The Australian federal government is being called on to halt further job losses at the CSIRO, after confirmation this week that the energy department at the nation’s foremost scientific research agency would have its staff numbers slashed by almost 20 per cent.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said on Wednesday that CSIRO management had this week confirmed up to 40 jobs would be cut from its energy team, including key scientists, engineers, and researchers.
The staff cuts, which were first flagged by the AFR in March, are the latest in a series of job losses to hit the CSIRO, bringing the total number to 619 this financial year, under the Morrison government’s Average Staffing Level Cap and continued budget cuts.
As the CPSU’s CSIRO section secretary, Sam Popovski, said on Wednesday, “job losses of any sort in CSIRO are bad news.” Cuts to the organisation’s energy department, however, are seen to add insult to the injury of an already vastly inadequate federal policy to guide Australia’s low-carbon transition.
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The CPSU says four CSIRO energy sites will be affected by the staffing changes, including Kensington (Western Australia), Clayton (Victoria), Newcastle and North Ryde (New South Wales).
The relatively new Clayton Centre for Hybrid Energy Systems (CHES) facility is described as a state-of-the-art facility showcasing the CSIRO’s substantial expertise and capability in integrating energy storage, renewable energy, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
“There is no doubt that these cuts will have an enduring impact on the national capability to develop and implement energy and climate policy,” said CPSU national secretary Melissa Donelly in a statement.
“At a time when the government should be focused on the future of our energy needs, they are more concerned with cutting jobs,” she said.
“It’s time for the government to scrap the ASL Cap and invest in Australia’s scientific resources. If the past 6 months have shown us anything, its that the CSIRO is more important than ever.”
The CPSU’s Popovski said CSIRO chief Larry Marshall needed to do “a lot more” to protect CSIRO jobs and make the case for increased public funding.
“The recent King Review indicates that Australia’s energy policy remains far from settled and diminishing CSIRO’s specialist capabilities in this area harms government decision-making and future innovation,” he said.
“There are growing concerns that the October federal budget may feature spending cuts and Dr Marshall and the Board must ensure that the case for CSIRO public funding is heard loud and clear over coming months.”