News & Views item - February 2010



Senate Estimates Interview of CSIRO Chief Executive Has Clive Spash Break His Silence. (February 12, 2019)

On December 3, 2009 the AAP reported that Dr Clive Spash had resigned from CSIRO and called for a Senate inquiry following the attempts by CSIRO administration to suppress publication of his paper which is critical of cap and trade schemes such as being advocated by the Australian government. In his paper Dr Spash advocates a direct tax on carbon.


Yesterday CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark told a Senate estimates committee that she stood by CSIRO's charter: "I make no apologies for maintaining the standards of the CSIRO,"  and added that she had made every effort to convince Dr Spash to make changes and thereby ensure its publication.


In fact the paper had been peer reviewed and accepted by New Political Economy who was approached by CSIRO demanding it not be published.


Until now the Minister responsible for CSIRO, Senator Kim Carr, has avoided public comment; however, yesterday he referred the Senate committee to an external review which he said labelled the paper "weak polemical journalism".

He then added: "As a former school teacher I really wondered whether or not this was the sort of thing we were employing people to write on behalf of the CSIRO," and opined: "The quality was just not there."


On being interviewed by AAP Dr Spash fired back by email: "My co-author withdrew from the paper feeling their job was under threat and I myself was harassed. Inappropriate mention of disciplinary action and implied dismissal were cited. I was promised senior management would work with me. Instead, I was given a substantially altered document without any input on my part. I was then given an ultimatum to accept the changes or have the paper banned."


According to the AAP Dr Spash savaged the new charter as an attempt to micromanage CSIRO researchers, leading to self-censorship and preventing them from having any personal views made public. That, in Dr Spash's view is an infringement on free speech and CSIRO was wrong to think science could remain separate from public policy: "Open debate amongst researchers and in society is required to inform public policy, not manipulation of results due to fear of annoying political paymasters. New information changes society in unpredictable ways and requires open public debate. Management seems to be in a state of denial as to (this) reality."


As far as New Political Economy is concerned it was "clearly improper" for CSIRO to browbeat employees into changes which alter its conclusions, an editor wrote to Senator Carr in November.