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 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 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.

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.

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


2nd November 2009
Front page headline “CSIRO Carbon Trade Dissenter Silenced” The Australian. Inside story p.3. “CSIRO bid to gag emissions trading scheme policy attack.”,25197,26291548-2702,00.html

2nd November 2009
“Climate economist says he was gagged”. Adelaide Now.,,26292161-5005962,00.html

3rd November 2009
Climate expert Clive Spash ‘heavied’ by CSIRO management. The Australian.

4th November 2009
Stifling debate. The Australian. Editorial

5th November 2009
CSIRO ‘gagging climate debate’ The Australian.

5th November 2009
Liar, liar your scheme’s on fire. Herald Sun. Olga Galacho.

6th November 2009
Kim Carr raps CSIRO delay on ETS paper. The Australian.

6th November 2009. Updated 11th November.
Australian agency denies gagging researchers. (PDF) Nature.

9th November 2009
CSIRO moves to put gag on scientists. The Australian.

9th November 2009
Climate paper will be published: CSIRO. The Age.

13th November 2009
Australian agency moves to calm climate row. Researcher will be allowed to publish his paper after making ‘tiny’ changes. (PDF) Nature

14th November 2009
Frank and fearless scientific debate comes with a few too many strings attached. The Australian

23rd November 2009
“This ETS-lite deserves to be rejected” The Age, Kenneth Davidson

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

3rd December 2009
“Clive Spash resigns from CSIRO after climate report ‘censorship’.”

3rd December 2009
“Gagged CSIRO scientist resigns; calls for inquiry” WA Today, Australian Associated Press

3rd December 2009
“Scientist quits over ETS ‘censorship’.” ABC News, Nonee Walsh

4th December 2009
Scientist quits CSIRO amid censorship claims The Sydney Morning Herald, Dan Harrison

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, Stephen Pincock

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

February, 2010
Interview with Clive Spash: Why carbon trading won’t work. Solidarity, Chris Breen

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

11th February 2010
CSIRO ‘in denial’ over policy debate. Herald Sun, AAP.

3rd March 2010
Senator ‘abused’ review process. The Australian, Bernard Lane.

10th March 2010
Sorry Senator Carr, no award for you. Herald Sun. Olga Galacho.

2nd July, 2010
“A poor climate for debate at CSIRO” The Age, Paddy Manning

3rd July, 2010
“CSIRO in bed with big coal” The Sydney Morning Herald, Paddy Manning

17th December, 2010
“Political interference will cripple climate debate” The Australian, Michael Asten

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

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


2nd November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO denies censoring climate paper. Shane McLeod for The World Today.

5th November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO embroiled in censorship claims. Shane McLeod for AM.

5th November 2009. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CSIRO stance not censorship: Minister. Shane McLeod for The World Today.

24th February 2010. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Dumped Professor calls for Senate inquiry. Mark Colvin for PM
Broadcast Interview
Extended Interview

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

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

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.
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)

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)