RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
Senator SIEWERT-I want to go back to this issue of knowledge brokering. The issue is not just about keeping a database; it is actually about the experience that Land and Water has of networking, the expertise you have gained that way and disseminating that information. You established that role because nobody else was doing it and it was so important to keep doing it. I want to know what is going to happen to that function-the knowledge brokering. It is not just building bloody databases-sorry-it is making sure that research is actually used. It is a critical function. What is going to happen with that function?
Dr Robinson-Thank you, Senator. I would like to know too.
Senator SIEWERT-Has there been any discussion with government about picking up that critical function?
Dr Robinson-There are two aspects to that function. One was the Knowledge for Regional NRM program, which we were managing and it was winding up anyway under its previous funding. The second aspect is the culture of knowledge management and sharing that we had within LWA. Yes, we hold fears for both.
Senator SIEWERT-Obviously we have been talking about CCRSPI, TRaCK, et cetera. There has been some discussion about their future but there has been none around that critical function?
Dr Robinson-No, because it is more the cultural behaviour of the organisation that will be lost because the organisation will not exist. We are hopeful that somebody will take it on.
Senator SIEWERT-When you say you are hopeful that someone will take it on, does that mean you have already had discussions with other organisations or is it a hope?
Dr Robinson-It is a hope.
Senator SIEWERT-There are another couple of programs I am particularly interested in because they do not get picked up enough-that is, the social and institutional research components of what you do. That is an absolutely critical part of NRM and one which has been sufficiently funded. Has there been any discussion or recognition that that is a key part of national resource management as well?
Dr Robinson-I think we have recognised it. We have been funding that space for 10 years and trying to attract partners. The current suite of projects in that program will go into the pool. We do have some collaborative projects in that program and we are in discussions with the cofunder to ensure that they keep going. As a portfolio program to transition somewhere else, there have been no discussions around taking it as one group.
Senator SIEWERT-Sorry to be boring, but I want to go back to the environmental water allocation issue, the one we were talking about before. CSIRO did an excellent job doing the sustainable yields process for the Murray-Darling. It has been widely acknowledged that we do not have the same body of research around environmental water flows and I understand-I have had answers back at other Senate estimates-it is an issue which we know has not been funded properly, that the authority is supposed to be getting that information and that it is critical for doing basic management planning. Without your function, what capacity do we have to inject that research in a timely way?
Dr Robinson-As I said earlier, the Environmental Water Allocation Forum, which we are having this
Thursday and Friday and which we had planned to have regardless of this decision, was to answer exactly that, to ask: how can we attract more funding for this critical area and who, with us, would lead it? Obviously that question changes now to: who will lead it in our absence? There is certainly concern in a lot of feedback and there are our own concerns as to where that will go. We do not have a clear answer.
Senator SIEWERT-If there is not an identified leader now, how far is that going to set us back in the timeliness of even initiating the level of work that needs to be done to gain that information?
Dr Robinson-In my opinion, I do not think it will set us back, but I cannot put a time on that. As you have pointed out, I think the area needs more research anyway. So whether we are already behind the eight ball is another matter.
Dr O'Connell-To some degree, for the environmental flows issues and the broad policy framework around that-there are other players in that field, such as the National Water Commission and environment- the full exploration is probably better managed through the environment portfolio, which is running the water programs and policy in this particular space. Certainly the role of the National Water Commission, for example, in going through the sustainable flows issue, along with CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Murray-Darling Association-really a lot of activity takes place in that portfolio. So probably a full exploration of that would be best managed there.
Senator SIEWERT-I will be following it up in that estimates. They can take that on notice right now.