Budget cuts to CSIRO are short-sighted and destructive

The union representing employees at CSIRO has strongly criticised a federal budget decision to cut funding to Australia’s premier science organisation, warning that research and jobs will suffer as a result.

The Government has announced a funding cut of $111.4 million over four years to CSIRO. The organisation will also be hit by a separate ‘efficiency dividend’ cut of $3.4 million over the forward estimates.

“These funding cuts to CSIRO are short-sighted and destructive. They will do lasting harm to CSIRO and the capacity to deliver new inventions and crucial research for the next generation of Australians,” said CSIRO Staff Association Acting Secretary Dr Michael Borgas.

CSIRO already under funding pressure

These additional budget cuts – taken together almost $115 million – are estimated to result in another 500 jobs to be lost at CSIRO. CSIRO had already spent the last year struggling cut costs, resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs – more than 400 gone in the last nine months alone and another 300 forecast to go by the end of calendar year.

“These cuts to public funding of CSIRO could not come at a worse time. These budget cuts will mean more science workers will lose their jobs and more important research will not be done. CSIRO management might be faced with terrible prospect of getting out of some areas of research altogether,” Dr Borgas said.

Cuts compromise research into climate change

The decision to fold the Australian Climate Change Science Program into a new National Environmental Science Program, with a funding cut of $21.7 million in the process, could damage the capacity of both CSIRO and BOM to deliver accurate advice on global warming.

“The Government is already struggling with a perception problem when it comes to the science of climate change – in no small part due to its policy to remove the price on carbon and decisions to scrap the Climate Commission, Climate Change Authority, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Department of Climate change,” Dr Borgas said.

Cooperative Research Centres funding to be cut

The Government’s decision to cut funding to the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program could result in a significant hit on important CSIRO research across a range of areas. CSIRO is the single largest participant in the CRC program, with the organisation involved in twenty projects across the six sectors of the program.

“Cutting funding to CRC’s may damage CSIRO research across the most important sectors of national priority: the environment, agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, medical science and technology and manufacturing,” Dr Borgas said.

Department of Industry programs are set to be slashed by $845 million – including Industry Innovation Precincts – and this will have a knock-on effect to CSIRO research and investment.

More funding for Antarctic research and the operation of new research vessel

Dr Borgas welcomed the separate announcements of a $24 million Antarctic Gateway Partnership and $65.7 million over four years to operate the new research vessel, the RV Investigator.

“However it’s a little concerning that CSIRO is expected to contribute a further $21.2 million to help operate the boat – right at a time when existing resources are being cut by Government,” Dr Borgas said.

Further comment

For more information or additional comment, email anthony.keenan@cpsu.org.au or call 0410 330 764.

About the CSIRO Staff Association

The CSIRO Staff Association is a section of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). It represents the industrial and professional interests of thousands of Australian science workers, including employees of the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation), the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and Co-operative Research Centres and supports members in the National Measurement Institute.

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