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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1380

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (7.06 p.m.) —I will answer the themes of both Senator Sowada and Senator Macdonald. I am sure Senator Sowada is aware, because she was asking the questions and they clarify Senator Macdonald's point, that Professor Garnett was the person who confused building 56 with building 53. As I understand, that is the only way in which the committee was unintentionally misled. There was confusion about the number of the building. I am here apologising on her behalf for that.

  I understand the sensitivity of the issue—the fire, where it occurred, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation—but I do not believe that confusing the numbers of buildings 56 and 53 is a serious issue in itself. I am informed, although I have not seen Senator Sowada's map, that buildings 56 and 53 are very close to each other.

Senator Sowada —Rubbish! According to this plan they are not.

Senator SHERRY —It is rubbish, is it? Okay, I have been misinformed. They are 500 yards apart. I will not go any further into where these buildings are because I have not seen the map. Professor Garnett gave the answer to the estimates committee and to Senator Sowada, not Senator Schacht, so I do not believe it is the same situation.

Senator Kemp —Don't blame public servants.

Senator SHERRY —I do not blame public servants. All I am saying is that we should understand, as we are all aware, that estimates committee hearings can involve many hours. At times we all get a little tired of the proceedings. Whilst not an understandable mistake, I can understand why buildings 56 and 53 were confused.

  I reject Senator Macdonald's assertions that this represents some major misrepresentation by Senator Schacht at the estimates committee. As I said, he was not responsible for the confusion and did not utter the words `building 56' or `building 53'.

  I certainly reject any contention that Senator Schacht is not here. I do not seriously believe that any senator would believe that Senator Schacht is not here because of these two matters. He is in Eritrea for very good reasons which I am sure we would all understand.