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Estimates: Economics Legislation Committee: Jobs and Innovation Portfolio: ANSTO and Office of Innovation & Science Australia

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 23 Mar 2018

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Brewarrina radioactive waste facility

CHAIR: ... Senator Rhiannon.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to ask some questions about the involvement of the Brewarrina Shire Council with regard to a possible national radioactive waste facility being located in that council area. Was Brewarrina council approached by ANSTO, or a representative on behalf of ANSTO, to initiate the nomination process for a national radioactive waste facility?

Dr Paterson: Not to my knowledge. I met with somebody from that council who indicated they were initiating a process. We had a brief discussion. But I know nothing more about that.

Senator RHIANNON: You said, 'Not to my knowledge.' As ANSTO is a big organisation, can you take it on notice to ascertain whether it was ANSTO that approached Brewarrina council or Brewarrina council that approached ANSTO?

Dr Paterson: I would not be in a position to make such an investigation, because we have many people in our organisation who operate in their private lives in all sorts of different capacities, and they may, indeed, have been involved through other capacities. What I can say is that, to my knowledge—and I'll investigate in terms of our communications—from an ANSTO perspective, there was no employee of ANSTO who was involved in initiating the process you described.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice? I'm not asking for anything to do with private lives; I'm asking that, because you spoke in a personal capacity, you would check if ANSTO in any way has been involved. Has Brewarrina council put forward any preliminary information regarding their intention to nominate as a location for this waste facility?

Ms Weston: The questions you're asking are probably better addressed to the department, a bit later on. There's leadership being undertaken by Senator Canavan on considering the location for storage of waste. The department is on a bit later on this afternoon. The policy work is being done in the department. We'll try and get some people here. They're just not here right now.

Senator RHIANNON: Could I just check with the chair: what time is that on, please?

Ms Weston: It's after dinner, I think.

CHAIR: It is. It's after dinner.

Senator RHIANNON: So I shouldn't be pursuing it with ANSTO; I should be pursuing it with the department?

Ms Weston: Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for clarifying.


Senator RHIANNON: Was the Brewarrina Shire Council approached by a department representative, ANSTO or a representative on behalf of ANSTO to initiate the nomination process for a national radioactive waste facility?

Senator Canavan: I might ask for some assistance, but I note that ANSTO is not part of this portfolio. I have some officials here who are in charge of the radioactive waste program. They may be able to assist.

Mr B Wilson: I have been leading the radioactive waste project. I have not been approached by the Brewarrina Shire Council. I am aware that they are potentially interested in making a nomination, but at this stage they haven't approached me. I don't know if my colleague Mr McCleary can add anything to that.

Mr McCleary: They have approached us for information. We have advised them to go through our guidelines that are on our website. We've actually sent a copy of those guidelines to them to assist them in thinking about that nomination, and we've had some discussions on that, but that's all.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the council flagged any potential locations for the facility?

Mr McCleary: Not to my understanding.

Senator RHIANNON: Have they indicated that they've initiated consultations with the community?

Mr McCleary: No. We spoke to them some months ago. Part of our guidelines requires communities and volunteer-nominated sites to have had some community consultation. Some months ago—this was October last year—they had not had any of those discussions, to our understanding.

Senator RHIANNON: You haven't had consultation; you haven't had exchange with them since last October?

Mr McCleary: I'd have to take that on notice, but I don't believe so. We've had nothing formally in writing from them.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice, please?

Mr McCleary: Sure.

Senator RHIANNON: Has Brewarrina council indicated that they've had any consultations or any interactions with the local Aboriginal community?

Mr McCleary: Not to my knowledge.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take it on notice, please?

Mr McCleary: Yes, I can.

Senator RHIANNON: Have you had meetings with the council or is it more by correspondence?

Mr McCleary: No. We had one informal meeting near Sydney. I wasn't at that meeting; one of my staff was at that meeting, but that's the only meeting we've had with them.

Senator RHIANNON: That was the one last October, was it?

Mr McCleary: It would have been around October, yes. I'll confirm the date of that informal discussion.

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to correspondence, when was the last correspondence that you had on this matter with the council?

Mr McCleary: I don't think we've had any formal written correspondence. We've had a number of phone calls. I don't know of any discussions since October or November.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say 'informal', you're talking about a conversation on the phone? That's as far as its gone?

Mr McCleary: Yes, because we've given them guidelines to assist them in their process, if they wish to nominate—

Senator RHIANNON: The guidelines are the ones that are on the website?

Mr McCleary: Yes.

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