Climate science still ‘in strife’

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Atmosphere of cuts: Scientists at the CSIRO laboratories in Aspendale conduct research on climate change.

Atmosphere of cuts: Scientists at the CSIRO laboratories in Aspendale conduct research on climate change.

A COMMITMENT to climate science by incoming Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt has failed to ease union fears about jobs and research cuts at the CSIRO including climate change modelling reductions at laboratories in Aspendale.

Mr Hunt’s pledge last week to order the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to “renew its focus” on climate science – months after a global outcry from scientists when the Australian science body’s CEO Larry Marshall announced a move away from climate change research to concentrate make climate science “a bedrock function” – was seen as a backflip on previous Abbott government priorities.

Mr Hunt announced 15 more climate science jobs at the CSIRO and an extra $3.7 million in funding per year.

CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski says the Turnbull government “needs to do far more to maintain and rebuild CSIRO’s climate science capability”.

“The Turnbull government stood by for months claiming its hands were tied as CSIRO’s research capacity and international reputation suffered,” Mr Popovski said in a statement.

“Massive community concern on this issue has forced the government to act but this is merely a band-aid solution to a major problem.

Some CSIRO staff based at Aspendale Gardens handed out flyers to Isaacs residents as part of a Community and Public Sector Union campaign urging voters to “put the Liberals last” before the 2 July federal election (‘Scientists target election’, The News 8/6/16).

“You don’t need to be a scientist to realise that employing 15 climate researchers when you’re in the process of sacking more than 50 doesn’t add up. It’s not going to restore CSIRO’s research capacity or repair Australia’s global reputation,” Mr Popovski said.

“If Minister Hunt’s intentions to design a new CSIRO strategy are genuine and sincere, he should direct the organisation to halt all current job cuts.”

Federal Isaacs Labor MP Mark Dreyfus called on the federal Coalition government to reconsider $115 million in CSIRO budget cuts over four years implemented by former treasurer Joe Hockey in his 2014 budget.

“While it is pleasing to see Greg Hunt pare back some of the government’s cuts to climate science, the funding that is proposed to be restored is but a fraction of the funding cut,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“If the Turnbull government wants to show that it is truly a supporter of science, it should restore all of the funding that it stripped from the CSIRO and guarantee that the CSIRO research centre in Aspendale will not be closed under its watch.”

A spokesman for Mr Hunt, John O’Doherty, said “the government’s support for the CSIRO is significant”.

“We are committed to growing this funding. We are providing $1.35 billion to the CSIRO this year and this will increase to $1.46 billion by 2019-20.

“CSIRO staffing levels are on track to increase from 5078 in 2016-17 to 5335 by 2019-20.

“In addition to this investment, the CSIRO has committed to continuing climate science at Aspendale, with a commitment to operate the site to at least 2023 on a fully-funded basis.

“The government has made it clear that climate science is a priority.”

Mr Popovski says the union will write to CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall to demand planned redundancies are halted.

“We stand ready to seek an urgent injunction in the Fair Work Commission if CSIRO management fails to do so.”

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 10 August 2016

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