Australian Government Agency Admits Ban on Heterodox Economic Analysis
from Peter Earl
In some of the first posts on this blog I reported on how Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO) was attempting to censor and ban from publication Clive Spash’s peer-reviewed paper ‘The Brave New World of Carbon Trading”. Though Spash eventually resigned from CSIRO and the paper was published in New Political Economy in 2010 (vol. 15, no. 2), CSIRO’s attitude towards dissenting views has recently become even clearer and more disturbing.
CSIRO, a government funded public research agency that employs about 6,500 people, was required to answer a series of questions raised in Australia’s Federal Parliament over conflict of interest within the organisation concerning its approach to climate change policy. According to Spash, “This involves the connections of the CEO Megan Clark with carbon trading and the banking and finance sectors. Last year, corporate banker Simon McKeon, executive chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne office, was appointed as the CSIRO’s new chairman. Questions have previously been asked in the media about the organisation’s connections to big coal.”
As part of this investigation, Senator Colbeck asked a specific question about CSIRO’s attempts to ban Spash’s paper. CSIRO responded:
“CSIRO’s internal review concluded that the original paper did not report new research or present empirical evidence to support all of the authors’ conclusions. The paper was also viewed as offering opinion on matters of government policy by applying a critique of neoclassical economic theory to the ETS. Therefore it was not approved for publication. Were those issues to have been rectified as CSIRO strived to do with Dr Spash, CSIRO would have supported the publication of that paper and any public comments that related to the papers findings.”
This organisation apparently rejects institutional analysis, historical analysis, descriptive analysis and policy analysis and yet had hired Spash, a heterodox political economist from the field of ecological economics. Though two years ago its emphasis was on Spash not being able to criticize government policy in a paper produced while he was working at a government-funded agency, it is now evident that the fact that his critique was levelled against the use of neoclassical economics as foundations for the policy was the heart of the problem. Their statement explicitly supports neoclassical economic theory and rejects anything critical of that theory because it is being used to support carbon emissions trading. According to the CSIRO this was not about the content or politics!
A copy of the Senator’s question and CSIRO’s complete reply is available here.