Liberal slams CSIRO cuts for lack of federal understanding
Despite efforts to avoid it, millions of dollars in budget cuts will force CSIRO to close down several sites for world-leading research.
CSIRO’s annual direction statement has been obtained by the organisation's staff association, and shows significant restructuring and closure as a result of the $111 million drop in federal funding.
The funding hit over four years is expected to cost the jobs of 500 CSIRO staff.
The statement, written by chief executive Dr Megan Clark, says CSIRO will cut entire research areas such as geothermal energy, marine biodiversity, liquid fuels and radio astronomy.
This will be coupled with the closure of eight sites across the country, including; the irrigation research laboratory in Griffith, the Mopra Telescope near Coonabarabran in NSW and the Aspendale laboratories in Victoria.
The CSIRO staff association president has just detailed the size of the cuts in this interview with the ABC.
A West Australian Liberal MP has slammed his own party’s “incoherent” decision to slash research funding.
Liberal MP Dr Dennis Jensen says the party appears to be cutting without thinking, and is going against its own policy direction of investing in the future.
“There appears to be a lack of understanding of how science works,” he said in a speech delivered in Parliament on Tuesday night.
“Where is the coherent, co-ordinated approach to science policy?
“On one hand, we are setting up a huge medical research fund to massively increase medical research.
“How is this coherent policy when we have significant cuts to CSIRO, DSTO (Defence Science and Technology Organisation), ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), the Australian Research Council and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
“Many advances, including in the medical field, are not the result of directed research but arise out of more fundamental research that was not directed.
“X-rays, CT scans and radiotherapy for cancer came from fundamental physics - looking at atomic structure. Similarly, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI - which was previously called nuclear magnetics resonance imaging - also came from fundamental physics. PET scans resulted from fundamental work on anti-matter.
Dr Jensen says it is “foolish to have such a policy disincentive, while at the same time massively incentivising medical research”.
He says some of the contradictory directions and incoherent cutting have come from the lack of a dedicated science minister.
“I have been quiet on the lack of a science minister since I first criticised it when the ministry was announced, the first time we have had no science minister since 1931,” he said.
“I am bitterly disappointed that my fears have come to pass... No G8 nation has no dedicated science minister, and this bodes ill for our future.”
Dr Jensen also criticised the government for spending $12 billion on 58 Joint Strike Fighters – an amount which may soon increase – slamming the decision he previously described as a “dud”.