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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1617

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:53): My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Sinodinos. Can the minister confirm that, since the government's released its much hyped innovation and science statement, the CSIRO has started assessing the value of its science on the basis of how much external revenue its so-called business units can generate? Does the Turnbull government endorse this approach to measuring the value of publicly funded science?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:54): I thank the honourable senator for his question. Let me begin by saying we are going to be providing a record $3.1 billion of funding in the 2015-16 budget to the CSIRO over the forward estimates. In relation to the issue you have raised, what is wrong with public institutions seeking to maximise the value of their outcomes at a time when we are providing record funding? I strongly support a CSIRO which is in the community, collaborating with industry and creating new opportunities to promote innovation and science.


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the Turnbull government agree that the CSIRO has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution to global climate change science? If so, why is the minister allowing this capability to be cut in half?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:55): I have answered questions on this before. Let me make it absolutely crystal clear. As a result of the changes that the CSIRO is undertaking, there will be no net job losses out of the realignment of employees with strategic priorities over the next couple of years. And the capability to which the honourable senator refers, a capability that we all value, will continue to be undertaken in partnership with like-minded organisations within Australia. What we will be doing through the work of the CSIRO is orienting their activity on strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change rather than continuing as an organisation to simply focus on the measurement of it. They will continue to do that in partnership with like-minded organisations.


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:56): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the Abbott-Turnbull government has cut $115 million from the CSIRO's funding, how can it be claimed that this government bears no responsibility for the latest job cuts and cuts in the capabilities of the CSIRO? Isn't this another example of the government saying one thing on science and innovation and doing another thing in practice?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:56): I remind the honourable senator that he himself presided over cuts to the CSIRO when he was the Minister for Industry and Science. And he said at the time that it was because he was 'fighting a war against inflation'. The fact of the matter is that governments, over time, do make judgements about priorities. The honourable senator's government did, and we did. But in the last budget we devoted $3.1 billion over the forward estimates to the CSIRO.