The Politics of Carbon Emissions Trading: Censorship in Australia

Ariana Boussard-Reifel, Between the Lines, 2007. Photo: Ariana Boussard-Reifel

Ariana Boussard-Reifel, Between the Lines, 2007.

At the beginning of 2009 Clive Spash wrote a paper, The Brave New World of Carbon Trading, that was critical of carbon emissions trading schemes and argued redesign would not address the concerns raised. He was employed at the time by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO), which endeavoured to prevent the paper from being published even in his capacity as a private citizen. The paper had been both internally and internationally peer reviewed, and was accepted for publication by New Political Economy, when CSIRO management first decided to prevent publication. After several months the issue became public and was the subject of debate in the Australian Senate. The CSIRO was forced to release the paper but first attempted to subject the work to serious alterations, to which Clive was asked to assent without making any changes. He felt that he could not agree. The journal New Political Economy also wrote to Senator Carr (at the time Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research with responsibility for the CSIRO) stating the changes made were so substantive that the paper was no longer equivalent to that which they had accepted for publication earlier that year (download letter here). Later Senator Carr’s office claimed he had never received this letter (see response to Senator Eggleston here), despite it being widely available and even having been quoted by Nature (see PDF here).  After six months attempting to seek due process there remained no internal recognition within management of any failure on their part or that there had been any breach of acceptable scientific practice. Despite considerable support from his colleagues Clive felt that he could no longer work within an organisation being run with such an approach to management and where arbitrary judgment over political sensitivities are employed to alter or ban research findings. He resigned his position.  Responsible CSIRO managers in the case were never brought to account for their violations of the CSIRO code of conducted and despite a formal whistle blower application no investigation was ever undertaken.  Questions remain unanswered as to the motivations of Megan Clark and Senator Carr in the affair.

What all the fuss was about:

Clive L. Spash (2010) The Brave New World of Carbon Trading (PDF), New Political Economy, Vol. 15, No. 2: 169-195.

Readers might also be interested in the following pieces:

The Politics of Researching Carbon Trading in Australia. (PDF) Clive L. Spash (2014) In The Politics of Carbon Markets. Edited by Benjamin Stephan and Richard Lane. London: Routledge, pp.191-211.  This book chapter gives a chronological account of events in the context of explaining how modern Western democracies censor science, and how ‘quality’ control can be used to achieve such ends.

An Orwellian Guide to Carbon ETS (PDF).
This short guide contains the text from the Brave New World of Carbon Trading that Megan Clark as CEO of the CSIRO demanded be removed in order for publication to take place.  These were the “tiny changes” required.  Later these cuts, which were never disclosed by the CSIRO, were defended in the Senate as “quality improvements”.

Kevin Rudd: His Part in My Downfall (PDF).
A 2 page analysis of the malaise in Australian politics and specifically the failure to tackle the power of the extractive resource corporations and make a transition to renewable electricity generation.

Censoring science in research officially (PDF).
An editorial for Environmental Values where Clive Spash raises the spread of research censorship by government authorities in the supposedly democratic Western nations.

2012 Review of the paper by Cornelia Beck (PDF) The Brave New World of Carbon Trading, Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 32:1, p.40.

Video of invited talk given 3rd March 2010 at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

PRESS
[Over time some newspapers have removed links to articles; in such cases original web addresses are given without the hyperlink; entries are supplemented by PDFs of the previously online articles.]

2nd November 2009
Front page headline “CSIRO Carbon Trade Dissenter Silenced” The Australian by Nicola Berkovic
Inside story p.3. “CSIRO bid to gag emissions trading scheme policy attack” (PDF)
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26291548-2702,00.html [no longer functional]

2nd November 2009
Climate economist says he was gagged” (PDF) Adelaide Now.
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,,26292161-5005962,00.html [no longer functional]

3rd November 2009
Climate expert Clive Spash ‘heavied’ by CSIRO management” (PDF) The Australian by Nicola Berkovic
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/climate-expert-clive-spash-heavied-by-csiro-management/story-e6frg8gf-1225793717744

4th November 2009
“Stifling debate” The Australian Editorial
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/stifling-debate/story-e6frg71x-1225794078751

5th November 2009
CSIRO ‘gagging climate debate’” (PDF) The Australian by Nicola Berkovic
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/csiro-gagging-climate-debate/story-e6frg8gf-1225794500655 [no longer functional]

5th November 2009
Liar, liar your scheme’s on fire” (PDF) Herald Sun by Olga Galacho
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/liar-liar-your-schemes-on-fire/story-e6frfihx-1225794596030

6th November 2009
“Kim Carr raps CSIRO delay on ETS paper” The Australian by Bernard Lane
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/kim-carr-raps-csiro-delay-on-ets-paper/story-e6frg6nf-1225794867411

6th November 2009. Updated 11th November.
Australian agency denies gagging researchers” (PDF) Nature by Stephen Pincock
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091106/full/news.2009.1068.html

9th November 2009
CSIRO moves to put gag on scientists” (PDF) The Australian by Nicola Berkovic
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/csiro-moves-to-put-gag-on-scientists/story-e6frg6nf-1225795565498 [no longer functional]

9th November 2009
“Climate paper will be published: CSIRO” The Age
http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/climate-paper-will-be-published-csiro-20091109-i53w.html

13th November 2009
Australian agency moves to calm climate row. Researcher will be allowed to publish his paper after making ‘tiny’ changes” (PDF) Nature by Stephen Pincock
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091113/full/news.2009.1083.html

14th November 2009
Frank and fearless scientific debate comes with a few too many strings attached” (PDF) The Australian by Nicola Berkovic
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/frank-and-fearless-scientific-debate-comes-with-a-few-too-many-strings-attached/story-e6frg6zo-1225797535057 [no longer functional]

23rd November 2009
“This ETS-lite deserves to be rejected” The Age by Kenneth Davidson
http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/this-etslite-deserves-to-be-rejected-20091122-isr0.html

26th November 2009
CSIRO scientist faces punishment” (PDF) 9 News by Crystal Ja

3rd December 2009
Clive Spash resigns from CSIRO after climate report ‘censorship’” (PDF) News.com.au
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/clive-spash-resigns-from-csiro-after-climate-report-censorship/story-e6frfku0-1225806539742 [no longer functional]

3rd December 2009
“Gagged CSIRO scientist resigns; calls for inquiry” WA Today, Australian Associated Press
http://www.watoday.com.au/national/gagged-csiro-scientist-resigns-calls-for-inquiry-20091203-k7py.html

3rd December 2009
“Scientist quits over ETS ‘censorship’.” ABC News by Nonee Walsh
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/03/2761141.htm

4th December 2009
“Scientist quits CSIRO amid censorship claims” The Sydney Morning Herald by Dan Harrison
http://www.smh.com.au/environment/scientist-quits-csiro-amid-censorship-claims-20091203-k8vb.html

4th December 2009
Researcher quits over science agency interference. Australian research funding body under fire for ordering major changes to a peer-reviewed paper” (PDF) Nature by Stephen Pincock
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091204/full/news.2009.1126.html

14th December 2009
“Censored CSIRO carbon trading paper – compulsory reading for climate movement.” (PDF) Critical Times by Chris Breen

February, 2010
“Interview with Clive Spash: Why carbon trading won’t work” Solidarity by Chris Breen
http://www.solidarity.net.au/21/interview-with-clive-spash-why-carbon-trading-wont-work/

5th February 2010
“Rømde frå klimapolitisk sensur” Dag og Tid by Astrid S. Dypvik.
Dag_og_tid_Norway_Feb_2010 (PDF in Norwegian)

11th February 2010
“CSIRO ‘in denial’ over policy debate” Herald Sun AAP
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/csiro-in-denial-over-policy-debate/story-e6frf7kf-1225829195671

3rd March 2010
Senator ‘abused’ review process” (PDF) The Australian by Bernard Lane.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/senator-abused-review-process/story-e6frgcjx-1225836260242 [no longer functional]

10th March 2010
“Sorry Senator Carr, no award for you” Herald Sun by Olga Galacho.
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/sorry-senator-carr-no-award-for-you/story-e6frfihx-1225839438373

2nd July, 2010
“A poor climate for debate at CSIRO” The Age by Paddy Manning
http://www.theage.com.au/business/a-poor-climate-for-debate-at-csiro-20100702-zu86.html

3rd July, 2010
“CSIRO in bed with big coal” The Sydney Morning Herald by Paddy Manning
http://www.smh.com.au/business/csiro-in-bed-with-big-coal-20100702-zu2i.html

17th December, 2010
“Political interference will cripple climate debate” The Australian by Michael Asten
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/political-interference-will-cripple-climate-debate/story-e6frg6zo-1225972366783

24th July, 2012
CSIRO management caned over handling of bullying claims” (PDF) The Australian by Nicola Berkovic

12th September, 2012
Whistleblowers at CSIRO forced out and ‘bullying rife’” (PDF) The Sydney Morning Herald by Linton Besser

RADIO

2nd November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO denies censoring climate paper. Shane McLeod for The World Today.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW  (PDF)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/02/2731014.htm

5th November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO embroiled in censorship claims. Shane McLeod for AM.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW  (PDF)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/05/2733825.htm

5th November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO stance not censorship: Minister. Shane McLeod for The World Today.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/05/2734542.htm?site=news

24th February 2010. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Dumped Professor calls for Senate inquiry. Mark Colvin for PM
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW (PDF)
Broadcast Interview
Extended Interview
http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2829301.htm

26th February 2010. Radio 4BC Brisbane.
Michael Smith for 4BC 1116 Drive.
Introduction
Interview

3rd March 2010. Radio 2GB Sydney.
Jason Morrison. CSIRO scientist resigns for Climate Change censorship.
Interview

9th March 2010. Student Youth Network, Melbourne.
Paul Serratore for Panorama
Interview Courtesy Panorama, SYN (90.7 FM), Melbourne

15th August 2010
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Ian Townsend for Background Briefing
Culture Wars at CSIRO.
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/stories/2010/2977740.htm
Short comment included as part of 48 minute programme

12th December 2012. 2CC Canberra Talk Radio.
Mike Welsh covering the toxic workplace and bullying culture at CSIRO (MP3) http://www.2cc.net.au/podcasts/59-mike-welsh-podcasts/5074-csiro-scientist-gagged.html

Australian Senate

18th November 2009.
Official Hansard
10.31 Senator Back, Liberal Party of Australia, Western Australia, speech excerpt. (PDF)
12.59 Senator Abetz, Liberal Party of Australia, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, speech excerpt. (PDF)
15.46 Senator Milne, Australian Greens, Tasmania, motion. (PDF)
Motion Passed

19th November 2009.
Official Hansard
12.35 Senator Fisher, Liberal Party of Australia, South Australia, speech excerpt. (PDF)

25th November 2009.
Official Hansard
15.40 Senator Milne, Australian Greens, Tasmania, notice. (PDF)

25th November 2009 Senate Debate.
Official Hansard
Matters of Public Importance: The Rudd government’s censorship of the Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation
16.59 Senator Abetz, Liberal Party of Australia, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, speech. (PDF)
17.09 Senator Hurley, Australian Labour Party, South Australia, speech. (PDF)
17.24 Senator Milne, Australian Greens, Tasmania, speech. (PDF)
17.34 Senator Joyce, Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Queensland, speech. (PDF)
17.42 Senator Forshaw, Australian Labour Party, New South Wales, speech. (PDF)
17.52 Senator Ian MacDonald, Liberal Party of Australia, Queensland, speech. (PDF).

26th November 2009 Senate Order.
Official Hansard
The Brave New World of Carbon Trading
10.44 Senator Milne, Australian Greens, Tasmania, order. (PDF)
10.44 Senator Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Australian Labour Party, Victoria, opposition to order. (PDF)
10.46 Senator Milne, Australian Greens, Tasmania, supporting order. (PDF)
Order Passed
15.40 Senator Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Australian Labour Party, Victoria, return to order. (PDF)

Senate Estimates Committee

Senate. Economics Legislation Committee Estimates. (Additional Estimates).
Wednesday, 10 February, 2010. Canberra.
Question and answer sessions involving Dr Megan Clark and Andrew Johnson (CSIRO) and Senator Kim Carr. (PDF)

4th March 2010.
Senator Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. (PDF)
Senator Carr heavies CSIRO for political outcomes.

31st May 2010. CSIRO answers on abuse of referees report by Senator Carr and admission of leaking referees report to Senator Carr
CSIRO official written replies to “questions taken on notice” from Senator Eggleston

31st May 2010. Senator Carr denies receipt of letter from New Political Economy
Senator Carr’s office official replies to “questions taken on notice” from Senator Eggleston

19th October 2011. CSIRO provides new reason for banning Dr. Spash’s work, including the unacceptability of critiquing neoclassical economic theory.
CSIRO official written response to a question “taken on notice” from Senator Colbeck

15th February 2012. Exchange between Senator Mason and Mr Whelan of the CSIRO about their inconsistent publication practice in banning work by Dr. Spash and allowing other work critical of government policy.
CSIRO exchange including written response to question from the Senator Mason “taken on notice”

28th May 2012.
Senator Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. (PDF)