CSIRO science at the centre of crisis response

The research capability and expertise of CSIRO has been called upon as a critical part of the national response to the two issues that continue to dominate media headlines and public concern; the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the bushfire crisis.

In addition to the organisation’s standing contribution to infectious disease research and monitoring, CSIRO will form part of a global rapid response effort to study the novel coronavirus as part of the ultimate effort to discover a vaccine.

Meanwhile, following heavy and sustained rainfall that finally extinguished many blazes burning in eastern Australia, the Federal Government has put CSIRO science and research at the centre of bushfire recovery efforts.

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Women and Girls in science 2020

To mark the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February) we have reproduced a speech by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith to the National Press Club in November 2019. Professor Harvey-Smith is the Australian Government’s Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) ambassador. An astrophysicist, Professor Harvey-Smith worked as project scientist at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science and is a former Staff Association member.

I GREW UP IN A SMALL VILLAGE in rural Essex in England about 60 kilometers north of London. Now the skies there were pretty dark, so at night my dad and I would sometimes go outside and look at the stars in the garden. Now in 1986 when I was only 6 years old and knee-high to a grass hopper, Halley’s Comet came to visit. How many here – how many of you here saw Halley’s Comet? Yes, there’s hands up. So Halley’s Comet is an ice-covered rock. Some people call it a dirty snowball and it’s whizzing around the sun. It’s about five kilometers across and its orbit takes it close to the son about every 76 years or so. And as it gets close to the sun it starts to heat up so the ice on its surface turns into a gas and that gas is pushed away from the sun by this huge energetic stream of particles that are whizzing out of our sun called the solar wind.

It looks magnificent, this tail behind the comet, or so I’m told. Because I actually never saw Halley’s Comet, the English clouds got the better of me. But you know what? Not seeing Halley’s Comet was actually a pivotal moment in my life and career because this was an exciting global event. But for me it was a non-event, but it got me hooked on astronomy. So by the age of 12 I was looking up at the stars as a matter of course. My parents encouraged me to join my local astronomical society and I really loved it despite being the only person under fifty in the room.

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Pressure builds against visa privatisation push

A plan to privatise Australia’s visa processing system continues to attract controversy, with donation records linking the governing Liberal Party to a company bidding for the lucrative contract, valued by some sources at close to $1 billion.

Government moves to auction a key part of Australia’s immigration infrastructure has already attracted sustained criticism, with the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) warning that over 2,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the sell off.

Southern Strategy, the company disclosed by the Liberals as making the $165,000 donation, is helmed by Scott Briggs and forms part of a group vying for the visa contract. Mr Briggs is a friend of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former deputy state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party.

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