Senate Estimates last night revealed that positions on the boards of two of Australia’s major science agencies, the CSIRO and Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation (ANSTO), have been left vacant for months.
CSIRO told that committee that they have had two positions vacant for more than five months. A further three board members’ terms will expire this month and another in September.
One of the imminent vacancies is that of CSIRO Chair, Simon McKeon, who fears that board members will not be considered for reappointment purely because they were appointed by the previous government.
Ian Macfarlane seems paralysed to actually make any decision on the management of his own agencies and department, with his hands being tied by Tony Abbott.
Given this Minister’s record of chaotic management, it now seems quite likely that CSIRO could be heading into the new financial year with a Board half its intended size.
Even if the Minister gets around to filling the vacancies by the end of the month, Tony Abbott’s “new blood” edict will mean five out of ten Board members are brand new to CSIRO.
This is at a time when the organisation is managing a major restructure and the repercussions of funding cuts that have led to the largest job losses in its history.
When pressed on the matter by Labor Senator Chris Ketter yesterday, all that the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Science could say is that the matter is “under consideration by government”.
ANSTO also told the hearing that it currently has two positions that have been vacant for eight months and could not advise when they would be filled.
Ian Macfarlane needs to stand up for these agencies and the vital work they do by ensuring that they have fully functioning Boards of management.
This chaos and dysfunction is just another example of how Tony Abbott is allowing the basic business of government to grind to a halt while he focuses all his energy on saving his own job.