‘Chainsaw’ MacFarlane: Govt defends CSIRO board appointment

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Joseph Brookes

The federal government has rejected criticism that the appointment of a former Coalition industry minister to the CSIRO board last year was cronyism, despite his lack of science background and previous clashes with the scientific community.

Ian MacFarlane was appointed to the science agency’s board for three years last Octobter by current Science Minister Mellissa Price. He earns nearly $75,000 a year in the part-time role.

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Mr MacFarlane was Industry and Science minister for two years when Tony Abbott won government in 2013. Mr Abbott combined Industry and Science after scrapping a dedicated science minister for the first time since 1930.

In response to criticism from science groups about the lack of a standalone science minister, Mr MacFarlane hit out at the “precious petals in the science industry” and described the calls as “crap”.

The comments and Mr Macfarlane’s appointment were raised during CSIRO’s Senate Estimates appearance on Thursday, with Labor Senator Jess Walsh saying it was another “jobs for mates” appointment.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said he wasn’t aware of Mr MacFarlane’s 2014 comments and wouldn’t be drawn on if they were consistent with a CSIRO leadership position.

But Queensland Liberal National Senator and assistant minister Amanda Stoker defended the appointment.

Ms Stoker incorrectly claimed Mr MacFarlane’s comments were made more than a decade ago, and said they had been raised out of context.

“There’s a whole lot of ways that could be understood and I’m sure that in its proper context, it was a reasonable thing to say,” she said.

Ms Stoker rejected the appointment was an act of cronyism by the Coalition.

“I’d suggest that you look to the enormously important contribution that Mr MacFarlane has made to industry and science — the way the two have come together to build the wealth and prosperity of this country.”

Mr MacFarlane lost the portfolio in 2015 when Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott. He retired from politics at the 2016 election, taking up a non-executive director role at Woodside Energy and was made chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council.

He has also held the chairman role at the Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre since 2016.

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  1. Matt 2 years ago

    Great, this muppet who champions the likes of Adani and the acceleration of fossil fuels generally, will hamstring the CSIRO’s work on climate change.

    • Enzo Fable 2 years ago

      What’s new, Matt? This has been going on since Abbott got in to power in 2013.

      This is the modus operandi of the Liberal governments. Diminish budgets, restructure organisations, appoint new boards and ‘plant’ top end staff and change cultures with new Statements of Expectation as to what they would deliver.

      The ABS got a staunch Liberal economist appointed to the Board and now no-one believes the jobs data etc. CSIRO has had its climate divisions including BOM reorganised (butchered) to comply with ideological climate change denial. ABC is much the same and simply gutted to almost breakdown stage. They have through Minister Fletcher directly appointed in the last few months an ex CEO of Newscorp and Foxtel and ex Seven Media senior exec to the Board to join a bunch of ex Liberals. There can be little question as to why, cultural change from within.

      Turnbull replaced the Chair and Board (bar one?) and put in the failed ex Telstra CEO Zwitkowski. He immediately changed his mind about last century copper to buy in on Abbott/Turnbull copper FTTN/MTM and somehow most senior Exec positions went to ex Telstra staff. The Statement of Expectations was drawn up so cheapest was best and thus eliminating FTTP which was end to end new service as ever qualifying.

      That’s just a couple of many cases. Never has this gone on to this Trumpian extent, it’s not on steroids its on ‘meth’. Oh! and it is needlessly costing many $Bs to play these games and destroying society as we know it. It’s all about politics, little else.

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