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Select Committee into the Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures

BENNETT, Ms Hazel, Chief Finance Officer, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

WONHAS, Dr Alex, Executive Director, Environment, Energy and Resources, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Evidence from Dr Wonhas was taken via teleconference—

CHAIR: Welcome. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses in giving evidence to Senate committees has been provided to you. I invite you both, if you wish, to make a short opening statement, and at the conclusion of your remarks, I will invite members of the committee to ask questions.

Ms Bennett : We would like to put a couple of points on the record, if we may. First of all, we would like to acknowledge the impact of the CSIRO changes on our staff. It is a very difficult time for them. We are acutely aware of the need for us to continue with the process as swiftly as we can to give them and other stakeholders certainty. I would also like to clarify the evidence this morning. There appear to be some different views as to the number of FTEs and the number of staff that are impacted. I think it would be useful to have that on the record. There are currently 420 staff in the Oceans and Atmosphere business unit.

At the moment the proposals are potentially to impact 100 staff. With 35 recruitments, that leaves a net 355. The impact will be across the whole of the Oceans and Atmosphere business unit, with the highest impact being felt across two programs in which there are 140 staff at present. That impact could be as much as 50 per cent, which would leave 70 staff in those two programs. We therefore have a continued commitment—albeit at a smaller scale—to climate activity. In terms of the locations impacted, they are primarily at Hobart, Aspendale, and Yarralumla in Canberra.

I would like to acknowledge that these decisions are both strategic and financial in perspective. We heard this morning a number of previous evidence-givers talking about the financial constraints. I would like to put just a little bit of fact on the record about the financial position. We heard this morning that all government funding to CSIRO goes to overheads. That is incorrect. From the CSIRO appropriation we fund the majority of our work looking after the national facilities and collections. We also fund work, including our work in education. From the appropriation we also fund our building infrastructure and IT infrastructure. The second point is that the assertion that all other science is co-funded is also incorrect. The business units do science with no or low coinvestment. Amongst other things, we run a postgraduate program and postdoctoral program of approximately $22 million per annum and a transformational capability program of approximately $10 million to $14 million a year.

However, it is true that at the end of the day approximately $400 million or so of external revenue is matched, on average, one-for-one with CSIRO appropriation. The point made that we are, therefore, very much of a scale and size dictated by external revenue is also true. If that external revenue were not there we would do half as much science as we do today. However, it is a co-funded model. That coinvestment or co-funded model goes right across the Australian system. There are other players in the system who use grants and co-funding models to do their science, and CSIRO is no different.

The point raised this morning about whether coinvestment is the right model for climate science is one that we acknowledge. We think it is a very good discussion to be having. We note that we run the national facilities and collections on behalf of the nation. We have endeavoured in the last few years to move that away from a coinvestment model to a more sustainable model for funding with long-term partners, underpinned by a memorandum of understanding and with firm financial commitments. That is not always successful, and it is certainly not easy. Thank you, Senators.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Bennett. Dr Wonhas, would you like to make a brief opening statement?

Dr Wonhas : Thank you, Senator. I will not add to the substance of what Ms Bennett has just outlined, but I would like to apologise to senators that I am not able to be with you today in person. I had an important meeting with all of the key stakeholders in this particular matter in Canberra this morning, which I felt was important to conduct here.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Wonhas. Can I ask: had that meeting you had with key stakeholders been planned for some time?

Dr Wonhas : Yes, it was. The meeting had been organised by the Chief Scientist. I would have to look up the details, but I think it has been around for some time.

CHAIR: One thing we have heard from witnesses today, such as IMAS and AAD—I know it is a small community and you all know each other quite well—is that there still has not been any consultation between CSIRO and their institutions. I think the comment was that there has been some consultation generally, but they are not aware of any detail yet. Can you outline to the committee what kind of consultation has occurred with stakeholders since you made the announcement nearly a month ago?

Dr Wonhas : Certainly. I am aware that this decision has occurred fairly quickly and that therefore people have a great need for information. I think—as we might outline in the further discussion—we are actually going through a formal process to answer all of these questions. That said, I think there have been a number of discussions since the announcement. We had very deep interactions, in particular, with the Bureau of Meteorology. They are, obviously, a key partner of ours in the climate-modelling space. We had all sorts of discussions with a range of different stakeholders. I had discussions with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. There were also discussions with the AAD and the ACE CRC, and I think that is probably contrary to the record that was given this morning.

Obviously, we had discussions with—

CHAIR: Sorry, Dr Wonhas, could you tell the committee who you have had discussions with exactly?

Dr Wonhas : I personally had a number of discussions with Dr Vertessy from the bureau and with his deputy, Graham Hawke. I spoke to Professor Pitman from the ARC centre of excellence. I understand that the director of the Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Dr Lee, had discussions with the ACE CRC and the AAD at a hearing committee meeting, probably a week ago. I actually spoke this morning with Dr Nick Gales. I can certainly provide you with a list of interactions that we had.

CHAIR: When you say 'discussions', are you consulting with them about the ramifications, or the implications, of potential staff cuts—if you want to call them that?

Dr Wonhas : In those discussions, what we are trying to achieve—given the constraints which Ms Bennett also outlined—is to identify what the most appropriate capability is that we can maintain in Australia to conduct the vital work that we need to do in measuring and projecting our future climate.

CHAIR: Okay. I might just go back, if you do not mind, and start at the beginning. With the numbers that you outlined, Ms Bennett—the 100 staff out of 420 in O and A and these 35 recruitments—can you tell the committee how you came up with these precise numbers?

Ms Bennett : I would defer that to Dr Wonhas again.

CHAIR: Dr Wonhas—can you tell the committee where you got these precise numbers from?

Dr Wonhas : Which specific numbers are you referring to?

CHAIR: The 100 staff out of the 420 at Oceans and Atmosphere. And I understand that you had 35 recruitments planned for that division as well.

Dr Wonhas : Yes.

CHAIR: And then you said that there would be 140 staff who would be impacted acutely within Oceans and Atmosphere, and approximately 70 of those would be going. I am just interested in where you got these precise numbers from and the process that led you to get to these numbers.

Dr Wonhas : Certainly. As you would be aware, the whole process started with CSIRO, under its new chief executive, developing its new Strategy 2020. That really outlined the areas that CSIRO wants to invest in into the future and, frankly, the role that CSIRO wants to play in Australia's innovation system. If I could maybe summarise it, it is really for CSIRO to become Australia's innovation catalyst.

As a result of the overall strategy outline, all of the business units have been asked, basically, to present their forward plan in alignment with that strategy. That is a process that played out over the second half of last year: firstly, a meeting where all of the business units presented their plans and then there were individual discussions between the leadership of those groups and the executive.

In those discussions, each of the business units outlined their plans. For example, the Oceans and Atmosphere team outlined growth options in alignment with the new strategy of 35 staff. That is where the 35 number came from. They also outlined a corresponding reduction in other staff areas.

CHAIR: Dr Wonhas, could I stop you there for one second. I am not meaning to be rude, but, in terms of growth options and forward planning, can you be a bit more precise to the committee? Is that, essentially, as we heard in evidence this morning, a case of scientists being asked to justify what revenue they could raise from their research?

Ms Bennett : Senator, if I may just step in there. There were a series of criteria. As we did this process with the business units, they were advised of the types of areas that we would be looking for as they came back with both their growth opportunities and their opportunities for reprioritisation. There were six areas and these were put on the record by Mr Roy at Senate estimates. Just briefly, they were impact value; customer need; market attractiveness; competitiveness; performance, and that is more along the lines of the broader science performance; financial attractiveness, in terms of financial return; and financial investment required in any new growth area.

CHAIR: If I can be simplistic and, please, pull me up if I am being too simplistic: customer needs, financial returns and impact value. It was decided amongst the management at CSIRO that cuts would go to Oceans and Atmosphere because they performed poorly on those five criteria?

Ms Bennett : Across the basket of measures, relatively, yes.

CHAIR: In terms of customer needs, who would be the customers for climate science, as an example?

Ms Bennett : If I may, I will hand back to Dr Wonhas, who has a closer knowledge.

CHAIR: I have been through this with you, Dr Wonhas, but I do want to briefly explore it again now, please.

Dr Wonhas : Sure. The customer for the climate work—that is, obviously, a very difficult question. One of the proxies we use for that is, ultimately, the government investment into the space. That is certainly being looked at as one of a number of different factors to inform that decision.

CHAIR: In terms of impact value, who does the estimates, for example, of sea level rise or East Antarctic Ice Sheet melting and that kind of thing?

Dr Wonhas : As you know, it is very difficult to estimate those types of impacts. It is, frankly, something that we want to get better at. I might come back to that particular question maybe later in the hearing.

CHAIR: It is clear to the committee that a decision was made to reduce staff in these divisions because they did not perform well across these five criteria. But if you cannot measure them properly, how did you come to this conclusion the first place?

Dr Wonhas : If we are taking, as I said before, demand for these services as a function of government investment as a proxy, it is fair to say that there has been a reduction in that, and that has been an indicator that there may be less demand from our numbers of customers for that. I think, on the other hand, it is probably important to go back to the overarching strategy that CSIRO has developed, which is really around improving the innovation performance of CSIRO and, therefore, supporting the nation. I guess that is another role that CSIRO is playing for this nation. It has been one of the driving forces for, at least, some shift in our internal investment towards, as I think the SHIP chairman referred, technology-enabled innovation.

I want to make an important point here. I think, in this debate, it can appear that CSIRO is pulling out of public-good research. I really want to categorically say, 'This is not our intent.' I think public-good research has been absolutely the foundation of what CSIRO has been doing over its very long history. I and I would say several thousand of our employees are committed to continuing to do public-good research. It is probably a fair criticism that we maybe have not articulated that position sufficiently well, especially in the last couple of weeks. But I can assure you that that is something that we are working on and that we endeavour to rectify.

CHAIR: It certainly may be a coincidence that it is public-good research that is getting cut here. There is a perception, if not a reality, that other public-good research may be at risk if it is not making a sufficient commercial return or financial return or its impact value is not assessed. It is something we have heard very consistently in the evidence today.

Senator SINGH: Ms Bennett, you said something earlier in your opening statement about losses at the CSIRO Yarralumla site. Can you expand on what jobs are done there to start with and then how many will be lost.

Ms Bennett : I will refer that to Dr Wonhas.

Dr Wonhas : At Yarralumla we have part of what we call our earth system modelling team. In particular the people I have personally worked with do global and national economic equilibrium modelling. We also have at Yarralumla, if my memory serves me correctly, a number of scientists who help with the integration of renewable energy into our energy system.

Senator SINGH: How many jobs will be lost from there?

Dr Wonhas : We do not have the detailed numbers yet. It might be worthwhile to use this as an opportunity to outline the process that we are currently going through. Dr Lee and his leadership team are currently applying the criteria that Ms Bennett has referred to across the whole of his business unit. They are trying to identify the specific areas that will be impacted on. Once we understand that we will obviously have a discussion with staff in the first instance to make them aware of the specific areas that will be impacted on. At this point in time we believe it is going to happen soon—sometime this month. Following that, we will have more detailed discussions to identify the actual individuals who will sadly be impacted on by this change. That will be happening at the beginning of April. That is the current time line that we are working towards. Once individuals have been identified, we will make every endeavour to find redeployment opportunities within CSIRO. But I think in this particular case we are also exploring a number of different options, including maybe finding other institutional homes for this vital capability.

Senator SINGH: Okay. Did you want to add something to that, Ms Bennett?

Ms Bennett : The three locations are the locations where the two programs predominantly reside. That is 140 staff. As we indicated, we believe that up to 70 of that 140 will ultimately be impacted on. I just wanted to be sure that that was clear.

Senator SINGH: How many HR staff are in the Oceans and Atmosphere division?

Dr Wonhas : I would have to take that question on notice.

Senator SINGH: Ms Bennett, do you have an answer to that?

Ms Bennett : No. If I were to give you an indication it would be in the order of three or so per business unit.

Senator SINGH: Three? Okay.

Ms Bennett : That would be an order of magnitude. Dr Wonhas will take that on notice.

Senator SINGH: Okay. I understand three staff members have resigned out of the Oceans and Atmosphere division.

Ms Bennett : Out of the Oceans and Atmosphere HR division, are you saying?

Senator SINGH: Yes.

Ms Bennett : I am sorry, we don't—

Senator SINGH: If there are potentially only three in there to start with, where does that leave the HR division of Oceans and Atmosphere?

Dr Wonhas : We are aware that we need very good HR support in Oceans and Atmosphere and, frankly, across a number of other parts of the organisation because this is not the only part of CSIRO where changes are being made. As late as yesterday, I discussed with the head of HR to make sure that we have sufficient and capable support to run this process in a fair, efficient and respectful way with staff. I am reasonably confident that it will not fall over because of a lack of HR capability.

Ms Bennett : We run, if you like, an enterprise support model. Whilst staff are nominated to support a different business unit, there is a much larger pool of HR staff to be redeployed to assist in the areas of need.

Senator SINGH: Okay. You will take on notice how many HR staff are in the Oceans and Atmosphere division. Your answer, Dr Wonhas, is that despite three staff members having resigned, you still believe this process will happen with the capability that is required. Is that what you are trying to say, even though potentially there is no-one left in the Oceans and Atmosphere division?

Dr Wonhas : I can assure you it is incorrect to say that there is no-one left. I speak to my HR staff on a daily basis, so I am not quite sure what you are referring to with the three resignations. I am very happy to provide you with detail of HR support in Oceans and Atmosphere.

Senator SINGH: According to material we have seen, Ken Lee told his team in Oceans and Atmosphere in no uncertain terms that he was blindsided by the size of the proposed cuts to the climate science team. Was Ken Lee or, indeed, Paul Hardisty from Land and Water given a chance to put forward alternative proposals or push back on the hundred redundancies?

Dr Wonhas : To outline the detail of what has happened specifically around the 100, there was a meeting of the executive—and I would have to look up the exact date but somewhere in the middle of December—where the plans by the respective business units were discussed. That was the meeting where, as an option, the 100 reduction in Oceans and Atmosphere was identified as an option. I have then called both Dr Lee—

CHAIR: Sorry, could you tell us who identified that as an option?

Dr Wonhas : That was a decision by the executive.

Ms Bennett : If I may, the meeting was on 14 and 15 December. Dr Wonhas has previously described how the chief executive and members of the executive had essentially what is now known as the deep-dive meetings with each of the business units. As a result of that, essentially, each executive director then represented the summary of those meetings in the executive on the 14th and the 15th. There was over a day of discussion amongst the executive as to the relative calibrations—what was heard in one meeting and in another et cetera—and it was through that process that—

CHAIR: Can I ask you about that. My understanding from Senate estimates was that the CSIRO deep dive indicated 35 jobs would be lost, but since then this number has blown out to 100. Can you explain how that happened?

Ms Bennett : As I said, in the original deep-dives information that the Oceans and Atmosphere business unit brought forward, you are correct: that was the scope that they were considering as they discussed with us their initial views of areas they wanted to move from and growth areas they wanted to move to. You are correct, that was the original. As I explained, having gone through each of these with 10 business units, the executive then met for two day on 14 and 15 December. There was discussion about what had come out of each one. The executive then talked about the areas where we felt plans were robust and where other things were perhaps not as well though out or were not as mature, and it was through that process—

CHAIR: That sounds reasonable. So 35 was put up, presumably, as part of the bottom-up process, but the executive then made a decision that it wanted 100.

Ms Bennett : The executive then asked Dr Wonhas to go back. We felt that there was capacity. We provided advice that respective executive directors took back to their business units. In the case you are talking about, you are correct, the executive asked Dr Wonhas to then talk with Dr Lee about the scale of a reduction of 100.

CHAIR: Is the executive the CEO, Larry Marshall, or—

Ms Bennett : The CEO is the leader of the organisation. The executive is the support and the recommending body to him.

Senator SINGH: What was the decision making around increasing it from 35 to 100? What was the basis of that?

Ms Bennett : As I have indicated, we were always going back to those investment criteria. We were always going back to the alignment against CSIRO's strategy that is aligned with our statement of expectation that the minister gave us in February 2015. Those were the foundation pillars, if you like, our statement of expectation, our strategy, in the particular investment criteria. It was through the course of a day and a half to two days. I cannot pin down anything more except to say that it was with those foundations, talking about 10 business units, the relativities of what we had heard, what we felt was very solid, what the business units were saying, some of the extra information that was coming in. It was a day and a half discussion of the executive team.

CHAIR: This is based on those foundation principles.

Ms Bennett : Those, in fact, six investment criteria that I outlined earlier.

CHAIR: Six investment criteria that, with all due respect, you could not measure properly in relation to climate science.

Ms Bennett : I think Dr Wonhas was answering a slightly different question. As we came forward into the deep dives, many of the business units, including Oceans and Atmosphere, were bringing forward their own assessment of performance and what they were feeling was an accurate reflection. So certainly in Oceans and Atmosphere, I think it would be wrong to infer that they were penalised.

There has been a lot of discussion about external revenue. I am fully aware of that. There is full acknowledgement in CSIRO that there are areas where we work where the paying customer, if you like, is the government in the instance as opposed to a third party. The signals, however, do need to be listened to. If the third party is now indicating a withdrawal, as has happened, it does make it very hard for us, essentially, to be the funder of last resort in all the areas of science. So it is one factor but not the entire story.

CHAIR: As an example, would it be fair to say that in the deep dive business units were asked to indicate the likelihood or percentage of winning contracts? You just gave an example but you did not put any flesh on the bones. I understand the Cape Grim contract was entered in at zero per cent, yet they had a contract with the Bureau of Meteorology. Can you confirm or explain that?

Ms Bennett : I certainly do not have any information to be able to confirm that particular matter you are talking about. I will handover to Dr Wonhas, who may have something different. To answer you in general, the information that the business units provided us in the deep dive not only was an assessment of the current year but went to, as you have indicated, Senator, the future as the business unit saw it of contracts and future opportunities. So not just secured contracts but, if you like, what the future was like. I think there was discussion this morning which I wholeheartedly understood that when you are working in partnerships, it is about the enduring partnership not just whether there is a specific contract. I certainly would have anticipated the business unit being able to represent that to us accurately. Dr Wonhas may have more information.

Dr Wonhas : Specifically to your question of what our view is on the Cape Grim contract—and I might also address the other question that I have often heard in this context, which is, what about the NESP system and climate change hub that we are leading?—certainly in my mind, and I think also in Dr Lee's mind, we always anticipated that these activities would be very much ongoing activities. Both of them in different guises have been going on for several decades. Cape Grim is obviously the measurement part, and NESP, while it is a new initiative by the government, builds on the Australian Climate Change Science Program, which has also been a longstanding supporter of CSIRO and frankly climate science more broadly. I think some of the concerns around the zero probability are, to be honest, an artefact of a new system that we have introduced within CSIRO, called O2D, which basically just gives all the teams full visibility of the upcoming projects. I do not know how that has happened. Someone must have entered a zero into that. But I can assure you that certainly in the mind of the leadership that was ongoing activities. As you will have seen in the various statements that have been made, both Cape Grim and the NESP activity are activities that we would very much like to continue to deliver to the nation.

Senator SINGH: But at what standard? At the standard that Cape Grim currently operates at, or at a substandard level?

Dr Wonhas : It is obviously clear that the reason we are having the discussion is that there is a reduction in activity. With regard to the Cape Grim activities, may I say that I am cautiously optimistic that we are progressing with a solution that stakeholders believe will provide adequate measurements.

NESP is another interesting question. It is a very important program, and yes, we are trying to consolidate the delivery of this program, from probably currently 50 staff who have made relatively small contributions for each to a core of an order of magnitude of 20 people. My view is that while that will cause some refinements around the edges I think it is largely doable. Probably the biggest question mark here is around our ability to develop decadal climate projections as part of this program, which was part of the hub's objective. The issue here is that there was never enough investment available to do decadal projections properly, even under the previous arrangements that we had. Frankly, other people in this space have confirmed that to me. So really the decision for better or worse that we have taken here is to basically acknowledge that in the current environment it would be next to impossible to develop that and therefore rather focus on the core of the activities, which I do hope we can deliver.

Senator SINGH: Ms Bennett, just to go back to your answer to the decision making from the executive team in relation to the job cuts out of Oceans and Atmosphere, you said I think that one of the factors was the external earnings ratio issue and that the executive team had made a decision obviously that they wanted to increase the external earnings ration, and this was not being borne out of the land and water division, for example. Therefore, they have decided to cut jobs in those areas.

Ms Bennett : I said nothing about external earnings ratios.

Senator SINGH: You mentioned the external revenue that came out of Land and Water, for example, and that being significantly less, wasn't it? It had been reduced.

Ms Bennett : I mentioned that under Oceans and Atmosphere some of our co-funding has been reduced. Some of the witnesses this morning were also indicating and confirming that some of the co-funding has been reduced. I indicated that that is clearly one factor. It goes not only to the viability of the science but also to whether the CSIRO can stand in and almost be the funder of last resort. Dr Wonhas has explained the lack of viability of some of the programs. Again, the witnesses this morning were referring to the NESP, for instance, having less funding than its predecessor. For clarity, that is what I was referring to.

Senator SINGH: Did the executive team make a decision that they wanted to increase their external earnings ratio?

Ms Bennett : No. Again, I would like to put a few facts on the table, if I may, about external earnings because there has been a lot of discussion about it and in the media. In the last five years, up to and including the 2014-15 year, we have generated between 37 per cent and 41 per cent of our total revenue from non-appropriation sources, the so-called external earnings, excluding one-off WLAN licensing. So 37 per cent to 41 per cent is frankly very consistent. In absolute terms that is somewhere between $460 million and $500 million out of $1.25 billion to $1.29 billion. I think that needs to be seen in a very important perspective.

When we look then at co-investment, which is a subset of total external earnings, co-investment raised a new sort of co-funding model—if you like $1 from CSIRO and $1 from someone else—as a percentage of total revenue over the same five-year period. It has been 34 per cent, 33 per cent, 34 per cent, 32 per cent and 31 per cent. In the four-year forward estimates, it is running at 33 per cent to 34 per cent. It is incorrect to assert that we have been driving—which I think is a very strong word—an increase in external revenue and external earnings. It is a really important part for us to maintain the scale and the quantity of our research. You have heard that this morning, and we certainly acknowledge that fact. But I think to try and indicate that our decisions are based on a drive for external revenue, the history does not bear it out and nor do our forward budgets.

Senator SINGH: Why was the board not consulted earlier? What is the process for consulting the board? I understand it was consulted about the specifics of these cuts two days before Dr Marshall's all staff email went out.

Ms Bennett : If I may take you back, we indicated previously at Senate estimates that at a board meeting on 8 December the board were given an update by the chief executive following the deep-dive program. The executives had finished the deep-dive program—the individual 10 or so meetings—and Dr Marshall gave an update to the board essentially on the directions coming after that and the initial impressions, noting that the CSIRO executive board meeting was held a week later. It was certainly not what I would call a package decision. It was reflections and indicative directions. In that, certainly Oceans and Atmosphere and Land and Water were indicated as being two of the areas where the chief executive indicated there would need to be some deep discussion.

Senator SINGH: Was that briefing the same as the briefing note that went to the minister?

Ms Bennett : No. That was in early December. The board meeting was held on 8 December. The chief executive then spoke informally with the chairman through the course of January and, I believe, again, we have put that on record at the previous Senate estimates. The board was formerly advised, in a written sense, of the discrete outcomes which then became wrapped up in the staff announcement. You are correct: on Tuesday, 2 February, with that email announcement going out to the staff on 4 February.

Senator SINGH: What is the process for the board actually agreeing to the proposal?

Ms Bennett : In a strict sense, the board has a charter and the charter with management absolutely requires—we would anyway—that the CSIRO chief executive consults with the board on matters of major change, which is what we did. We did it in December. We did it through phone discussions between the CEO and the board chairman, and, as I said, there was the informal advice provided to the board on the 2nd.

Senator SINGH: You said that the 8 December briefing was about options.

Ms Bennett : It was about directions.

Senator SINGH: So it was not about a formal proposal?

Ms Bennett : No, it was not at that point in time.

Senator SINGH: That was two days before Dr Marshall's all-staff email. I am trying to understand what the process is for the board to actually agree to this proposal.

Ms Bennett : The process is the one we followed. The process is for the board to be informed and advised, which they were, in full consultation through the meeting on the 8th through the discussions from the chief executive to the chairman through January and then through the formal advice to the board on 2 February.

Senator SINGH: Does this move by the CSIRO strengthen or weaken the commitments we made at the Paris conference last year?

Ms Bennett : I will let Dr Wonhas answer that.

Dr Wonhas : It is very difficult to categorically answer that question. We certainly had discussions with the minister and the Department of the Environment, which I understand is ultimately the custodian of Australia's commitment. From a climate modelling point of view, obviously part of the Paris accord is another round of IPCC projections that we obviously endeavour in an appropriate way to be part of into the future. As you know, the other very strong breakthrough at Paris is that there is a at least global aspiration to limit temperature increases ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve those outcomes we obviously need a lot of mitigation technologies and approaches. That is certainly an area in which the CSIRO is continuing to make, I would hope, a very strong contribution.

There is also a strong focus on adaptation, given that there is probably some impact from climate change that at this point is now unavoidable. As we have also said, that is an area that we are very actively pursuing. In fact, given all of the discussions and the feedback we have got—both internal and external discussions—we are actually very actively considering establishing a dedicated group that looks at both climate services as well as adaptation work. All in all, as one of the many contributors to Australia's response I hope that we can make a very meaningful contribution to what is the Paris accord.

Senator SINGH: Your answer seemed very precarious—you could not say either way. Yet we have heard evidence thus far, and there has been a lot of commentary from scientists all over the world, including editorials from the New York Times, that these decisions by the CSIRO are going to impact on our ability to fulfil the commitments that were made by the Prime Minister at the Paris conference last year. How do you argue today that you cannot answer that question, when there has been an overwhelming level of response saying that this is going to be detrimental?

Dr Wonhas : The reason I have tried to answer in a balanced way is that I do understand that the reduction of investment in the climate science space will reduce, but certainly not eliminate, our capability to contribute to things like the IPCC process. So that is maybe a down-tick. However, I very firmly believe that we can do a very meaningful contribution in the adaptation and mitigation space, and that is what we are driving towards. That is kind of like the up-tick. It is hard to distinguish what the net result is. That is why [inaudible] between those three areas.

Senator McKIM: Dr Wonhas, I have some questions about ACCESS, the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator. Would you accept the premise, as I think you just said, that we are likely to have reduced capacity to participate in some of the matters flowing from Paris, including the IPCC projections? Would you also accept the premise that maintaining and enhancing ACCESS to optimal levels will also be more difficult under the proposed realignment?

Dr Wonhas : First, I will just re-state what I think I have said in a previous Senate hearing. I absolutely believe that Australia needs access to a world-class climate model, and that is called ACCESS. As I said before as well, given the funding envelope that is available we are currently working through what is actually the best possible way to deliver that outcome. To answer your question, I suspect the outcome will be that, frankly, we will get access to a climate model in what I would call very much a delivery mode, where we can run and operate it. We probably have less blue-sky science around that. In the long run that might be to the detriment of that modelling. However, given the constraints situation that we have, we can also take some more creative approaches and deepen the already existing relationship with the UK Met Office. In this space, as you probably know, we are relying heavily on the UK's Unified Model for the atmospheric remodelling and then provide particularly land surface and ocean modelling and the sea ice modelling into that. So we focus on the unique parts of the Southern Hemisphere, which is obviously the Southern Ocean dynamics and I think the CABLE modelling, which does the land surface interaction, which I understand is globally a very good model, and to strengthen the linkages to the development cycle that the UK is doing on the atmospheric model. That might actually be an outcome where we can still participate in some of the global development while making our—

CHAIR: Can I ask you to clarify that. Are you saying that you are looking to outsource the housing for the major climate model? Have you been talking to international institutions about housing these facilities?

Dr Wonhas : It depends on your definition of 'outsource', but I do not think you can just outsource a climate model. We will require people in Australia who can actually run, modify, adapt and interpret the output of that model. But I think it is certainly quite appropriate, given the current circumstances, that we might draw heavily on the deep expertise that exists, for example, in the UK and then adapt it to our circumstances, but that will require a local capability. In terms of discussions, I have not had any discussions yet with the UK. I think that would also be something that would have to be done in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology, who, together with us, are in an existing partnership with the UK.

Senator McKIM: I want to follow up a couple of matters in that response. Firstly, you have said that you have not had any discussions with the UK bureau of meteorology but are you aware of anyone else within CSIRO who has had discussions with the UK bureau around ACCESS and the potential for—if you do not like the word 'outsourcing' that is fine—the UK Met Office to play a more active role in the maintenance, operation and enhancement of ACCESS?

Dr Wonhas : I can certainly confirm that a closer relationship with the UK has been a topic of discussion. I think we have attempted to arrange a meeting with the UK Met Office but to my knowledge that has not happened yet.

Senator McKIM: Within the discussions on the closer relationship, are you aware of any aspect of those discussions that specifically relates to ACCESS?

Dr Wonhas : ACCESS would obviously be the focal point of those discussions around collaboration. I do not know where you are going with this. I think, in the end, having a good collaboration with the UK on climate modelling is a good thing. What I hope we can do is maybe add to the hybrid vigour of models by contributing a few unique Southern Hemisphere and Australian contributions, in particular, as I said, the ocean modelling component and the land surface modelling component.

Senator McKIM: Where I am going with this is to suggest that this is a model—and I am talking about ACCESS here—that has been substantively developed by Australia. It now seems as if, due to decisions that have been made within CSIRO, we are now looking at diluting our ownership—at least intellectual ownership—of the model and potentially diluting our capacity to understand the impacts of climate change on a whole range of areas in Australia, including all of the things that ACCESS has helped us with to date. You know as well as I do how important they are to Australia's future.

Dr Wonhas : I will maybe take a few minutes to talk through the three major components of ACCESS, because ACCESS is really the suite of models that Australia is using to do everything ranging from weather forecasting on a day-to-day basis round to climate. While there have been a lot of components that Australia has helped to develop and improve, it has always relied very, very heavily on the UK's model. For the weather forecasting that is done primarily by the bureau, they are actually using the modelling stack that includes the UK atmosphere model and the UK land surface model, JULES.

The Bureau of Meteorology, for their seasonal forecasting, have just moved to a modelling suite that relies much more on the UK Met Office. They use the UK Met Office Unified Model for the atmosphere, they use JULES for the land surface, and they use the UK ocean model, called NEMO.

The third component, which is I think what we are largely talking about here, which is the climate modelling, again relies on the UK atmosphere model. But then we are coupling into that the CABLE land surface model and the GFDL model. The GFDL, or MOM, model is something that is of critical importance much more broadly than just in climate work, and that is something that we absolutely maintain. It is also of high relevance for the Navy. That was, for instance, the model that underpinned the search for MH370 et cetera. As I said before, the CABLE land surface model is a very good model. I know that a lot of our university partners, in particular the ARC Centre of Excellence, have heavily geared themselves up to working with that model, and we are certainly endeavouring to maintain that model.

Senator McKIM: Dr Wonhas, can I just put to you my understanding of where discussions are currently at with the UK Met Office, based on my interpretation of your evidence, and then perhaps you could correct me if I have got it wrong. I understand that there have been discussions with the UK Met Office around a closer relationship between CSIRO and the UK Met Office, and that ACCESS has been the priority topic in those discussions—is that accurate?

Dr Wonhas : There are ongoing discussions between the CSIRO, the bureau and the Met Office around the development of ACCESS, because we are actually in a longstanding, ongoing partnership. I certainly personally have not had a discussion yet with the UK Met Office around how we can maybe further deepen this relationship to ensure Australia is even better plugged into the further development of, in particular, the UK atmosphere model, but it is certainly something that we aim to do—to at least have the discussion and understand this as an option and what it would mean.

Senator McKIM: Have the discussions been driven in any way by the decisions that we are all here discussing today, to realign the priorities of the CSIRO?

Dr Wonhas : It is certainly fair to say that the realignment decisions have catalysed looking at this option very carefully. I think that, on its own merits, it might actually have some merit because—just to put this into perspective—the UK, as far as I understand it, has a team of about 300 people working on these types of issues. That is, as you can appreciate, at a scale that is far beyond what Australia currently has. If we can benefit from that investment that the UK is making to gain a greater understanding of what our future climate might look like then I think that would be beneficial. Obviously we need to bring something to the table, and I think we can. As I said, there are some areas where Australia is truly world-class—in particular, on the land-surface modelling and the oceans modelling—and I would hope the UK would value that and, in return, maybe give us a real box seat in terms of the future development and future investment of their resources.

CHAIR: I am going to move over to Senator Brown, but just before I do I want to clarify: it sounds like you are claiming you have to be able to continue with everything on drastically reduced resources—is that correct? Or are there going to be any specific aspects of the ACCESS model that will not be continued? I am a bit unclear.

Dr Wonhas : Firstly, I do not think that I can credibly claim that everything will continue. There will be a reduction in activity. I think that, as I said before, with the current investment we will probably move ACCESS more into a delivery-mode model where we can still run and operate the model but probably we will not have the resources to do blue-sky science around that. And that is a loss.

CHAIR: What do you mean by 'blue-sky science' exactly?

Dr Wonhas : The thing with blue-sky science is: there are a lot of clever people out there who have some very good and creative ideas on, ultimately, how to improve our climate projections, so it is very difficult to encapsulate that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I just want to go back to the board meeting where the formal decision was made. I think you said it was on the 2nd—

Ms Bennett : There was an informal one in December and then on 2 February the board were notified with what was essentially a written distribution of information. There was not a meeting.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So there was not a meeting?

Ms Bennett : There was not a meeting, but it was a formal distribution to the board, so it stands as properly constituted.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So, essentially, it was emailed to board members—

Ms Bennett : And—I am trying to find the right word—a response followed up so that it was assured that they had read it, and the response was received by the board office.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So they had to vote? How does it work?

Ms Bennett : I do not believe there was a vote. There were asked to comment and provide feedback, if I remember the wording correctly. I could take that on notice to confirm.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How long does that process last? You have sent the email out to ask for comment or feedback—

Ms Bennett : For feedback and comment, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do they have an hour, two hours or 10 days?

Ms Bennett : Again, I would have to take on notice the various specifics of that email from the board secretariat to the board. But it is always done with sufficient time.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is it like a fait accompli? You know, 'Here's our decision and now we're just informing the board.'

Ms Bennett : As I have indicated, it certainly was confirming the decision and the actions that were going to be taken. But, as I have indicated, there had been a discussion in December, so the board was fully aware of the directions we were going and the chief executive and the chairman—

Senator CAROL BROWN: You said that that was actually an informal discussion on 8 December.

Ms Bennett : That was within the bounds of the board meeting. That discussion in December was within the formal board meeting. What I said was that at the stage the process was at, it was not a decision but an update direction setting on where we were going.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So there was no need for a decision by the board?

Ms Bennett : The chairman and the chief executive came together and discussed it through January, and that is correct. The board was then provided an update with the decision and asked to give feedback.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you take on notice, first of all, how long they were given to provide their comments or feedback, if feedback or comments were made and by how many. How many board members are there?

Ms Bennett : I would have to check because we have had new members coming off and on. I am going to say, at that point in time, seven. But, again, we have had—

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many are new members?

Ms Bennett : David Thodey, the chairman, was, I think, formally appointed—and again, I will get you the precise dates—in October. Brian Watson was appointed just before the new chairman. Dr Edwina Cornish was appointed, I am thinking, late November or early December.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So those three of the seven are quite new to the board?

Ms Bennett : They are new members to the board, indeed.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And the other four?

Ms Bennett : There is Shirley In't Veld, Hutch Ranck, Peter Riddles and Dr Eileen Doyle. Again, I will just have to check Dr Doyle's precise timing. I know she finished in February. I will just have to double-check. I believe she was still a formal board member at the time that this resolution went out, but I would have to take that on notice. And, of course, Dr Marshall is a board member.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I just want to go back. Initially, 35 staff were identified from the Oceans and Atmosphere division as possibly being put forward—

Ms Bennett : In their original deep-dive discussions, that is correct.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So that came from Dr Lee?

Ms Bennett : That is right. He is the head of the business unit.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But the 100 figure came back from the executive?

Ms Bennett : Correct.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And that went back to Dr Lee?

Ms Bennett : Correct.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What was his reaction?

Ms Bennett : I will defer to Dr Wonhas, who had the conversation.

Dr Wonhas : I think I got cut off before. After the executive team meeting on, I think, as Ms Bennett said, 15 and 16 December I called Dr Lee and asked him to consider the option of a total reduction of 100 FTE and I told him what the implications of that option would be in addition to, obviously, the plan that he had put forward. Then there was the Christmas break. Following that, I had a meeting in early January—again, I can get you the date—where I discussed this topic with Dr Lee and we agreed on a small team from his core leadership team to work on that question to draw out the implications. He then commenced work on that with his team, and those details flowed into the meeting of the executive that was held at the end of January.

Senator CAROL BROWN: My understanding is that the option that the executive and, consequently, you put to him—not his option—was to look at 100 FTEs. What did he come back with?

Dr Wonhas : That was correct. I have asked him to articulate what might be the most impacted areas, the staffing consequences, the consequences for our external relationships et cetera if the executive were to choose that option. He provided that information back to the executive. He also attended the executive team meeting in January to provide further input for the discussion.

CHAIR: On a point of clarification, when you say he provided that feedback to the executive, did he do this by telephone or email? If it was via email, was it via private email or CSIRO email?

Dr Wonhas : There was documentation prepared that covered a lot of the financial and staff impacts, because I think that is often best done in written form. I think, ultimately, that information ended up in the official records of CSIRO. I might also refer to what you have just alluded to regarding use of private emails. Yes, private emails have been used as part of this planning process. We wanted to ensure that, frankly, this information stays within a small group of people to not cause distress and concern among staff. What we have subsequently done is that any relevant emails and documentation have been transferred to the official records of the organisation so that they are not lost. I hope I have answered your question.

Ms Bennett : I believe Dr Lee was on the video, if my memory serves me correctly.

Dr Wonhas : I think that is right. I think Ken was on the video, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is your evidence that people involved were told to use private emails?

Dr Wonhas : Honestly, I cannot remember the exact way this came about. What I do remember is that in the first document that I sent I encouraged people to use password protection, just to ensure that the information remained in, basically, a small circle of people. You need to understand that this information at that point in time was genuinely an option and, as we see from the debate that we are having now, it is obviously a very distressing option to consider. Frankly, if that option had gone away, I think it would have been in everyone's interest to make sure that people did not get unnecessarily distressed by it.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Did you always use your CSIRO emails or did you use private emails to discuss this issue?

Dr Wonhas : I predominately used my CSIRO email for work matters. In this context, on occasion I have used my private email. As I said before, I have already transferred all of the work related emails that I have received from my private email, for record keeping, into the broader organisational system so that that information does not get lost.

Senator CAROL BROWN: First of all, I would still like an answer as to whether people were told to use private emails. Also, what did you change between using your CSIRO email and your private email to discuss this issue?

Dr Wonhas : I am trying to remember it. I think someone had suggested to use private emails to increase the security of the communication and keep it in a small circle. I think most of the discussion was actually on documents exchanged on the CSIRO system because, frankly, that was a more convenient way, and certainly the use of protected documents at least provides some protection against undue—

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you know who suggested that private emails be used?

Dr Wonhas : I cannot remember that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Does CSIRO have a protocol around using CSIRO emails in business that is carried out at CSIRO?

Ms Bennett : There is a policy about use of the CSIRO systems and network.

CHAIR: Is it common for executives to use private email to communicate?

Ms Bennett : No.

CHAIR: It is not common? Part of the problem here, Dr Wonhas, is that the Senate has an order for the production of documents relating especially to the 27 January executive meeting and what transpired. Clearly, if private emails have been used, it is going to be very difficult for us to access information. Of course, it is our job to scrutinise these kinds of things to make sure due process is followed. It is very concerning that there is no transparency around this if private emails have been used.

Dr Wonhas : I appreciate your role. As I said before, I have provided all of the private emails in relation to this matter into our corporate systems, so I can assure you that information has not disappeared—it is available.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How was that carried out?

CHAIR: And who else has done that?

Dr Wonhas : All of the members of my team have done that.

Senator SINGH: Could you also provide on notice the policy of the use of private and CSIRO emails as part of the operations?

Ms Bennett : Yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How was it carried out. Did you just do it yourself?

CHAIR: And could I ask if this occurred after the Senate put through an order for the production of documents?

Dr Wonhas : Yes.

CHAIR: It did occur after we put through an order for the production of documents?

Dr Wonhas : Yes.

CHAIR: Okay, so we caught you out, basically.

I would like to change the line of questioning back to the FTEs. We only have another 10 minutes or so. Why 100, and not 105 or 110? Or 95? Where did the 100 come from?

Ms Bennett : If I may answer? Then I am sure that Dr Wonhas might want to say something. Essentially, that was, in some sense, the difference between the executive meeting asking Dr Wonhas to go back to Dr Ken Lee with an indicative. If, through that discussion, Dr Ken Lee had come back and said, if you like, 'I'm looking at the program; I'm looking at the work and there is a clearer natural boundary at 90 or 110,' then that was essentially part of the discussion.

Senator CAROL BROWN: You are suggesting that Dr Lee, when given the ultimatum of 100 FTEs did not come back with any other suggestion?

Ms Bennett : I certainly would not use the word 'ultimatum'. It went out of the executive meeting in January. The executive asked Dr Wonhas—sorry, in December—

Senator CAROL BROWN: Perhaps I could ask—

Ms Bennett : to go back to Dr Ken Lee. The figure was 100. Dr Wonhas is an experienced executive member, and understands that if the option came as 95 or 90 then, as I said and as you indicated, with appropriate explanation, that was what the executive would have discussed in January.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Perhaps I can ask Dr Wonhas that question? In your discussions with Dr Lee, did he come back with a different figure?

Dr Wonhas : I asked Dr Lee to do—

Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand what you asked him to do—

Dr Wonhas : To answer your specific question: he has not come back with a different number. What I have asked him to do is basically to map out what the implications are of getting to 100, and then the executive can provide an overlay of whether this is or is not acceptable to the organisation overall, and if it makes sense—given all the other investment areas where, obviously, these resources will flow into.

Senator SINGH: I have been made aware that on 3 February Ken Lee said that all of the research program 2—that is Earth Systems Assessment—would go except for aerosols and air quality. All else would go, including ACCESS modelling and Cape Grim. Why would Ken Lee say that?

Ms Bennett : Sorry, can you clarify the date, senator?

Senator SINGH: It was 3 February.

Ms Bennett : So 3 February was before Dr Marshall's staff announcement and it was before the discussions that Dr Wonhas and Dr Ken Lee had with stakeholders. We do need to recognise the time progression. As I said, I stand by the evidence I have given. It was before Dr Marshall's announcement, which was one of the issues we had about information coming out—unintended information that was open to misinterpretation by staff—and prior to the discussions we had with stakeholders. As we have committed to the Senate, we are in open discussion to try to find satisfactory outcomes to some of these questions.

Certainly, I would not be standing by something that had, essentially, come out of a staff message very early on in the process when we are still continuing to work through it.

Senator SINGH: Have you heard of Michael Whittle?

Ms Bennett : I have not.

Dr Wonhas : I have. He is the HR manager in Oceans and Atmosphere, if I remember correctly.

Senator SINGH: That is correct. Is he leaving the CSIRO?

Dr Wonhas : Yes, he is resigning next week.

Senator SINGH: He is resigning next week. So he is the HR manager of the Oceans and Atmosphere division and he is resigning next week? I asked you earlier about how many staff were in HR of O and A and you did not have an answer for that. I understand that there are only four HR staff, and three are leaving. So that leaves one HR staff member in the O and A division, during a time when you are cutting 100 jobs in this division.

Ms Bennett : If I can repeat my evidence: we run an enterprise-wide model for human resources. There are human resources staff nominally allocated to different business units, and the head of HR has the absolute ability to move them to where they are needed in terms of priority and timing. I have no doubt that that is what he will be doing.

Dr Wonhas : And I will also repeat that in this specific case I have spoken to both my HR manager, Lindell Broadfoot, and the head of HR, Trevor Heldt, to ensure that we are backfilling this position. Certainly both of them have assured me that we will have the resources and capability required to manage this process in a respectful and professional way.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is it possible to get a copy of Dr Lee's report about the implications of 100 FTEs going from Oceans and Atmosphere?

Dr Wonhas : A range of different documents have been compiled that look at the financial implications as well as the staffing implications, but obviously what Dr Lee also provided to the executive was the briefing that he provided by video that both Ms Bennett and I have referred to.

CHAIR: Along the same line of questioning, will you be complying with the order for the production of documents?

Ms Bennett : Perhaps I could just clarify: a Senate order?

CHAIR: A Senate order, yes.

Ms Bennett : A Senate order is a matter for the minister and the senator to respond to.

CHAIR: They have responded and said they will not be. You do not have time to be distracted by these kinds of things.

Ms Bennett : With respect, I can only repeat that it is not for us to comply with that order.

CHAIR: I understand.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I did not get an answer to my question. Can we get a copy of Dr Lee's implications that he put together for you, or for the executive, on 100 positions going from Oceans and Atmosphere?

Ms Bennett : I will take it on notice. I believe Dr Wonhas did say that he would be able to bring back essentially the summary that Dr Lee presented to the executive team in that meeting in January.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Okay. I have just one last quick question. Was the same process used in terms of the Land and Water division?

Ms Bennett : The broad process, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So, there was an initial figure of staff numbers?

Ms Bennett : Correct.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you tell me what that was?

Ms Bennett : Land and Water proposed a reduction of 55 FTEs, I believe, in its original submission.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Would that figure go up, or down, or—

Ms Bennett : Where it has rested—and I would have to check—is at 100 reduction, but with about 55 recruitment, so a net of 50-ish. But I would have to take it on notice to confirm that.

Dr Wonhas : That is correct.

CHAIR: Perhaps I could just clarify for the record: our understanding was that Dr Wonhas has prepared documents to comply with an order for the production of documents and that they would be available by 17 March. Can you confirm whether you have actually prepared those documents, Dr Wonhas?

Dr Wonhas : I have certainly provided all of the relevant documents to our internal documenting unit.

CHAIR: And could you also, on notice, provide to the committee who it was that issued the directive to use private emails and whether Dr Marshall also had private emails that will be included in the order for the production of documents? You can take that on notice.

Ms Bennett : We will take it on notice.

CHAIR: I have just a couple of quick questions before we finish—to you, Ms Bennett, as chief financial officer. On redundancy costs, you have made the announcement that the business units will need to pick up most of the costs of redundancies. Firstly, could you clarify whether that is true? And when did the CSIRO executive team discuss how to pay for the costs of redundancy for 150 staff?

Ms Bennett : I noted the reporting of a conversation, and I state categorically that I had not spoken with Dr Lee specifically regarding the funding redundancy costs for these changes. Where I believe maybe the conversation originated is that we have previously in reduction indicated to the Senate that we have a constant level of around 150 redundancies each year. That happens naturally where we are finishing projects or we are moving away from a certain capability and it is low level. Generally at that point each business unit manages the redundancy within its mix of attrition and recruitment. However, on some of the more recent larger reductions, such as the IRP program and the 2014-15 research measures reduction, we brought those redundancy costs to, if you like, a central management perspective, and that would be where 'corporate', not the business unit, funds them—noting, of course, that all money ultimately is the enterprise's anyway.

CHAIR: When was this discussed? When did the executive team discuss how to pay for the 350 staff?

Ms Bennett : It has not been specifically discussed. In terms of me bringing the budget, we are still in that budget process. At the moment what we are doing—

CHAIR: [inaudible] before this?

Ms Bennett : Certainly what we are doing at the moment in the stage we are at is that each business unit is identifying its estimated redundancy costs, and at the moment we are asking the business units to give us clarity on that, and we are hoping we can take it forward as a corporate program.

Senator SINGH: How does the HR unit of Oceans and Atmosphere do that when there is only one person left in it?

Ms Bennett : As I have indicated, there has in the past been more than one person, and the HR group is a larger group of some 40 or 50 people—I do not know the precise number—and collectively they will perform the function the organisation needs, and the HR staff will work with Finance, with the business unit leaders, and bring forward that information.

CHAIR: Just to clarify: you are trying to estimate this cost, but you do not know what it is going to be at the moment, for the total 350.

Ms Bennett : It is becoming clearer as the conversations go on.

CHAIR: Can you give us an idea of what we are looking at?

Ms Bennett : At the moment, as we indicated at Senate estimates, we believe that the program over two years could still be in the order of the 350 redundancies across the entire organisation.

CHAIR: And what will that cost in dollar terms?

Ms Bennett : At the moment, in the budgeting sense, we are still budgeting at the average for the organisation, which, based on our history over the past two years, is somewhere between $95,000 and $100,000—

CHAIR: Per redundancy?

Ms Bennett : Yes. When we get down to named officer then of course we can see how it balances highs and lows.

CHAIR: And you can confirm that you have not requested BU leaders to contribute to the costs of these redundancies?

Ms Bennett : I can certainly say that I have not. I cannot say how it is being—

CHAIR: Has anyone else suggested it?

Ms Bennett : Well, no, but I think what it alerted me to is that business unit leaders are perhaps looking for clarity, and so we will certainly take that on board within our own organisation through the budget process.

CHAIR: CSIRO corporate has never said that they do not have the money for this?

Ms Bennett : I have never had the conversation reported through the media with Dr Ken Lee, and I confirmed that with him, and he and I are both sure that we never had that conversation in relation to this current round of redundancies.

CHAIR: So, you do not have any estimation of what Oceans and Atmosphere will have to pay, if anything at all, towards these redundancies?

Ms Bennett : As we have indicated, the figures that we think—if we went with the 100 that we indicated in our opening statement—for Oceans and Atmosphere, then that figure would be in the order—

CHAIR: Times $100,000.

Ms Bennett : Times give or take $100,000, that is correct.

CHAIR: But you can tell us here that you are not expecting that they are going to have to pay for their redundancies themselves?

Ms Bennett : I am telling you that we are going through our budgeting process, and I am looking at it.

CHAIR: So they may have to pay for their own redundancies.

Ms Bennett : No, please, I do not want to say either way, because it will be misconstrued. We are in the budgeting process, we are fully aware of the pressures on the business units.

CHAIR: The reason I am asking this is not to be tricky or try to catch you out; it is because they are already having funding pressures, and if they have to pay for their own redundancies then those who are left are clearly going to be holding the baby.

Ms Bennett : I appreciate that.

CHAIR: That is why I am asking. I am not trying to be—

Ms Bennett : I know. I fully appreciate the question and the intention.

CHAIR: My last question, perhaps to Dr Wonhas: in terms of the documents we would like to see around the 27 January executive meeting, and any feedback from Mr Lee, you did mention earlier that he had consultation, that he had gone away with his group of team leaders, and that had included consultation with stakeholders, such as the AAD, the Bureau of Meteorology and others that we have all heard evidence from. I would be very interested for someone to talk to the kind of evidence we have been hearing in the committee—the very negative evidence about implications of these potential cuts to their business models, and the work they do was actually formally presented to the executive on 27 January and of course then passed on to the board in February. That consultation process presumably occurred, but no-one has been able to talk to it, from the evidence that we have heard.

Ms Bennett : I believe we could now clarify that consultation process. I do not believe Dr Wonhas would have been doing it prior to the January executive meeting.

Dr Wonhas : Just to clarify, we need to distinguish between pre- and post-announcements. Pre-announcement, there was very limited consultation; there were some in-depth consultations with senior officers in the Department of the Environment and there were high-level discussions with the Bureau of Meteorology, but I do not think there were any other consultations on this specific matter. Obviously, post-announcement, there have been some consultations and I acknowledge some of our stakeholders feel they have not been consulted enough. Frankly, I am sorry about that, and we hope we can at least rectify this.

CHAIR: I am interested in the repercussions of this—whether it is PhD students who need supervisors, whether it is AAD which is conducting critical work around the East Antarctic icesheet. I am wondering why these things were not considered by both the executive and the board when they were making decisions about cutting 100 people from Oceans and Atmosphere. The repercussions of these decisions, whether or not they were intended or ignored, are nevertheless important. I would like to see what evidence there was for a discussion of the broader consequences of this.

Dr Wonhas : Take Oceans and Atmosphere as one example. It is a good example of maybe where we also fell over in some sense. We very clearly had an internal discussion about the potential impacts on the Australian Antarctic Division. Our conclusion was, frankly, that there would be minimal impact on the AAD. We are, as you rightly point out, co-supervising a number of students together with the University of Tasmania. We obviously want to maintain that, but there may be, in some cases, changes of supervisors. Otherwise, we did not expect any significant impact. That is probably the reason in the consultations to date we have not focused on them. I acknowledge, given the uncertainty around this, the AAD might have felt a little left out, but we have now clarified that and we can work together with them, as we have done today, to make sure there is ongoing collaboration.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Wonhas and Ms Bennett. There may be questions on notice from the committee and, if so, we would like to have them returned by 15 March.

Ms Bennett : I will have to check the list of questions to establish that with the people who would be providing that information. We will do our very best.

CHAIR: Thank you to your cooperation. I would like to be a fly on the wall for the report Mr Lee did about the potential consequences of this. It would be interesting to see if they were predicted.