Labor is calling on the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, to direct CSIRO management to delay implementation of the latest job cuts.
Australia’s reputation for world-class climate science and CSIRO’s reputation as one of the world’s premier public research agencies are now at risk.
In responding to this threat, a Shorten Labor Government would also commission an independent review of CSIRO’s corporate structure, management and functions.
The CSIRO Executive has said it will be concluding its consultations on 4 April, after which it will make final decisions on the restructure and start offering redundancies.
Delaying the cuts will give CSIRO an opportunity to consult properly with both staff and research partners, and to get an accurate understanding of the impact of these cuts, not just on CSIRO’s research capacity, but on Australia’s broader research standing.
Evidence presented to recent Senate Committee hearings in Hobart and Melbourne confirmed that implementing the proposed restructure would cause irreparable damage to Australia’s climate science capability.
Australia’s reputation as a nation that specialises in excellent environmental science and contributes to the global climate science community is at stake.
Already we’ve seen an editorial in the New York Times expressing shock at CSIRO’s decision. Our international reputation is being trashed.
While CSIRO management is responding to the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s funding cuts, including its $22 million cut to climate science programs, it is clear they did not consult CSIRO’s research partners prior to announcing the proposed changes on 4 February.
It’s also clear that CSIRO management set its priorities according to those of the Abbott-Turnbull Government – anti-climate science and anti-public good research.
Anyone who has followed my involvement in science policy over more than 20 years will know that directing CSIRO or asking a Minister to interfere with the decisions of CSIRO’s Board and Management is not something I would do lightly.
But in this case, the stakes are just too high.
And the fact is that the proposed redundancies are going to be expensive in the short term – they are not a cost saving measure and they are not urgent.
These cuts should therefore be put on hold until after the election.
A Labor Government would not share the priorities of the Abbott-Turnbull Government.
Labor believes Australia must maintain its unique contribution to climate science and that CSIRO’s public good research is as important as its work with industry.
The damage to CSIRO’s morale and capabilities from the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s $115 million cut and this bungled restructure is severe.
Given these impacts, a Shorten Labor Government has concluded that CSIRO would benefit from an independent review of its management structure and functions.
It has been almost 30 years since CSIRO was subject to such a review and Labor believes a short, sharp analysis in cooperation with the Board and Executive would help to modernise CSIRO’s management and improve its consultation processes.
In the meantime, Labor calls on Christopher Pyne to act immediately to prevent further damage to CSIRO’s reputation and the morale of its hard-working scientists.