Australia's national science agency is poised to start hiring after a cap on its staff levels was eased this week.
Almost a year after staff at the CSIRO raised fears up to 200 jobs could be lost due to plans to strictly apply the average staffing cap level, the agency had its ASL boosted by 100 in Tuesday's budget, a spokeswoman confirmed.
It will mean CSIRO can now have 5351 full-time equivalent staff.
The average staffing level cap was introduced in 2015 to keep the size of the Australian Public Service at or below 2006 levels.
While CSIRO's 2019-20 cap was 5141 staff, it is understood there have been incremental changes since the last budget.
CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski welcomed the increase, saying it would mean the agency could retain existing staff and hire more people including post-doctoral researchers.
The union told a parliamentary inquiry last year student researchers were being encouraged to get ABNs in order to be hired as external contractors due to the cap.
Mr Popovski said more than 500 positions had gone over the past year due to the cap. While some were replaced by contractors, not all were, Mr Popovski said.
"Science, belatedly, is finally being recognised by the government in this budget," Mr Popovski said.
CSIRO will also receive a $460 million boost from government over the next four years as it faces a fall in external revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In June, a spokeswoman said the agency was expecting a $50-100 million hit this financial year due to the virus.
Budget papers indicated that shortfall was likely to be larger.
According to the Department of Industry's budget statement, the CSIRO's own-source revenue will fall from around $502 million in 2019-20 to $444 million in 2020-21.
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said he was confident the budget boost would be enough to see the agency through the pandemic.
"I'm optimistic that if we're smart about the areas we invest in and if you look to the government's manufacturing strategy they've highlighted six areas where Australia really could be world class and globally competitive. We're really focusing our science on making those areas recover first because that's where we think we'll get the most job growth and the most economic growth," Dr Marshall said.
"At the end of the day, that's what's going to drive our recovery."
Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the investment in CSIRO was "integral" to the government's jobs strategy.
"We are creating the jobs that are needed now and the jobs of the future," Ms Andrews said.
But Mr Popovski was concerned about ongoing hit to external revenue predicted in the budget papers.
While more businesses will be able to access an expanded R&D tax incentive after the Senate passed the changes on Friday, own-source revenue was not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023-24.
"We hope that co-investment if better than what the budget projects," Mr Popovski said.