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Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Page: 5500

Dr EMERSON (RankinMinister for Trade and Competitiveness, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy) (16:06): I will speak in relation to Professor Megan Clark and then I will go back and seek to answer the question that was asked of me. Obviously Professor Clark has been reappointed. She will remain as the chief executive—

Mrs Mirabella: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My question was not about reappointment; it was about performance bonuses and how they were calculated.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Hall ): The minister will answer the member for Indi's question or maybe send it to her in writing.

Dr EMERSON: If the shadow minister wants to take the opportunity to gobble up time by raising frivolous points of order, I am happy to accommodate that.

Mrs Mirabella: Just answer the question.

Dr EMERSON: I was seeking to answer the question. Yet again, the shadow minister is more interested in not gaining information about our great scientific organisation and to use the CSIRO as a political plaything.

Mrs Mirabella: No; just give me the answers. You do not know the answers, do you?

Dr EMERSON: I was giving you the answer—

Mrs Mirabella: No, you were not.

Dr EMERSON: before you sought to utilise more of the little remaining time—

Mrs Mirabella: Well, go on; go ahead.

Dr EMERSON: This is the sort of attitude that we get from the coalition. There is an opportunity here to ask questions and get answers to them. Instead of doing that, because she thinks that there is someone watching and there might be a political point to be gained, she has sought to use up the short time that has been available. Why is the time short? It is because of the manoeuvres that are going on the House of Representatives chamber right now and no doubt will continue to go on.

The process has been followed. It has been a correct and proper process to ensure the position is filled in a timely manner. There was a global search—

Mrs Mirabella: Deputy Speaker, with all due respect, the minister may not be acquainted with the material but he should say that. There was no question regarding the reappointment of the CEO; the question was with regard to performance based pay. Does he not understand the question? Does he want me to repeat it?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Indi will please resume her seat. Minister, would you answer the question, please?

Dr EMERSON: I said to the shadow minister that I would obtain the information about the performance bonus processes. I would say in relation to performance bonus processes that they are clear, and I would hate to imagine that the shadow minister is seeking to impugn the reputation of Professor Megan Clark.

Mrs Mirabella: No, I am asking a question.

Dr EMERSON: So why the interest in the performance bonuses and about my involvement in performance bonuses? It can only be to malign the CEO of the CSIRO, and I think that is terrible.

Mrs Mirabella: I ask the minster to withdraw that. Merely asking questions to keep this government accountable is not maligning anyone; it is doing out job. Withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Indi, please resume your seat. Minister, please continue.

Dr EMERSON: In relation to bullying and harassment at the CSIRO, I am advised that the CSIRO has in place a range of measures to address situations where concerns are expressed about the behaviour of staff. CSIRO has engaged Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce, former Commonwealth Ombudsman, as an independent investigator, assisted by law firm HWL Ebsworth, to review individual allegations and to identify opportunities for improvement in the organisation's processes for dealing with staff and welfare issues. Professor Pearce will provide his phase 1 reports to the CSIRO by 31 July.

It is, at least, ironic that the coalition are asking questions about harassment because we are implementing key recommendations from a report, through amendments to the Fair Work Act, to provide an individual right of recourse for victims of workplace bullying. The coalition said they would support the government's provisions. That has not happened. They have once again backflipped on a commitment that they gave, choosing to play politics rather than to protect vulnerable workers from bullying.

So, the coalition have demonstrated they cannot be trusted on workplace relations, They come here crying crocodile tears about workplace bullying or allegations thereof in the CSIRO, then actively vote down workplace bullying provisions. It just shows that the whole point of this exercise is trying to gain political points. I do not mind if they seek to do that against the government—that is fine—but to do it against the CSIRO and to attack the CSIRO CEO, Dr Megan Clark, is completely unconscionable.