Thursday, 4 February 2016
Questions without Notice
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. The Prime Minister said to the world in Paris that Australia would double investment in clean energy innovation over the next five years. However, this morning we learned that the CSIRO will be sacking up to 350 staff, including 110 climate scientists. The government may well hire 350 act developers or clean coal workers in the next two years, but the fact remains they will still be disbanding 350 actual scientists, including climate scientists. How is it innovative to cut 350 science jobs from CSIRO after you already cut 1,400 of them following the previous budget? How was it innovative to abolish the carbon price, to slash the renewable energy target and to plan to abolish the Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation?
Thank you, Senator Waters, for raising the issue, although many of the matters about which you inquire have already been addressed by my colleague Senator Sinodinos. At the risk of repeating some of the things that Senator Sinodinos had to say in response to an earlier question, I will point out to you that these are operational decisions for the CSIRO. There was extensive review of the management of the CSIRO which concluded that there was a need to reorganise the organisation better to fulfil its mission outlined in its strategic plan.
Senator Waters, you say that there will be job losses. But I am afraid, Senator Waters, you are incorrect, because I can tell you that, as Senator Sinodinos advised the chamber in response to Senator Singh, the realignment, which will take roughly two years, will result in no net job losses. There will be no net job losses across the agency and any such suggestion otherwise is incorrect. So, Senator Waters, please do not mislead the chamber. You have had the assurance from Senator Sinodinos, and now you have had the assurance from me, that there will be no net job losses as a result of this process.
CSIRO has announced that there will be a realignment of activities within their climate change division. Stories reported in the media today, particularly in the Fairfax media, are factually wrong. The CSIRO will continue its relationship with the Department of the Environment on the National Environmental Science Program. It will be spending $83 million per annum on climate change research, and the oceans and atmosphere division of the CSIRO will continue to employ more than 300 people.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Despite the reorganising and realigning, the government are still sacking climate scientists. The CSIRO's climate research in fact helps Australia protect and adapt to extreme weather events, like the droughts and bushfires that communities are already facing. With the devastating extreme weather events that have happened just over the summer, what is this government going to say to those communities about why you are sacking the very people who could help us prepare for and adapt to those extreme weather events?
Senator Waters, on our side of politics we are very proud of the CSIRO. I think all Australians ought to be very proud of the CSIRO. The CSIRO in its original inception was a creation of a coalition government, in fact—the Bruce-Page government in the 1920s. From time to time all organisations, including an organisation that has been in existence for nearly a century now in its various forms, need to undergo a process of modernisation and a consideration of their priorities.
Senator Waters, as I said to you in response to your primary question, importantly there will be no net job losses at the CSIRO. You seem to be, Senator Waters, if I may say so, stuck in this mindset that nothing should ever be allowed to change. I should have thought, Senator Waters, that if ever there was an organisation that ought to be agile across its priorities it would be a scientific research organisation. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. That was most amusing! A senior CSIRO scientist said that, after these cuts, 'climate will be all gone, basically.' What the Australian community wants to know, Minister, is: when will the climate denialist dinosaurs in your government be all gone?
Senator Waters, I was in the middle of telling you about what climate science functions the CSIRO will continue to perform. As I said to you before, it will spend about $83 million a year on climate change mitigation and adaptation research. The Australian government is committed to continued research on climate and climate modelling. It has provided $23.9 million over six years to establish the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub. The hub aims to improve our observations and understanding of past and current climate, better understand how the climate system may change in the future and build the utility of earth systems and climate change information, including enhancement of Australia's national capability in earth systems and climate modelling. Senator Waters, I know you take a great interest in these issues and, therefore, it would be more obvious to you than most how important those functions are. Those functions will— (Time expired)