Monday, 2 May 2016
At the request of Senator Carr, I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 1153 standing in his name and in the name of Senator Wong.
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes with concern:
(i) the proposed 350 job losses at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), including around 100 jobs to be cut from the Land and Water Business Unit,
(ii) evidence from the CSIRO’s senior management that these cuts respond to the Government’s Statement of Expectations, as well as its cuts to science funding delivered through the Department of the Environment,
(iii) the critical importance of the CSIRO’s land and water research, including urban water, to the State of South Australia, as well as its public good value to the nation,
(iv) the CSIRO’s failure to consult with its research partners before deciding to cut public good research in the Land and Water Business Unit,
(v) the CSIRO’s misleading advice to the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science about the capacity of the academic sector to take up the research the CSIRO is proposing to abandon, and
(vi) the risk to national public good presented by the CSIRO’s proposed restructure;
(b) further notes that the Australian Labor Party, as the alternative government, has publicly stated that it would set different priorities for the CSIRO, recognising the value of its environmental and other public good research; and
(c) calls on the Government to use the ministerial authority under the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 to direct the CSIRO Board to:
(i) delay the proposed cuts until after the federal election,
(ii) carefully consider the impacts of the proposed cuts on Australia’s national research capability and reputation,
(iii) ensure that CSIRO management consults meaningfully with the organisation’s research partners and staff, and
(iv) ensure that management takes immediate steps to address the significant effect of the proposed cuts on staff morale across the CSIRO.
I thank the chamber. As Senator Carr himself, the then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, said at Senate estimates on 3 June 2008 in relation to Labor cutting the CSIRO budget and closing CSIRO locations:
... the government has made the budgetary decision. The implementation issues are matters for the CSIRO and the board. The CSIRO board has to sign off on these decisions.
When asked about the shutting down of the CSIRO Rockhampton site, he said:
I have had representations on the site and a number of members of parliament have drawn to my attention the importance of the facility. The simple fact of the matter is that these budget changes have been made as a result of decisions of government and that $63 million over four years has to be found by the organisation.
The CSIRO is an independent statutory agency governed by a board of directors. The board, in conjunction with senior management, are responsible for operations, including staffing and setting the CSIRO's priorities. Advice from the CSIRO is that there will be no net job losses overall across the agency. There have been no changes in government funding to the CSIRO. Any suggestion that this was as a result of changes to the CSIRO budget is incorrect.
I rise to speak on notice of motion No. 1153 regarding cuts to the CSIRO. I note that in December last year our Prime Minister, in a statement on his National Innovation and Science Agenda, said:
Our businesses, universities and research organisations like the CSIRO are also among the best in the world.
He also announced $1.1 billion to incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk-taking and promote science, maths and computing in schools by focusing on our four priority areas, yet in the same breath the PM allows the CSIRO to shed 275 jobs Australia wide, undermining decades of incredible innovation. This move will have a particularly devastating effect on my home state of Tasmania, with 35 scientists expected to lose their jobs. At a time when jobs and good economic management is crucial in Tasmania, it seems incomprehensible the government would cut highly skilled jobs. With dwindling job opportunities, Tasmanian scientists will have no choice but to move interstate, damaging Tasmania's strong scientific reputation. (Time expired)
Question agreed to.