The chaos and dysfunction of the Abbott-Turnbull Government has now infected the senior levels of CSIRO as it tries to implement its latest round of devastating job cuts. 

The Hobart hearing of the Senate Select Committee into the Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures heard extraordinary evidence that senior CSIRO staff have been told to use “personal email accounts” to ensure the security of CSIRO documents on the cuts.

The motivations of CSIRO management are unclear, but the there is no question that this direction is incredibly inappropriate, a feeble excuse in the name of security and puts staff at risk of potentially breaching the law.

It’s time for Dr Marshall to front the Senate and a make a full disclosure on the planned cuts, how CSIRO has conducted itself and how he thinks cutting public good research benefits the Commonwealth.

The Senate Committee heard evidence from researchers at CSIRO and partner organisations who said CSIRO’s international reputation as a place for quality climate and oceanographic research is being trashed as a result of proposed job cuts and the clumsy way the process has been managed.

CSIRO management has talked about “transitioning” its climate measurement and modelling work to an academic sector that is “better placed” to do it.

But today the committee was told CSIRO’s climate and oceanographic research effort is too large to taken over by a university or another government department. 

Major research partners such as the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) also told the committee that they were not consulted about the cuts before they were announced and that there are still no details about how the cuts will affect their joint research activities.

CSIRO staff said morale in the organisation is at record lows, with a great deal of tension and uncertainty, and an information vacuum between staff and management.         

It’s time for Christopher Pyne and Malcolm Turnbull to take action and stop the cuts to Australia’s vital science and research capacity.

If Malcolm Turnbull was serious in his rhetoric about the importance of science and innovation, he would have acted already.

But as in some many other areas, the sad fact is that Malcolm Turnbull says one thing and does another when it comes to science and innovation.

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