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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 833


Senator PANIZZA (3.13 p.m.) —I would like to enter this debate for a few short moments to follow up on something Senator Cook told us earlier about closing CSIRO agricultural stations. I will not comment on the ones proposed to be closed in the eastern states but I definitely want to address the one that is supposedly closing at Bakers Hill in Western Australia—the Yalanbee Research Station. Senator Cook told us that there was consultation with the NFF and so on, but he is totally wrong. The NFF is far removed from anything else in primary industry in Western Australia, let alone what is going on at Bakers Hill. Senator Cook—and he is running away like the coward he usually is; he has done that to me before—told us that that was not correct, that it was bought out of wool growers' fees and levies.

  Yalanbee at Bakers Hill was bought with wool growers' levies some 20 years ago. It is not up to the NFF based here in Canberra even to comment on what Bakers Hill does. The point is that there is an attempt to sell off Bakers Hill and remove the research to Katanning in Western Australia. As a former Western Australian, Senator Coulter knows that the climate at Bakers Hill is totally different from that of Katanning. It is a totally different environment in which to carry on the same experiments with crops and animal production. That has to be looked at. Bakers Hill was bought with wool growers' funds in the first place and now the government wants to sell it from under their noses without consultation. That is the point about Bakers Hill. To say that the government has consulted with the National Farmers Federation, sitting here in Canberra, is not consulting with the farmers in Western Australia.

  I have a few other matters to put on the record. There has been a change in priorities for CSIRO research, initiated by Senator Schacht and Mr Griffiths—remember him?—through the McKinsey report, which put agricultural research as CSIRO's least important priority. The McKinsey report recommended that CSIRO concentrate on small to medium business. A small business has been defined as employing at least 20 employees and having an annual turnover of $2 million. It has to be a fairly big farm in Australia to turn over $2 million. There are not too many that do that. We, on the agricultural base that I come from, can take it that CSIRO research has definitely lost any preference for the average farmer. This will disenfranchise about 50,000 farmers throughout Australia who do not come into that $2 million bracket. Not many of those 50,000 farmers would come into the $500,000 bracket let alone the $50 million.

  There is a lot more to be said in this debate which will be said another time. Cutting CSIRO funds for primary industry research will have major repercussions in Australia for many years to come unless that funding is turned around. I believe this is serious enough for this Senate to conduct an inquiry into the funding of CSIRO in total, not only into primary industry, and the chamber will be hearing more from me about that later on.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.