Federal budget cuts could have a devastating impact on agricultural research in the Riverina, with news that the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) plans to close down the Griffith Laboratory.
The Government dealt CSIRO a body blow in the recent federal budget, announcing that $115 million would be cut from the organisation’s budget.
In response to the funding crisis, CSIRO management have announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs, shut down work sites and scale back research.
Staff Association Lead Organiser Paul Girdler said that CSIRO staff working at Griffith had been blindsided by the announcement.
“The news caught them by surprise. Griffith staff received no warning that CSIRO management planned to close down the laboratory.
“Staff and their families are stressed and facing an uncertain future. Obviously there are no local opportunities for redeployment within CSIRO so there’s a real fear that the ten staff based at Griffith may be shown the door altogether,” he said.
Rural research partnerships worth millions
Located in the heart of the Murray Darling Basin, the Griffith Laboratory has a rich heritage going back to 1927 and plays a crucial role as Australia’s only dedicated irrigation research Laboratory.
Mr Girdler said the Griffith Laboratory was an important player in rural research and development.
“Griffith researchers estimate that the laboratory has approximately $3 million in external contracts with a range of rural research and development corporations.”
World class research
“CSIRO researchers at Griffith are recognised as national and international leaders in irrigation research and water savings in irrigated agriculture,” Mr Girdler said.
“A current project focuses on Murrumbidgee irrigation; developing irrigation demand forecasting tools to help irrigators save water using remote sensing and weather forecasting tools.
“The Griffith laboratory also pulls its weight internationally. Research in partnership with the Australia Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) aim to improve irrigation and increase productivity in the rice growing areas of Cambodia, Lao and here at home in Australia,” he said.
Can Griffith Laboratory be saved?
Mr Girdler called on the Federal Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack to stand up for CSIRO in Griffith.
“The proposal to close Griffith is a direct result of the budget cuts handed down by the Federal Coalition Government that Mr McCormack belongs to.”
“Does Michael McCormack support agricultural science and research in the Riverina – or does he support the budget?” Mr Girdler asked.
“CSIRO staff at Griffith are talented, loyal and hard working. They’re valued members of the Riverina community. They deserve better than this,” he said.
Mr Girdler said the Staff Association has sought an urgent meeting with CSIRO management on the future of the Griffith Laboratory.
“We are calling on Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark to step in and guarantee the future of the Griffith Laboratory, CSIRO jobs and irrigation research in the Riverina,” he said.