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Tuesday, 19 August 1980
Page: 20

Mr GILLARD (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer the Minister for Productivity to recent statements by two unknown doctors alleging that health risks were associated with employment at the Munition Filling Factory at St Marys. When will the committee of inquiry, which he so speedily appointed, be in a position to report to him? Is the identity of the two doctors who made statements known to the committee of inquiry? If so, have they yet been interviewed?

Mr NEWMAN (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs) - I thank the honourable member for Macquarie for his question and for his very deep interest and concern in this matter. Other members, on the Opposition side, have also expressed an interest. The allegations of safety breaches and health problems at St Marys were brought to my notice, I think first, when a reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald contacted my office. More specific allegations were made on 6 August in the Sydney Morning Herald. After seeing those specific allegations and noting that they had been backed up with the honourable member's concern, it became apparent that the matter should be investigated speedily.

On 7 August I appointed a committee of inquiry to look into these matters. The committee of inquiry is a good one. It is comprehensive. It consists of a senior officer of my Department - who is also chairman of the Department's operational safety committee - two eminent members of the medical profession, the National President of the Federated Ironworkers Association and a representative from the factory. The committee met on 12 August and has already interviewed some present employees and former employees. It has also looked at areas of work in the factory.

The two doctors - I read in the news reports that they had in one way begun this inquiry by the Sydney Morning Herald - have in fact been interviewed by the committee and have given evidence. I am glad that they have. The committee will probably finish its inquiry in three to four weeks, but I have not set a date for completion. I think it is important that it has complete freedom, under the terms of reference which are very comprehensive, to do everything that has to be done in this matter to ensure that no stone is unturned and that the allegations are proven one way or the other. Once again, I thank the honourable member for his interest in the matter.

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