Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7567


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (4:21 PM) —I fulfilled my obligations to this parliament and the citizens of Australia when I raised this matter, which I thought should have been raised in the Australian parliament when I considered there was what you would call a conflict of interest. I have been given this document. It was distributed 20 minutes ago, as I was told by the Clerk's assistant. I am not going to get up and debate this now. I am going to look at it, I am going to study it and I am going to come back and respond to you. But I have evidence here that I want to put on the record. I do not know where you got your information, Senator Carr. This was distributed 20 minutes ago. I am not going to fly off the handle and respond. I make no apologies about raising a most important issue in the Senate. Courage was required. I think that I displayed that courage in raising the issue. In my opinion there was a conflict of interest.


Senator Carr —You were wrong.


Senator BOSWELL —No, I was not wrong. I do not concede for a minute that I was wrong, but I do concede that these people have a right to put it on record. I want to go back to my office, look at the decision of the Privileges Committee and see what those three scientists have said. Then I will respond. But I am not going to get up and respond to you off the cuff, Senator Carr. It does deserve a response. You are perfectly correct. And you will get a response. But you are not going to get one off the cuff. It is a very serious matter, and I will respond either tonight or tomorrow. When I do respond, I will invite you down to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

The responses read as follows

Appendix 1

RESPONSES BY DR GEOFFREY VAUGHAN, DR PETER JONSON AND PROFESSOR BRIAN ANDERSON AGREED TO BY DR VAUGHAN, DR JONSON, PROFESSOR ANDERSON AND THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES PURSUANT TO RESOLUTION 5(7)(B) OF THE SENATE OF 25 FEBRUARY 1988

(A) Response by Dr Geoffrey Vaughan

I have noted from Hansard, 12 November 2002, that Senator Boswell has raised “serious questions of conflict of interest” in relation to my membership, as Chair, of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Committee and as a member of the Industry Research and Development (IR&D) Board. Senator Boswell has implied impropriety in relation to my activities on these bodies. He has linked the conflict of interest to my position as a Director of BresaGen Limited and a perceived association with Professor Alan Trounson.

I should like to bring to your attention the following matters:

· The activities of the CRC Committee are under continuous review of a probity auditor appointed by the Commonwealth. The committee considers matters of conflict of interest as a key agenda item at every meeting of the committee.

· I have declared my directorships, all shareholdings, and all other areas of potential conflict to the Department of Education, Science and Training (and to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources in the case of the IR&D Board) and this information is held on the appropriate departmental registers.

· The CRC Committee is a committee of advice to the Minister for Science. The committee does not make direct grants to applicants: through its terms of reference it only gives advice to the Minister who is responsible for all funding decisions.

· The CRC Committee has never received an application for funding involving BresaGen Limited.

· Senator Boswell has stated that “Vaughan was also appointed to the Industry R&D Board that subsequently gave Vaughan's own company, BresaGen, a grant of $4.9 million to find a stem cell therapy cure for Parkinson's”. The facts are that BresaGen was awarded a START Grant in May 2000 and I was appointed to the Board in September 2000.

· Whenever any matter related to BresaGen is discussed at the IR&D Board my conflict is declared by me in advance and I remove myself from the meeting. I do not receive any related agenda papers, I do not participate in any discussion, I am not involved in any way in any decision making, and I do not receive the minutes of the particular agenda item.

· Senator Boswell has linked me to Professor Trounson because I held the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Monash University. I resigned from Monash more than 10 years ago. Since that time I have held Australian Government and industry appointments.

· Senator Boswell has linked my name in the debate to other people he has identified, namely Peter Jonson, Alan Trounson, and Bob Moses. I have never had any personal commercial interests or dealings with any of these people.

· The START grant awarded to the “Trounson company” Copyrat was made under delegation by the Biological Committee of the IR&D Board. I am not a member of that committee and played no role whatsoever in any part of the process.

· It is implied that I was associated with the Biotechnology Innovation Fund (BIF) award to the “Trounson company” IngenKO through my membership of the IR&D Board. Again, the Board delegated, through its legislated powers, the full operation and allocation of BIF awards to the Biological Committee of the Board. I am not a member of the Biological Committee and thus played no part in the award of any grant to IngenKO, nor indeed in any other award or grant of BIF Funds.

· I have never been involved with the funding bodies responsible for the award of the Biotechnology Centre of Excellence, Major National Research Facilities, ARC or NHMRC grants.

The implications that I have abused a conflict of interest because of my role on the CRC Committee, as a member of the IR&D Board, as a Director of BresaGen Limited, or in my previous role of Deputy-Vice Chancellor on Monash University are without foundation and an unwarranted attack on my reputation, honesty and integrity.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

(Dr) Geoffrey Vaughan MSc PhD

13 and 19 November 2002

—————

(B) Response by Dr Peter Jonson

I note from Hansard, 12 November 2002, that Senator Boswell has mentioned my name in a context that implies possible impropriety in matters of decisions about Commonwealth grants.

I wish to make the general point that in my experience the Commonwealth processes in this area are very tight. Careful and explicit attention is paid to avoiding actual or potential conflicts of interest. A probity auditor is appointed by the Commonwealth to monitor the processes and report afterwards. Certainly this was the case in the two committees I have chaired for the Commonwealth.

In regard to the matters raised by Senator Boswell, I simply say there is no way in which any conflict occurred or could have occurred.

I have had no past commercial relationships with Professor Trounson, Dr Geoffrey Vaughan or Mr Bob Moses.

The CRC [Cooperative Research Centre] which I chair won its grant in April 1999; my association with it commenced in March 2002.

I ceased to be Managing Director of ANZ Funds Management in April 1999. Even during my time in that role I would as a matter of policy have had no detailed knowledge of shares held by the portfolio managers, who were judged on results, not inputs.

My personal and family share portfolios are managed by a professional fund manager on a basis that is entirely at his discretion and with no input from me. He confirms, incidentally, that he has never invested in BresaGen on my behalf.

I had earlier written to Senator Knowles [as Chair of the Committee Affairs Legislation Committee] about the appointment of Dr Dianna deVore to the Board of MNT Innovation Pty Ltd, which was made well after the award of the Commonwealth Government and made entirely on merit.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

Peter D. Jonson

November 13, 2002

—————

(C) Response by Professor Brian Anderson, AO, FAA, FRS, FTSE

On 12 November 2002, in the Second Reading of the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, Senator Ron Boswell, Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, addressed the Senate. According to the record of Hansard, Senator Boswell stated “Another prominent Trounson supporter, also on the ARC [Australian Research Council] board, is Professor Brian Anderson from the Academy of Science—and a great believer in cloning.”

I write to object in the strongest possible terms to the implied maligning of my integrity by Senator Boswell. This statement is a clear abuse of parliamentary privilege.

First, I am not a “prominent Trounson supporter” and indeed, have no recollection of ever meeting the man, before we found ourselves placed on the same stage by conference organisers at an Innovations conference early this November. He is not a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Second, I am not “a great believer in cloning”. Indeed, during my Presidency of the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy published A Position Statement on Human Cloning in February 1999 that stated:

“Council considers that reproductive cloning to produce human fetuses is unethical and unsafe and should be prohibited. However human cells derived from cloning techniques, from ES cell lines, or from primordial germ cells should not be precluded from use in approved research activities in cellular and developmental biology.”

Third, I object most strenuously to the implication that my personal relationships and personal beliefs impinge on my decision-making as a member of the board of the Australian Research Council.

For the record, I also note that to the best of my knowledge no member of my family or myself has any direct or indirect association through any investment or financial instruments with commercial activities with which Professor Trounson is associated.

The offending, and offensive, sentence should be struck from the official record of the Federal Parliament.

(Signed)

28 November 2002