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Wednesday, 5 May 1993
Page: 147


Senator BELL (3.17 p.m.) —The matter raised by Senator Coulter was a concern about the move to work against the independence of this body and the steps which were taken—after being flagged before the election—to remove that independence.

  Senator Crane questioned whether those moves to remove the independence had actually been noticed before the election.   Although I would like to accept Senator Crane's assertions about the election and where preferences went, the position that was put by the Minister for Science and Small Business, Senator Schacht, was in fact the case. If Senator Crane could not get that right, it is very important that we question his credibility as to what he got right in the rest of his contribution. I think he should be very careful in saying others should get their facts right before they come in here when he cannot get a few basic facts about the election right.

  The fact is that Mr Minson is recorded as saying what direction he would take. The direction has been to compromise the independence of this body. The only thing that Australians can rely upon to protect their environmental concerns in these areas is an independent review body. That independence has been compromised by these actions.

  Mr Barry Carbon, as Senator Coulter said, may well have been a CSIRO scientist with an Alcoa background and there may have been some suspicion about his credibility and independence by those who are concerned about the future of the environment, but the track record is there. His independence was proven and his decisions were admired for that reason. To compromise that independence through a blatantly political move is something which Senator Coulter rightly drew attention to and asked questions about. The answers are not satisfactory and I know Senator Coulter will continue to pursue this matter.