Matter of Public Importance: Should the CSIRO receive more funding to research climate change?

Lucy Andrews

The 31st  Victorian YMCA’s Youth Parliament commenced on July 3, 2017, with a debate on introducing further funding for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Chosen by the public, the often contentious topic of the Matter of Public Importance is a traditional debate in Youth Parliament, previous topics including legalising euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Fifty-four members of the Legislative Assembly were in favour of the bill, which the government claimed would allow the CSIRO to head research in pursuit of a solution to the negative effects of climate change.

The government was confident the CSIRO is an appropriate body to fund for climate change research, arguing that it is independent and therefore will not push corporate interests.

However, the opposition questioned the “pragmatic” effects of such research funding, with those opposing the bill claiming that, “The nature of the CSIRO’s function does not allow for effective and productive change.”

Honourable Member Mozaffari stated, “The question is not more funding for the CSIRO, but rather it is the CSIRO’s priorities.”

Rather than money spent in research, the opposition saw the allocation of funding to be more valuable in other sectors. Honourable Member Young called for the funding to be redistributed to educational programs or renewable energy.

“The primary function of the CSIRO is research, not precise action. We don’t need money wasted in research and alternative energy functions. This money will be better spent in education and investment into the public sector.”

The government argued in response that the research funding provided to the CSIRO would guide Australia “on a path towards positive change”. Honourable Member Cadzow reasoned that the CSIRO research is invaluable to Australia’s future steps in protecting the climate.

“How does the opposition propose we move with a sense of direction in tackling climate change, as we as a nation depend on the CSIRO to provide us a map?”

With a 54 to four vote, the bill was passed with overwhelming support for research into climate change.

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