CSIRO Misleads the Senate. 5.

Posted on November 25, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Despite terminating every whistleblower who complained of criminal and civil breaches of the law, Deputy CEO Craig Roy testifies that CSIRO has “a very constructive whistleblower policy”.

Despite retaining every employee accused of criminal and civil breaches of the law, Andrew Johnson testifies that CSIRO could not afford to keep Dr Trevor McDougall, internationally renowned oceanographer

During the 15 February 2012 Senate Estimates, CSIRO Deputy CEO Mr Craig Roy, told Senator Bushby that CSIRO has a “very constructive” whistleblower policy. His exact words were:

“We do protect the individual who has made the complaint. We have strong processes and procedures, including a very constructive whistleblower policy that supports what we do”.

However, in the most recent answers to the Senate Estimates questions on notice, CSIRO acknowledged that, without exception, every whistleblower who had complained of criminal and civil breaches of the law in the last 5 years and identified themselves in doing so, had been terminated.

Moreover, without exception, every employee who had been accused of criminal or civil breaches of the law over the same time, was still employed by CSIRO.

Mr Roy has, in our view, a profoundly eccentric understanding of the word: “constructive”.How, precisely, is it “constructive” to expel every single employee who has, in good faith, reported alleged criminal and civil breaches of the law (often, apparently, without CSIRO investigating or reporting the alleged breaches of the law)? Moreover, how is it “constructive” to retain every single employee accused of such breaches (often, apparently, without CSIRO investigating whether they are guilty of them or not)?

We further note the comments in the same Senate Estimates, of Dr Andrew Johnson explaining why CSIRO had terminated the employment of internationally renowned oceanographer, Dr Trevor McDougall, despite receiving written representations from more than 100 international scientists.

Dr Johnson told Senator Christine Milne:

“We made a decision, based on a range of analysis and consultations, that the particular component of oceanographic work that the individual that you referred to previously worked on, was not consistent with the direction we want to take the work.”

So … to put this bluntly:

CSIRO terminated a world famous scientist over the written objections of more than 100 of his international peers, but it has retained the services of every single employee who has been accused of criminal and civil breaches of the law over the last 5 years, even in the apparently common cases where the allegations have not been investigated.

And the reason that they have done this is, apparently, because it was, in Dr Johnson’s words:

“…[not] consistent with the direction we want to take …”

Moreover, according to Mr Roy, CSIRO has a whistleblower policy that:

“…supports what we do” (the term “we” presumably refers to the executive management of CSIRO)

In our view, these two statements encapsulate the problem.

The whistleblowers and Dr McDougal appear to have made the fatal mistake of going in a different direction to that which the CSIRO executive “want to take”. By contrast, the employees who were accused of breaches of the law and have been retained, often, apparently, without investigation of their actions, appear to have been going in the same direction that the CSIRO executive “want to take”.

It seems to us that the CSIRO executive may believe that no one has the right to challenge the direction that they “want to take”. Not internationally famous scientists from all around the world. Not employees concerned about serious criminal and civil breaches of the law. Not even, it appears, the law itself. Certainly, not the law-enforcement authorities, to which CSIRO has, on more than one occasion, apparently failed to report the allegations of criminal and civil breaches of the law.

When seen in this light, one can perfectly understand why Mr Roy considers CSIRO’s whistleblower policy to be “constructive“. It is “constructive” in the sense that its “supports”the CSIRO executive in whatever direction that they “want to take” – apparently regardless of inconveniences like the criminal and civil law.

We would argue however, that it takes a wildly overblown and arrogant conceit, combined with a thoroughly cynical disdain for society at large, to understand the term “constructive” in this way.

Unfortunately, it seems to us that even the Senators who deign to ask questions about the direction that the CSIRO executive “want to take” are not considered worthy of straight answers that do not contain obscure interpretations.

(CSIRO’s formal answers to the Senate in respect of whistleblowers can be found in question BI-145 in http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=economics_ctte/estimates/bud_1213/DIISRTE/index.htm).

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One Response to “CSIRO Misleads the Senate. 5.”

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For what it’s worth: I resigned from CSIRO mid-August 2012. Before my resignation, I spoke with several managers in my division and flagship about my reasons for resigning. I also detailed these in a written document. It was made clear to me that my suggestions on how to avoid other staff resigning would not go any further and that my comments would not be followed up. This was not even coming close to a whistle-blower letter but an aim to constructively suggest how the organisation could improve. Obviously, there was not even a hint of an inclination to change things, let alone listen and take on board what staff had to say.


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