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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 821


Senator LUDLAM (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr, in his role representing the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism. It relates to the government’s proposal to dump radioactive waste at Muckaty Station, close to Tennant Creek.


Senator Chris Evans —On a point of order: the senator wants to ask a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, and I understand that it is Senator Sherry.


Senator Ronaldson —It will be a totally different answer to the one we would have got.


The PRESIDENT —We did make a statement earlier today, Senator Ronaldson, about interjections. That might have been a little bit helpful.


Senator LUDLAM —I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for that correction. I also acknowledge Mark Lane, a traditional owner from the area who is in the public gallery today. Can the minister advise the Senate on the status of recommendation 1 of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the radioactive waste dump proposal of late last year, which stated that Minister Ferguson should undertake as soon as possible:

… consultations with all parties with an interest in, or who would be affected by, a decision to select the Muckaty Station site as the location for the national radioactive waste facility.

Has the minister done so and, if not, why not?


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Small Business, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) —I thank Senator Ludlam for his question. I am just looking through the brief for my representational capacity and the information is not before me, so I will have to take it on notice.


Senator LUDLAM —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain why after the 2007 election responsibility for radioactive waste management was transferred from the Innovation, Industry, Science and Research portfolio, where it had been for decades, to the Resources, Energy and Tourism portfolio where there is no expertise whatsoever in radioactive waste management.


Senator Abetz —Senator Carr was the minister.


Senator LUDLAM —That is why I was hoping to put the question to Senator Carr. Why was there a transfer?


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Small Business, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) —That is an arrangement between two ministers that would have been determined by the Prime Minister. I am not aware of why the transfer of responsibilities from Senator Carr to the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Mr Ferguson, occurred. The officers in the division were transferred. It is your prerogative to ask a question, but I do not really see how a question about the process of transferring ministerial responsibility from one minister to another would be particularly informative for you. Nevertheless, I will take it on notice and see what information I can find for you.


Senator LUDLAM —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Thank you, Minister. I would very much appreciate a statement to the Senate about the reason for that extremely unorthodox change of responsibilities. Has the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research requested to take back responsibility for that portfolio—where it belongs—and, if not, will he do so as a matter of greatest urgency?


The PRESIDENT —Senator Sherry, I think you can answer the part of the question that may pertain to the portfolio that you represent, but I do not know if you can necessarily speak on behalf of another minister.


Senator SHERRY (Minister for Small Business, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) —Again, it is your prerogative to ask questions of this nature, Senator Ludlam, but I do not think it is unorthodox for responsibilities to be transferred from one department to another department. For example, with the new Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government there was a range of responsibilities transferred from a number of other—


Senator Ludlam —Mr President, on a point of order on relevance, the minister appears to be answering my previous question. The question that I just put to him was whether the minister would take responsibility back for this portfolio.


The PRESIDENT —I think I ruled at the start that the minister may well have difficulty in answering for a minister that he is not representing, but I do invite the minister to answer on behalf of the minister that he is representing. If there is anything further that the minister wishes to add then the minister can do so. There is no point of order.


Senator SHERRY —Kim, have you asked for the responsibilities back?


The PRESIDENT —Senator Ludlam, I think that might solve that one!