CSIRO CUTS

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
TV INTERVIEW
ABC LATELINE
WEDNESDAY, 20 APRIL 2016

SUBJECT/S: CSIRO CUTS  

 

TONY JONES: Now we head back to Canberra, Senator Kim Carr, the Shadow Minister for Innovation was at that public meeting about the CSIRO. He joins us now. You've heard what the Minister just said. He's got a solution to this problem of the CSIRO sacking its climate scientists.

SENATOR KIM CARR: We'll wait and see what actually happens here. We're not hearing anything about the money. You have to bear in mind that all our scientific agencies have been cut by this Government, $3 billion has been taken out of our innovation budgets across government in the Commonwealth and, of course, the bureau is one agency, like all the other science agencies, that has been reduced. So they lost $10 million and now it's being suggested that they will take on these additional people without any money. That simply won't happen.

JONES: But nonetheless, just to briefly interrupt you there, do you generally support the idea of picking up some of these sacked climate scientists and employing them in the bureau which is clearly what's being suggested here and evidently brokered by the chief scientist?

CARR: There does not need to be sackings. I do not support the sackings of CSIRO's scientists. What we've said to the government, now that we're really into an election campaign and have been so for a little while, these measures should be stopped. We should wait until after the election because the Labor Party has a very different approach to this and there may well be a change of government after this election. And what we need now is for this government to actually intervene. There's no doubt in my mind is CSIRO is following the Government's priorities but it's now up to the Government to say this has been completely botched. This was an extremely poor idea, badly executed. And the Minister has responsibilities to stop these events occurring.

JONES: Now Dr Larry Marshall, CEO of the CSIRO, his rationale for this decision was when Government funds you, you have to do something deliverable, you have to give them something deliverable. That was translated by other managers meaning the public good is not good enough. Is there anything wrong, really, with the CSIRO refocussing on jobs and growth which is what has been suggested?

CARR: Well, the CSIRO changes all the time. But since 1949 and the act that governs it was set down, there's been a balance in terms of providing support to industry, providing support to the nation, and providing support to the Commonwealth's international responsibilities. What we are seeing now is that the balance has been upset and what we are observing is the chaos, the dysfunction within this Government as a result of the profound hostility to science, to climate change science in particular and, of course, we're now see an attitude where the CSIRO's been turned into a glorified consultancy company. Now the public rejects this. The public sees this as a bit like shooting Bambi and frankly, the Government will pay a very high price for the actions that it's taken in regard to their hostility to the CSIRO.

JONES: Do you have any evidence that the UN development program might hold back research grants to Australia because they find Dr Marshall unreliable?

CARR: The evidence that's been presented to the Senate committee does cover this issue. Whether or not that's an accurate reflection of the commentary will be matters that we will inquire into further. The Senate committee is meeting next week. We'll have the opportunity to pursue that matter. But there is evidence before the Senate committee supporting the claims that you've made tonight.

JONES: There was a big concentration of that Senate committee on following a trial of private emails among the senior managers of the CSIRO. What was that all about? What was the point of that?

CARR: There's a couple of issues about the way in which the board has not been properly engaged, the extent to which the Minister has been engaged and, of course, the processes of decision making within the CSIRO. There is enormous confusion and anxiety within the CSIRO. We're seeing scientists of 30 years' standing expressing profound dismay. They are being supported internationally by scientists all over the globe. We are seeing that there are very significant players profoundly distressed that the CSIRO is losing the capability. Dr Marshall's own acknowledgment, 50 per cent of their capability being taken from the CSIRO under these plans. Now these are hurting our international reputation and they are undermining public confidence in the capacity of the CSIRO to undertake the important public benefit research that it does.

JONES: What sort of reception do you think the Minister, Mr Hunt, will get in New York, the very city where that newspaper essentially castigated the CSIRO for that decision and Australia generally?

CARR: The CSIRO recently sent a very large delegation to the US and I think profoundly we saw that the reputation of the organisation has been affected by what's going on and I have no doubt that the Minister for the Environment will be obliged to defend Australia's reputation. It's a pity that the Minister for CSIRO not on the program tonight because I would have liked to hear from him as to what he's doing about this crisis.

JONES: We're virtually out of time. A quick answer to this one if you can. Is Labor committing in this election to reemploying all those sacked climate scientists from the CSIRO?

CARR: What we want to do is release our research policies later in the election. We have made a very strong commitment and we're saying we will do this entirely differently. We want an inquiry into the management of the CSIRO.

JONES: Sure, but are you committing to reemploy?

CARR: We will announce our policy positions on funding later in the election.

JONES: We've got to leave you there. Thank you very much. We're out of time.

CARR: Thank you.


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