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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1301

Senator McGAURAN (3.25 p.m.) —I would like to join my colleague Senator Sandy Macdonald in taking note of Senator Cook's answer regarding a ministerial adviser being present at CSIRO meetings with opposition members. I too took part in the meeting that Senator Macdonald was talking about. We had a private meeting with four CSIRO members, headed by Alan Donald no less. I wish to take honourable senators through the steps of that meeting and put paid to the minister's suggestion that the minister's adviser who should attend these meetings is no more than a scribe, which is an absolute falsehood.

  Those four CSIRO members entered Senator Macdonald's room and would not open their mouths other than a how-do-you-do until the minister's adviser was there. They made it quite clear that they were under instructions from the minister that they could not speak until the minister's adviser was there. We all sat around exchanging pleasant niceties waiting for that minister's adviser. If ever a minister could send a brown shirt around to Senator Macdonald's office, he sent that adviser—a shifty, beady-looking scribe who noted every single word that I said and, moreover, that Alan Donald said. I believe Alan Donald was in fear of his position if he said one word out of place.

Senator Schacht —That wouldn't take very long.

Senator McGAURAN —That is probably something Senator Schacht would not have done when he held that ministry for such a short time. At least Senator Schacht did not do that when he stuffed up that ministry.

  Senator Macdonald made an excellent point when he said that about 60 minutes after that small and exclusive meeting—which, by the way, I believe was scribed in shorthand, so he would have had every single word and detail taken down in the course of that meeting—the National Party as a whole met with the same CSIRO scientists in the National Party room. Well, is nothing sacred? That minister's adviser wanted to enter the National Party room and take notes in relation to that meeting. Of course, as Senator Macdonald pointed out quite clearly, experience tells.

  Do honourable senators think the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) would accept that with all his experience, having been a minister himself? That same brown shirt attempted to enter the inner sanctum of the National Party room and got a fair boot out. That is what should happen on every occasion that this minister's directive is taken up. I hope those members of CSIRO are not so intimidated that they will have to tell away this story about how the minister's adviser was not allowed into the National Party room.

Senator Collins —Who would want to go in there?

Senator McGAURAN —The minister's adviser wanted to go in there under the instruction of the minister. Thirty years' experience kept him out of that room. As Senator Macdonald said, I wish we had the presence of mind to do that because I know that that minister's adviser was intimidating the CSIRO representatives by taking down every single word that they said.

  So we did not get the truth; we did not get a proper understanding. In fact, he interrupted the CSIRO representatives on more than one occasion. He had his own say in the matter in telling us how the budget was working. What does the minister have to say about that? He tells us that he was an independent representative. He was not. I believe he is probably the closest adviser to the minister.

  So nervous is this minister about the CSIRO cuts that, with the cooperation of Senator Coulter from the Democrats, we will set up a committee to inquire into these cuts, to see whether they are legitimate, and to go through the CSIRO funding, particularly for the rural sector. Senator Collins should be a bit concerned about this. I was very concerned when Dr Alan Donald said in passing, or under instruction from the minister, that the 40 per cent spent on rural funding is probably too much and maybe it should come down. That concerned me, coming from a man in that position. That is not a direct quote, but he certainly intimated that. My time has run out; I will leave it at that point.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.