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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2107

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:10): My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Sinodinos. Mr Pyne issued a media release today celebrating 100 years of CSIRO. Does the government believe that cutting 100 climate science jobs is the best way to celebrate 100 years of Australian science?

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, you have been vocal on every question so far.

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:10): I welcome the honourable senator's question. There is much to celebrate in this 100 years of CSIRO, a great Australian institution. CSIRO was established because there were industries in Australia that could not afford to do their own research, particularly in areas like agriculture, mining and manufacturing. What CSIRO did, was to bring government together in partnership with those industries to create world-leading innovations. We have seen this with things like the wi-fi and the other great inventions and innovations CSIRO has been involved in.

To celebrate 100 years of CSIRO—I am coming to the crux—we have provided a record $3.1 billion for funding over the forward estimates. Where were you when the former government was slashing $82.9 million from CSIRO and cutting $2.5 million from ANSTO, building the RV investigator but not providing any money so it can operate. You cut 400 staff from CSIRO. Where were you when you were needed? You were missing in action.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my left. Cabinet Secretary, have you concluded your answer?

Senator SINODINOS: Yes, Mr President.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:12): Mr President, I rise to ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of yesterday's comments by Mary Robinson, the former UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Climate Change? I quote:

There is, however, a need for complementary fundamental climate change research. It's imperative that research funding levels are not just sustained but increased.

Will the Turnbull government reverse its plan to halve CSIRO's climate science capacity or is a commitment to science innovation just another case of saying one thing and doing another? (Time expired)

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:13): Again, I welcome the question. Mary Robinson is right and the Turnbull government is right. We are getting on with mitigating and adapting to climate change. We are not just worrying about the science. We are doing something about it, and different countries have different sets of policies to meet the commonly accepted set of goals that were set in Paris.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a point of order: relevance. The minister was asked about climate change research. He is talking about emissions reductions. They are different things. I would ask him to return to the question.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, he was asked about comments of Mary Robinson and the Turnbull government's position and he answered that first up. That is my understanding. I will call the minister.

Senator SINODINOS: This typifies the difference between these sides of politics. They worry about process and we worry about outcomes. I was talking about outcomes, getting results, and policies in place. That is what this policy is all about.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left! You have a senator on his feet waiting to ask a question.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to evidence that CSIRO failed to consult any of its partner agencies or a single university before cutting 100 climate science jobs. In light of this, does the minister agree that climate change modelling and research can simply transition to another body? Was the minister misled by the 1 February CSIRO briefing to the minister proposing such cuts?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:15): Mr President, in relation to the briefing of 1 February, is he referring to this minister or to the minister?

Senator Kim Carr: To Minister Pyne. Minister Pyne—you represent him!

Senator SINODINOS: Yes. But I was not present at any briefing on 1 February.

Senator Wong: Mr President, I rise on a point of order.

The PRESIDENT: The answer is concluded, Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: The minister should take the question on notice. If questions in a representative capacity can simply be dismissed on the basis that the minister was not at a meeting then it really makes a mockery of question time. He should take it on notice.

The PRESIDENT: The Cabinet Secretary has heard your point of order, Senator Wong, and I will leave it up to the Cabinet Secretary.

Senator Sinodinos: I am happy to take it on notice. I was just simply making the point that I was not there.