Hundreds more job cuts are looming at Australia's main science organisation as it pushes through its biggest restructure in decades.
The CSIRO has sacked its Melbourne legal team this week, firing some of the lawyers who have protected its scientific patents for decades.
The axe is expected to fall again later this year among the CSIRO's 1600 scientific support staff, and the organisation's management confirmed on Friday that more jobs would be lost, although it said it could not provide numbers. In more bad news for government science jobs, private weapons companies are already trying to poach specialists from the Defence Material Organisation in Canberra.
This comes amid widespread expectations that much of the agency will be privatised, with the loss of up to 3000 public service jobs.
Defence Minister David Johnston fuelled the speculation on Friday that the government would try to boost private sector involvement in defence purchasing after its Commission of Audit reports.
Heads are also expected to roll among the CSIRO's executive ranks, with the 22 bosses of ''divisions'' and ''flagships'', who all have support staff, vying for just nine jobs heading up the restructured research flagships.
The job cuts are on top of the ban on renewing the jobs of CSIRO's temps and contractors, revealed by Fairfax Media last year, which has already seen the group's headcount reduced from 6500 to fewer than 6100.
A CSIRO Staff Association spokesman Sam Popovski said on Friday that he and his colleagues expected many job losses among the non-scientists.
''That is indication science support roles as opposed to science and research roles, it indicates there will be an attack on science support roles,'' Mr Popovski said.
''They're indicating that they're trying to find efficiencies with their new structure and it largely means the science support staff.''
A CSIRO spokeswoman told Fairfax Media that the changes at CSIRO were about productivity and not cutting staff. ''There will be some job losses, but the number is yet to be quantified,'' she said. ''Most impact will be felt in the support areas of the organisation.''