[ASC-media] Media Release: ³ Government Determined to Silence Independent Opinion ²

Australasian Science science at control.com.au
Mon Aug 28 01:18:34 CEST 2006

For immediate release
28 August 2006

³Government Determined to Silence Independent Opinion²

Surveying the state of science though a decade of the Howard government,
Professor Ian Lowe concludes: ³The stacking and sacking of public boards,
reviews and task forces has been driven by ideology and is suppressing new
ideas arising from science, to the detriment of innovation and the
The trenchant views of the eminent scientist and environmentalist are
published today in the September issue of Australasian Science. He writes:
³The Howard government is increasingly using science, as the old joke goes,
as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support rather than for illumination. Within
CSIRO there is now a culture of managerialism so wary of offending the
government that scientists have been instructed not to comment on issues
that have policy implications.
³Even universities, once prized for their belief in academic freedom,
increasingly expect academics to conform. The government policy line is set,
often based on ideology or whim. Science is urged to get on board the policy
bandwagon. Those who support it cheerfully speak out, but those who know it
to be wrong are intimidated into silence.² Professor Lowe supports his
conclusions with examples:
€      ³The recent stacking of the ethics committee of the National Health
and Medical Research Council with people likely to favour Tony Abbott¹s
strange view of the world aroused public concern.²
€      ³The independence of the Australian Research Council has been wound
back and Brendan Nelson, when Minister, overturned ARC recommendations on
advice from ideological gatekeepers.²
€     ABC¹s Four Corners on energy policies ³showed advice now comes from a
shadowy group of officials who effectively represent the views of the coal
and aluminium industries².
€      ³Appointing a member of the ANSTO board to chair the ³independent²
inquiry into nuclear power [was] like appointing an officeholder of Right to
Life to conduct an independent inquiry into abortion.²
€     ³A National Greenhouse Advisory Panel Š included experts from the
energy industries, unions, consumers and the scientific community. It gave
independent advice the government didn¹t like, so it was never again asked
to meet.²
Ian Lowe, AO, is President of the Australian Conservation Foundation,
Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University
and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and
Summaries and quotations of selected passages for reporting or review are
permissible provided AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE is credited as the source
of this story.
Professor Lowe can be reached at Griffith University on (07) 3875 7610 or
via Josh Meadows of the Australian Conservation Foundation on (03) 9345 1109
or 0439 342 992.

For a copy of the full article and permission to reproduce the text
partially or in full call the Editor, Guy Nolch, on (03) 9500 0015 or Senior
Correspondent, Peter Pockley, on (02) 9660 6363. A photo is available.

Guy Nolch
Editor, Australasian Science
Box 2155 Wattletree Rd PO
VIC 3145 Australia
Phone 61-3-9500 0015
Fax 61-3-9500 0255
Web australasianscience.com.au

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