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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2126

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (15:22): I will keep it brief. The first point I want to make, which is just a contextual point, is that CSIRO is an independent agency. There is a question here about the extent to which the government can be asked to or should interfere directly in the operations of the organisation. Ultimately, once the overall resources to the organisation have been delivered by government as a result of government's broader consideration of the role of the CSIRO within science policy or broader government policy, the disposition and allocation of resources within the organisation is a matter within CSIRO itself.

If the proposition that is being put up here is that we as a government have to make sure that government agencies observe the law and that boards of management are accountable for that, the way we do that is to say to them, 'You must observe the law,' and we hold them accountable for that. In relation to the issues that have been raised by Senator Carr and Senator Whish-Wilson, there is an inquiry already underway within CSIRO. There are consultations going on within CSIRO at the moment to clarify the very matters that are being talked about here, and the minister has made it clear that if there are further concerns they are best raised directly with CSIRO, which is an independent authority with full responsibility for these matters, and they can be held accountable accordingly.

Earlier this week my office approached Senator Waters's office in good faith to provide relevant documents from CSIRO, but she has decided to proceed with an order to produce documents anyway. That is her prerogative. I am quite happy with that. Those processes will continue. The government will play its role. But what I cannot do is sit here and say to the Senate that we will interfere directly to reverse resource allocation decisions which are the purview of the board and management of CSIRO. I will undertake to get back to the chamber about the other issues that have been raised, to the extent that they fall within the purview of government to do so. But I am not giving an undertaking to this chamber that we will change the resource allocation decisions within CSIRO. That is not our responsibility.

Question agreed to.