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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8101

Professor Ian Chubb

(Question No. 2123)


Senator Bushby asked the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, upon notice, on 30 August 2012:

(1) Since being appointed as Chief Scientist, in a public forum has Professor Ian Chubb ever directly criticised:

(a) the Prime Minister; if so, when and on what grounds; and

(b) former Senator Bob Brown or Senator Milne; if so, when and on what grounds.

(2) With reference to the Health of Australian Science report, which shows that the level of Australia's international science collaboration has essentially plateaued:

(a) what information has been formally provided to Professor Chubb by the Government regarding the process of responding to, and acting upon, the report, and on what dates was this advice provided; and

(b) what specific recommendations has Professor Chubb made to the Government, either in the report or in other forums, regarding measures to help address the issues raised.

(3) What will Professor Chubb's role as an ex-officio member of the Climate Change Authority (CCA) board entail, and will any remuneration be provided for this role; if so, what will the remuneration be.

(4) Will the department have any other association with CCA, either through its membership or by contributing, in any way, to its work; if so, what work will it specifically undertake.

(5) With reference to the answer provided to question no. AI 16, taken on notice during the 2011 12 Additional estimates hearing of the Economics Legislation Committee, is there any scientific validity to the statement that one particular area of New South Wales faces a higher risk of inundation from sea-level rise than other parts of the state; if so, which area.

(6) What was Professor Chubb's rationale for excluding significant organisations, such as the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and Science and Technology Australia, from membership of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.

(7) With reference to media reports relating to alleged death threats made to Australian climate scientists, and statements made by Professor Chubb at the 2012 13 Budget estimates hearing of the Economics Legislation Committee held on 28 May 2012, can Professor Chubb confirm that he had not seen, or had not been alerted to, any articles of this nature.

(8) Can Professor Chubb confirm whether death threats were received by Australian National University (ANU) climate scientists during his time as Vice Chancellor, either in late 2010 or early 2011; and if such threats were not received, does this mean that the continued assertions by the ANU are false.

(9) If Professor Chubb maintains that 'there were no alleged death threats except when journalists picked up the story', does Professor Chubb accept that reporting of the alleged death threats was based, in each case, on comments made by Professor Ian Young and/or other university representatives or staff.

(10) Can Professor Chubb specifically name any journalist and/or media outlets that invented, misreported or overinflated allegations of death threats against ANU climate scientists in any report in June 2011 or at any time subsequently; if so, what precisely was reported inaccurately.

(11) Does Professor Chubb consider that any of his own comments or views about this issue, either at the time of the original public reporting in June 2011 or at any time subsequently, were relayed or presented in an inaccurate or misleading way; if so, which specific comments or views.

(12) Has Professor Chubb contacted any media outlets at any time to seek to correct or clarify factual inaccuracies in any reports regarding this issue, including in relation to any comments or views that may have been falsely attributed either to him or the ANU, or were presented in a potentially misleading way; if so, for each case, which outlets and on what dates.

(13) With reference to statements made by Professor Chubb at the 2012-13 Budget estimates hearing of the Economics Legislation Committee held on 28 May 2012, relating to:

(a) emails received by ANU staff members, can details be provided of: (i) the date of the event to which he was referring, (ii) in which area of the ANU that person was based at the time, (iii) whether that person has also been interviewed by any of the reporters who have filed stories on the 'death threats' issue from June 2011 onwards, and (iv) whether that person has been named in any of the reports; and

(b) the relocation of ANU climate scientists to a different physical location on the campus in 2010, can details be provided of: (i) the date of the move, (ii) whether the move was made solely in response to a threat of physical violence, or for another reason, (iii) whether the same group of people had ever previously asked to be moved to a new location for any reason other than in relation to death threats.

(14) Does Professor Chubb agree that the 'death threat' issue has had a political element in relation to climate change and matters such as the carbon tax.

(15) Does Professor Chubb now regret his involvement in the story, and using words such as 'appalling' and 'outrageous' to refer to threats and e-mails which he now admits he had not seen.


Senator Chris Evans: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) and (b) No.

(2) This is not an accurate representation of the issue. Australian international collaboration has been growing over the past decade, as measured by the number of Australian publications with international co-authors (see Health of Australian Science report, Chapter 6).

(a) No advice was received

(b) None as yet.

(3) In general, the same as a role on any other Board. The Climate Change Authority Act 2011 stipulates that:

the Chief Scientist will be one of nine members of the CCA;

the Chief Scientist holds office on a part-time basis; and

the Chief Scientist will not be paid a remuneration or allowances.

(4) As the Australian Government's provider of measurement science expertise and infrastructure, the National Measurement Institute (NMI) within DIISRTE will provide policy and services and/or technical advice to the CCA. NMI is working with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) to ensure that there is a sound measurement basis to the emissions reporting that is required for Australian carbon pricing mechanisms to work locally and as part of international systems.

(5) Two reports from the DCCEE were released in 2009 and 2011 respectively, providing comprehensive assessments of the risks of sea-level rise and other climate change impacts to Australia's coasts and coastal infrastructure. These reports are the definitive references for climate change impacts in Australia and by inference in NSW.

The reports do not single out any one area as facing the highest risk from projected sea-level rise and flooding. Rather, in the framework used by DCCEE to assess coastal vulnerability, each coastal state and territory has a range of vulnerabilities depending on observed and projected sea-level rise, coastal landforms and ecosystems, tides, storm surge risk, infrastructure and population.

The Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, with support from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, provides a set of tools for assessing the risk of marine inundation at any given area of the Australian coastline. These tools would allow the assessment of the risk of coastal flooding due to sea-level change along different areas of the New South Wales coast.

(6) Professor Chubb was consulted on proposed membership and operations as part of a review of PMSEIC arrangements undertaken by the then Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, following which recommendations were made to the Minister and the Prime Minister.

The membership is not one based on organisations but individuals. Members are appointed for their expertise and the complementarity of that expertise overall.

The membership number should be small enough to allow substantial exchanges of view.

There is provision to invite those with particular expertise to any meeting - including Ministers. And that also includes, for example, the head of DSTO, when a defence-specific matter is before the Council. The same applies to other organisations.

(7) Professor Chubb has seen 'articles' relating to death threats to Australian Climate scientists.

(8) Professor Chubb cannot confirm that ANU scientists received death threats. He has no recollection of ever having been told that they did, nor having said that they did.

(9) Professor Chubb would not know.

(10) No.

(11) No.

(12) No.

(13) (a) (i) No.

   (ii) Coombs Building.

   (iii) Not known.

   (iv) Professor Chubb cannot recall.

(b) (i) Not by Professor Chubb.

   (ii) The staff were in a part of a building accessible by the public. They were unsettled by emails and visits 'off the street.' Professor Chubb agreed to their move at that time. He does say that moving staff is not a novel concept, and is done whenever and for whatever purpose thought necessary. Professor Chubb always took his responsibilities as an employer seriously.

   (iii) Not that Professor Chubb is aware.

(14) Not as far as his involvement is concerned.

(15) No.