National

CSIRO scientists fight job cuts outside Parliament House

Independent senator Nick Xenophon​ has vowed to oppose swingeing cuts to Australia's chief science organisation if they come before the Senate.

The Opposition and the Greens will also unite to make job losses at the CSIRO an election issue, Senator Xenophon told a rally of about 120 scientists, STEM students and unionists outside Parliament House on Wednesday morning.

More than 350 are to lose their jobs over two years, the CSIRO confirmed in an email to staff earlier this month, after $140 million was slashed from their budget.

CSIRO's chief executive Larry Marshall indicated in the email since climate change had been established, further work in the area would be a reduced priority.

Dr Sarah Ryan, CSIRO fellow and deputy chancellor at the University of Canberra, criticised the cuts as having a disproportionate hit on the environmental sciences.

"Things like urban liveability, sustainability, biodiversity, environmental, social and economic sciences are slated to disappear. Has there been a review in Australia that tells us there are no longer significant changes in these areas? I don't think so.

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"Can we really stop modelling climate change because we've accepted it exists?

Opposition environment minister for environment, water and climate change Mark Butler accused Mr Marshall of deeming climate change science "redundant".

"To pretend climate science in the 21st century is redundant and is not going to be one of the most important areas of science we know ... is utter fancy," Mr Butler said.

Federal Labor MP Mark Dreyfus​ said the axe would fall the hardest among CSIRO scientists in his electorate of Isaacs, in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs.

As many as 110 jobs at the CSIRO's oceans and marine division in Aspendale could go.

"We are now in the situation where we cannot and will not be able to honour to commitments we've already made at the international level. We'll be breaching our commitments to the United National Framework on Climate Change, we'll be breaching our undertakings to the World Meteorological Society and a whole range of other undertakings that Australia has made over a number of decades to say we will play our part in continuing testing, in climate science research," Mr Dreyfus said.

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale​ said Australia's success was built by its "world-class" research institutions.

"What we need is a greater investment in science, a greater investment in the human capital here because our competitive advantage is not in what lies beneath the ground but what lies between our ears," he said.

Senator Xenophon said: "The money were spend with the CSIRO I see as an insurance policy. It's a very small premium to pay for an insurance policy not just for our environment but our economy."

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