Home > economics of climate change, ethics, The Economics Profession > Australian Government Agency Admits Ban on Heterodox Economic Analysis

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.

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  1. Bruce E. Woych
    December 1, 2011 at 2:08 am | #1

    The “introduction” alone is worth filing for reference citing…pass this around!
    The Brave New World of Carbon Trading
    UNSW

  2. Bruce E. Woych
    December 1, 2011 at 2:31 am | #2

    A quick search of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO) will demonstrated that the pure claim to “science” is somewhat misleading, and CSYRO is clearly a techno-political industrial facilitator or a Research and Development Utility at best.

    The clarity involved in Spash’s science is not simply against the fallacies of market economics, but it literally addresses the contradictions between industrial market priorities and authentic science in the full context of accountability and consequences.

    This is a serious substantiation of the correct direction of economic integrity and should be held up as a model of not only what is needed as a model in practice, but as a blatant example of suppression of truth itself.

    The trend towards “Science based Evidence, and Evidence Based Practice” is a cross disciplinary priority in a market distorted outcome oriented world of paid opinion. It is a great thing to find here growing and being disseminated as Best Practice in Economics.

  3. December 1, 2011 at 3:12 am | #3

    “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.”

    What’s new pussycat?
    Here in Alberta, Canada, (you know, oil sands country), politicians, bureaucrats and industry representatives share the same bedroom…

  4. December 1, 2011 at 6:56 am | #4

    You’re close. The big issue is Megan Clark.

    She ran Rothschild’s Australia before being head of the CSIRO.

    Read more from my blog here http://www.australiamatters.com/cms/?p=868

  5. Jon
    December 1, 2011 at 8:46 am | #5

    Shows a certain amount of naivety on behalf of Clive Splash, no? He didn’t really think that they wanted him to make any real contribution did he – they just wanted him on board so they could say “look, we have a range of experts from different political viewpoints and here’s the neoclassical bollocks we came out with.” Carbon trading and Carbon bonds were developed by Goldman Sachs, for chrissakes! How much more proof do you need that they’re just creative accountancy fraud that will change nothing?

  6. Alice
    December 1, 2011 at 11:34 am | #6

    So Macquarie Bank doesnt have its finger in the pie of Australian politics? Macbank is the retirement home of many an Aussie Politician.

    “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.”

    Just so we all know how entrenched bad policy and bad theory is in Australian unis, in government and in Macquarie Bank. That should come as no surprise. You just cant mix private interests with the public sector or it becomes rotten to the core, sadly even the once great CSIRO. The unis themselves have been sidelining neoclassical critics for years, and have opened their arms to the mantra of privatisation by stealth and look where it is taking them..down the slippery slope..to embracing any old banks views.

    The game is up though. Well and truly..even for the Macbankers.

  7. December 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm | #7

    For years I have been telling people that people are not bad, it is simply the system that brings them to act in some way opposed to the majority, it is like a theater play, that there is no master plan to control the world, no Dr. Evil… And then Goldman Sachs alumni appears everywhere wreaking havoc. That “company” is K.A.O.S and Cobra combined.

  8. Alice
    December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am | #8

    If this sidelining of neoclassical critics in Australian unis, and federal agencies, and “away” from economic policies entrenched in our system was anything new I might be alarmed..except the sidelining has been going on for decades…since the 1970s (early) – since Thatcher and Reagan..since the argument between the monetarists and the keynesians…(and bloody hell the latter were far more right than Friedman and his Chaicago gang – which was further polluted by the libertarians as “lets all take our hands completely off the market controls”…lets all let everyone do what they want in business…lets open the doors to market globalisation freedoms and let the corporates pay little tax anywhere if they are invited to do so…lets let corporates sue governments so they shrink..lets demand that governments destroy themselves by taxing no one…

    and lets hunt every Keynes supporter out of unis.

    It was that nbad five or ten years ago in Australian unis that academics were “scared” to say they supported the views of keynes.

    Where did Australia go? Hot on the heels of every mad US policy and look where it got them.

    BTW – they are still rolling out the same neoclassical free market paradigm as we speak in Australia now (never mind that Coles and Woolies are getting away with strangling so many firms and producers here).

    The Ausralian Competition and Consumer Agency wouldnt know lack of competition if it fell over it.

    It doesnt end.

    ustralia – always ten to fifteen years behind any development in economics. The “insecure nation” that lacks an identity and that cant think for itself.

    Its been thus for 200 plus years.

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