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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1381


Senator SOWADA (7.08 p.m.) —I just want to clarify that I did not say that Senator Schacht had misled the estimates committees. I very explicitly referred to the answers given by Professor Garnett, although Senator Schacht uttered one of the six references to building 56 that I mentioned earlier.

  It seems to us that for many years ANSTO has had its Minister in its pocket. Senator Schacht should recognise that he needs to be much more critical of the information he receives from his bureaucrats and not just take it on face value. In our view that is particularly the case with ANSTO.

  I would perhaps put Senator Schacht's performance down to first night nerves, shall we say. But there is no excuse for Professor Garnett to come into an estimates committee hearing as a senior bureaucrat from that organisation and mislead or give incorrect answers to that committee.

  I believe that this is very serious. I will be examining the possibility of referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges over the next day or two. I need to examine whether I think the matter is serious enough to warrant that. But I think that the bureaucracy needs to be given a very clear message by this Parliament that we will not tolerate incorrect information being given to Ministers, and thence to the committee, by bureaucrats from any department. That is the point I am making. As I said, I hope that Senator Schacht learns a lesson from this as Minister for Science and that he will in future give any advice and information from ANSTO much more critical analysis than he has hitherto shown.