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PM to keep close eye on science industry -

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PM to keep close eye on science industry

AM - Friday, 21 December , 2007 08:12:00

Reporter: Peta Donald

TONY EASTLEY: Kevin Rudd is known as a man who's finicky about detail, and the Prime Minister's
office will be keeping a close eye on what some of the country's major institutions say and do.

The CSIRO, the Australian Research Council and Co-operative Research Centres will all have to have
their media releases cleared by the Prime Minister's office to make sure they reflect the new
Federal Government's key messages.

The Secretary of the Department of Innovation Industry Science and Research, Mark Paterson, is the
senior bureaucrat who issued the new directive.

He's speaking here with Peta Donald in Canberra.

MARK PATERSON: It gave guidance to a number of agencies within the portfolio on how to deal with
media releases. It was something that we were asked for from those agencies so that they were
certain as to how to deal with media releases.

The instance of the message was that the Government wanted to ensure a degree of consistency in
message on key messages and therefore one of the clear key messages through the Prime Minister's
office, that's not an unusual approach. It's not different from what happened in the early days of
the former government.

PETA DONALD: But shouldn't statutory agencies like the CSIRO be independent from the elected arm of
government?

MARK PATERSON: Well, people think that statutory authorities are independent for all purposes.
That's not a view that I support. That statutory authorities are independent for a purpose, that is
the purpose for which they're created. This is not about control of message. It's about
consistency.

So we were being asked by these agencies for guidance and we've provided that guidance to the
individuals. It's written in reasonably relaxed language, it's not a directive. Some of the facts
in the stories that have been published this morning are not accurate and clearly one of the
agencies that we provided that guidance to has passed it straight on to the press.

PETA DONALD: For example, shouldn't the CSIRO be able to say whatever it likes about climate change
without having to have that vetted by the Prime Minister's office.

MARK PATERSON: Well, it doesn't need to be vetted. And there's no suggestion in the language that
was used or any language that I've used to suggest that something was being vetted. Nor is this
about constraining...

PETA DONALD: But if it's not being vetted, why does it need to be ticked off by the Prime
Minister's office?

MARK PATERSON: What I won't have put into my mouth is other people's words. I have no stage nor in
the guidance that was given was the word vetting used nor was the concept of vetting being used.

This is not about constraining academic observation or comment in an independent area. It is saying
that media releases being issued by organisations. This is not about independent commentary from
scientists this is about institutional media releases, which is quite different.

PETA DONALD: But if these releases are going up to the Prime Minister's office to be approved, then
isn't that being vetted?

MARK PATERSON: ...be approved or vetted in the guidance that was provided. But it's about ensuring a
consistency in message. If you've got key themes that a government has gone to the people on in
critical areas in terms of its platform, it is not surprising, it is unexceptional that a
government would want to be aware of a message that was being put out.

TONY EASTLEY: The Secretary of the Department of Innovation, Science and Research, Mark Paterson,
ending Peta Donald's report.