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Wednesday, 18 September 1996
Page: 3559

Senator MARGETTS(10.40 a.m.) —Madam President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

Senator MARGETTS —Thank you, Madam President. I rise to speak briefly on the issues that the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Parer) has mentioned on the personal level. I will also, probably like a number of senators, be rising on the substantive issue to deal with the issues of his answer to the question from Senator Ferris.

The first point I would like to make is that the minister has in effect misled the Senate. First of all, he has said that I insisted that the committee pay for a radiation dose meter. I do not know where the minister got that information, but it is incorrect, so he is in effect misleading the Senate.

What in fact I did—and Senator Parer obviously did not talk about the internals of a private meeting—was ask for information to enable me to hire a dose meter for the trip to the Northern Territory. The outcome of the discussion with the committee was that I was advised that that would be organised.

Senator Tambling —The company would have given you one up there.

Senator Woodley —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I believe that when a personal explanation is being given it ought to be heard without interjection.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You are correct. Senator Margetts.

Senator MARGETTS —I thank the Senate. In the end, the committee secretariat said that they were offered the use of two—as I was advised originally—dose meters. In fact, the Australian Radiation Laboratory offered to let us borrow two TLD monitor film badges. They were not dose meters.

The minister said I could have known that there was a high level of radiation because I did not trust the technology. Once again, Senator Parer has misled the Senate because a film badge will not give you a reading. It might change colour if you are in a very high level of radiation, but it does not give you a reading in a particular location; you have to have it analysed later.

We were going to four different uranium mine sites. Out of curiosity, I thought I would wear the dose meter during the visits to the mine sites and have it analysed later.

The minister has used this place to defame me on the basis of taking the interest and the work that I have done—

Senator Abetz —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Personal explanations—and, indeed, the opposition has made this point with me from time to time—are simply to set the record straight, and are not an opportunity to make allegations against other people, for example, by someone saying that a minister has defamed her.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! With personal explanations there can be no debate. I have been listening to Senator Margetts carefully. I do not think she has transgressed that area yet.

Senator MARGETTS —Let me point out another area where the minister has misled the Senate in this instance. The minister said that I did the same thing at Lucas Heights. When the committee went to Lucas Heights we were not offered dose meters. Other people on the staff had them. Most of them turned them off. Only one person, one staff member, had their dose meter on—it actually was one that gave readings. That person stayed back where I was when the committee was being shown radioactive waste repositories. So there was no instance where I was wearing a radioactive dose meter at Lucas Heights. They were not offered. However, we were not permitted by the Queensland government to go to the Esk facility unless we were wearing a radioactive dose meter.

I think that the minister certainly owes me an apology. The information that he has used was based on a Northern Territory newspaper article. I was contacted by the—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I think you are starting to debate the issue.

Senator MARGETTS —No, I am sorry.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am sorry, you are. You may continue, but do not debate the issue. You are making a personal explanation.

Senator MARGETTS —Mr Deputy President, during the debate the minister quoted from an article in the Northern Territory press. I am explaining what is also incorrect in that article. The journalist contacted me and said, `I hear you also didn't get out of the bus in your sightseeing at Kakadu.' He was fishing. The delegation did not do any sightseeing on that trip. Therefore, basically, the journalist was trying to find out whether or not I had got out at Kakadu.

During his statement today the minister also made comments about what information is available on Ranger workers. That is more the substantive issue. I believe that I am owed an apology because the information is not correct. It is true that in the circumstances of a dusty mine environment at the Ranger uranium mine, I chose to stay in the bus because I felt more comfortable out of the dust of a uranium mine. I think that is a reasonable thing to do. There is a difference between ingested radiation and gamma radiation. I believe it is reasonable for me not to be forced to breathe in dust from a uranium mine on such an inquiry.

There are very few people who do more work on the issue of radiation and radiation policy in this chamber than I do. So if there is any suggestion that I am wasting taxpayer's money, the minister ought to find out the facts. I will be seeking leave to take note of the substantive issues.