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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1819


Senator PETER BAUME(5.06) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

It is impossible to look at the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation without drawing attention to what the Government has done to the CSIRO by way of funding. This was brought out in the Estimates examination conducted by Senate Estimates Committee D on 26 September last. It is important that I draw to the attention of Australians just what a great bar the Government has put upon the effective operation of this great Australian organisation. For instance the appropriation of the Organisation decreased in real terms by between 3.5 and 4 per cent. Projects and programs have had to be wound down or slowed down. Staff numbers have had to be decreased. We were told during the Estimates examination that up to 180 position would have to be shed from within CSIRO during the year to accommodate the Government's diminished appropriation. In fact that global allocation to CSIRO in the current year went down from $331m to 322.47m. That is a reduction in money terms even before one allows for the effects of the inflation and before one considers what one expects CSIRO to do for Australia.

It is one of the tragedies of this country that a Minister who spoke so much about the importance of science and so much about the job that CSIRO was trying to do-a Minister with whom we are personally friendly-was such a failure when it came to arguing in the Cabinet for the welfare and protection of science. Nowhere was this better brought out than in the Budget of the CSIRO, which actually went down by 2 per cent in money terms. When one adds the effect of inflation there was in fact a greater reduction. Not only was the capital allocation for CSIRO reduced by $10m but CSIRO was also required to take on board certain expenses which had not normally been its to accommodate. For example, it was required to absorb $1.4m in unavoidable salary increases-amounts which had previously been met by the Government. Therefore, apart from the reduction in money terms the Organisation was immediately $1.4m worse off. In addition to this it was required to absorb $2.7m in repairs and maintenance costs-money that it had not previously had to absorb. With these two amounts added together CSIRO was now $4.1m worse off.

In addition, during the year an extra amount of $4.7m was identified by CSIRO's own officers to the Senate Estimates Committee as being needed. However, because of the extra amounts needed in the budget to cope with inflation this was not added. CSIRO was then something like $8.8m worse off under the appropriation, even apart from the reduction in money terms. It was thought that across the Organisation a 3 per cent reduction in its operations would be required. This means a 3 per cent reduction in its work to improve many of our primary industries, the work it does to help improve the welfare and living standards of most Australians and its work to improve our accommodation to what is a fairly hostile continent. However, in some areas of the CSIRO-the non-protected areas, the areas not given special budgetary treatment-the reduction might be 4 or 5 per cent. Because this was the second year in a row that CSIRO had to take that kind of squeeze, for many of the divisions it was extremely difficult to accommodate and sackings of people might be required.

The amount allocated to the Organisation this year for operating costs to run its projects, quite apart from salaries, is $72m and the amount allocated last year was $72m. That is to say, the Government has made no allowances for the effects of inflation in reducing the capacity of CSIRO and the amount allocated was obviously not enough to enable Australia's premier science organisation to maintain its activities. This was the second successive year in which this occurred. What emerged in the Senate Estimates examination on 26 September last was an amazingly frank series of answers by officers to questions about the budgetary allocations. The officers laid out for anyone who wishes to read it how severe the cut was. It identifies to the Australian people just how much the Minister for Science, Mr Barry Jones, has failed the organisation for which he has ministerial responsibility. Apart from anything else, a Minister's job is to deliver adequate resources for his organisation. This clearly has not been done. It is a tragedy for CSIRO and, in the long term, it is a tragedy for Australia.