The science of protest

More than a thousand CSIRO staff have rallied in protest against Government budget cuts at workplace events across Australia.

Brutal cuts

During last month’s budget, the Federal Government announced a $115 million funding cut to the organisation plus cuts to other public sector science and research programs that will hit CSIRO indirectly.

CSIRO management responded by announcing  plans to slash hundreds more jobs, make deep cuts to entire areas of research, shut down laboratories and sell-off worksites.

Science in action

Dismayed and concerned by the savage cuts, Staff Association members and supporters donned white lab coats, brandished placards and held colourful lunchtime rallies in major worksites in Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.

The metropolitan protest meetings followed similar events earlier in the week at CSIRO regional sites all over the country including Alice Springs, Armidale, Atherton, Geelong, Griffith, Geraldton, Myall Vale, Narrabri, Newcastle, Townsville and the St Lucia and Dutton Park workplaces in Brisbane.

Big turnout

Canberra’s Black Mountain event drew approximately three hundred staff who listened to speakers including former Minister for Science Senator Kim Carr and CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood.

“We look to our scientists, we look to our researchers, to give us the knowledge to be able to shape the answers to the great challenges that face this country,” Senator Carr said.

About three hundred members and supporters across Melbourne descended upon Clayton, led by CSIRO Staff Association President Dr Michael Borgas.

“These cuts are very large and we don’t think there is an informed debate over the value of science. There is simply no rational basis for cutting the range of science areas we are currently seeing,” Dr Borgas said.

Sydney put on a great show with 150 union members from all over Sydney speaking out at North Ryde.

“Cutting science is cutting our innovation, it’s cutting our future development…this country needs that development to succeed, “ Staff Association Councillor Peter Saunders said.

Another 150 CSIRO staff – with some help from the Antarctic Division – made a big statement at Hobart’s Battery Point. Out West, more than 100 Perth staff rocked CSIRO Waterford with the help of their own blues band.

Pullenvale staff followed in the footsteps of St Lucia and Dutton Park to bring the total for Brisbane close to 100 participants over the week. Similarly, Adelaide’s CSIRO staff held two events that drew nearly 100 people between Kintore Avenue and Waite Campus.

Political support

Labor lent support by sending a contingent to Black Mountain including Kim Carr, Mark Dreyfus and Dr Andrew Leigh. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continued the theme later that day in Question Time, reminding MPs of the Government’s cuts to CSIRO on several occasions.

Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt chimed in, seeking leave to introduce a motion calling on the House of Representatives to support the nation wide protests by CSIRO staff.

Media coverage and support online

The various local protest events received significant coverage on television, radio, in print and online.

These events received a great deal of interest online – especially on social media – with union members and supporters using the tag #supportCSIRO to share content and voice their opposition to the Government’s cuts to CSIRO.

Next steps

At all of the events, union members resolved to keep up the fight and campaign for public support to heal the cuts and pressure politicians to deliver sustainable funding for the organisation.

The Staff Association has written to Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, seeking an urgent meeting between the Minister and a delegation of CPSU members to allow frontline science workers make the case – directly – for the future of Australian research.

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