The CSIRO faces more cuts and loss of capacity for research

Photo from The Canberra Times

Contributed by Ben Wilson

Something is very wrong when the nation’s most important research body is being gutted. This is exactly what the Albanese government has been doing. Continuing in the style of the former Morrison led Coalition government 500 administration jobs are to go from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and join the many staff who have already thrown on the scrapheap. further job losses are in the pipeline.

A prominent example is the scrapping jobs in the health biosecurity team, which throws the newly built and expensive research facility in Sydney’s Westmead into doubt.  It sems that this and other properties are going to be sold off.

Photo by Nikki Davis-Jones

Further cuts and job losses are being considered, in the drive to reduce the CSIRO’s budget by 20 percent.  A lack of transparency has made it impossible to estimate how far this will go. After years of mutilation through numerous funding cuts, this new round will leave Australia’s research capability is a perilous state.

While this might seem remote from the lives of most Australians, the reality is different, for what comes out of research has an impact on our lives and the economy we live in. Long ago, it was released the private sector is unwilling to invest sufficiently in its own research and development. Recognition was given to the fact that this could not continue if Australia was going to succeed in the modern world. The CSIRO was created to fill the need.

The cuts of recent years have been driven by an ideological bias that the public sector must get out and the private sector move in. They have nothing to do with improving research capability or that the need for it is no longer required. The May budget imposed a $92 million cut in government funding for the 2024-25 financial year.

The piece-by-piece destruction of the CSIRO is an unforgivable betrayal. Not only of an already overstretched workforce within the organisation. This is a betrayal of the whole of Australia. Key research areas to be affected include agriculture and food, data and digital science, and health. Research in renewable technologies and climate change will be set back even further than it already has been. Cuts like this harm Australia’s future prospects.

The CSIRO has contributed to many important fields of research, including robotics, disease control, and agricultural biodiversity

Over the years since its founding in 1916, the CSIRO has built links across Australia, and now has more than 4000 with industry and government partners. The CSIRO has built a proud history of delivering scientific results that have contributed to building Australia’s achievements in terms our wellbeing and an advanced economy. It has contributed greatly to fighting disease, improving the seas around us and our waterways, telecommunications, polymer research that has benefited many industries and other uses, and much more.

Slowly killing off the CSIRO is extremely irresponsible, especially so at a challenging time when Australia’s future depends so much on transitioning towards a new economy for the twenty-first century. To succeed, Australia must build new industries, and this on a sustainable foundation. Australia must catch up to the world’s leading edge on new knowledge, invention, and application for a healthy economy and future successful trade with the rest of the world.

None of this is possible unless there is enough investment in research and development. The private sector will not deliver this for some obvious reasons. A large proportion of the corporations operating here are foreign owned and it is not in their interests to support independent capacity, which would mean their loss of control. We are living in an age, where corporate dependence on government support is greater than it ever has been, and this is in the context of an economy going backwards in many ways. The private sector is far more interested in short-term gains than the future needs of Australia.

It does not have to be this way. Australia can be innovative and successful. It just needs the commitment of government and a population determined to make this a reality.

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