard to the 8 per cent cost of air fares for the Office of the Supervising Scientist, clearly that arrangement with some of the staff in Sydney and 43 staff in Jabiru does involve travel, but any operation in the Northern Territory of Commonwealth employees involves travel because of the conditions which obtain to working in the Northern Territory or northern parts of Australia in respect of leave and other arrangements which inevitably make the operation more costly. That is a fact in respect of any operation, including private sector operations, which employ staff in the Territory. So the figure is likely to be higher.