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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1212


Senator COULTER (3.27 p.m.) —I find it a little strange that we are told by government that there has been this massive increase in expenditure on research, yet we find, right around the country, scientists who are absolutely terrified about the loss of their jobs. There is something wrong here when intelligent people who are working in high level research feel so uncertain about their future. I think the facts speak for themselves: there is $20 1/2 million less each year over the next triennium going to the CSIRO than there was in the last triennium.

  I would like to read into the record a letter which has just come across my desk from Dr Room, the Chief Research Scientist at the Long Pocket Laboratories in Queensland. These laboratories are one of the cooperative research centres which the government said it would set up which would be for high level, leading edge research. The letter was written to Dr Radcliffe and is dated 30 May, so it is a very recent letter. It states:

We, the staff of the Division of Entomology and staff and students of the CRC for Tropical Pest Management at Long Pocket Laboratories—

and I do not think anybody would gainsay that tropical pest management was not a very important subject—

are very concerned at information relating to the possible future of these laboratories which we are receiving from the Institute of Animal Production and Processing. We are even more concerned at the absence of any information emanating from your office.

As you know, we have been responsible for work rightly claimed by CSIRO to be producing major economic, social and scientific benefits but it seems likely that our ability to serve northern Australia is about to be severely constrained. We appear to be faced with two alternatives, either

  -remaining at Long Pocket with no administrative, computer maintenance, library, workshop, store, meeting room, reception, parking or social facilities, or

  -relocation entailing construction costs for replacement of quarantine, office, laboratory, insectary and glasshouse facilities in excess of $8 million which, when combined with other expenses, would appear to be more than could be realised by sale of the Long Pocket site.

If all this lovely money is coming from government, why are scientists who are working in a CRC—one of those high level institutions set up by government—feeling so concerned about their future? Something is wrong—something is rotten in the state of Denmark—and it is about time that we had an inquiry into the matter.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.