CSIRO job cuts expose 'hypocritical' innovation policy: Carr

Shadow research minister Senator Kim Carr has branded the government as hypocritical and short sighted, with the CSIRO moving to shed a further 75 jobs following an AU$115 million cut in federal funding to the research organisation.

Further job cuts at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO) have exposed the government's hypocrisy on support for science, innovation, and research in Australia, according to Shadow Minister for Science and Research Senator Kim Carr.

The comments come as the CSIRO, Australia's largest government scientific and technology research organisation, prepares to shed a further 75 jobs from its national ranks.

Researchers in digital productivity, manufacturing, and agriculture are set to lose their jobs within the next four months, according to the CSIRO Staff Association.

The organisation's digital productivity flagship will cull 25 full-time equivalent staff from across a range of programs, according to the association — its mission is to improve Australian productivity through the use of data and digital technology.

However, research into manufacturing will take the biggest hit, with management cutting up to 45 full-time equivalent positions, while the agricultural division will lose six researchers working on areas including cereal physiology and genetics and aquaculture.

The latest job cuts announcement follows previous estimates that the organisation, which helped develop Wi-Fi technology, could shed as many as 500 staff members by June next year as a result of budgetary cuts. The CSIRO Staff Association predicts that up to 700 jobs could be gone by the end of the financial year.

"These latest job losses represent a combination of federal government Budget cuts and declining industry investment in CSIRO research," said Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski.

The association said in a statement that the announcement came as the government works to sell its industry policy, which encompasses five high-priority industry areas, two of which are advanced manufacturing and agribusiness — areas impacted by the new job cuts.

"Most Australians would expect that research that supports innovation and jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, and the digital economy should be increased, not cut," said Popovski.

Carr said that the latest CSIRO research job cuts highlighted what he called the government's "short-sighted" 2014-15 Federal Budget .

"[Prime Minister] Tony Abbott likes to talk big about bringing science and research together with business to create growth and opportunities for Australia, but his actions reveal just how hollow his words are," said Carr. "Mr Abbott says his Industry Growth Centres 'will foster better use by industry of Australia's world class researchers', but at the same time he is getting rid of the researchers.

"Who does Mr Abbott think industry will collaborate with when he is cutting some 800 jobs from Australia's premier scientific research agency?"

In May, Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered the 2014-15 Federal Budget, which saw the government claim a projected AU$845.6 million in budgetary savings over the next five years by cutting at least eight programs aimed at fostering innovation and commercialisation among Australia's science and technology industries.

However, Minister for Industry Ian McFarlane has since defended the government's budget, saying that despite cuts to some programs, the government's new AU$484.2 million Entrepreneur's Infrastructure Programme would enable innovative Australian companies to take their ideas to market.

"Accelerating Commercialisation will help innovative Australian businesses to tackle the challenges they come up against in commercialising new ideas, by providing access to the expert advice, experience, and networks crucial for attracting investment and getting new ideas into the marketplace," said McFarlane in late October.

"Startups and entrepreneurs say that the biggest hurdle can be finding people with the right skills to help to get products market ready, or to successfully demonstrate the market potential of their ideas to investors.

"Accelerating Commercialisation ensures that experts and connections are available to help Australians find the right commercialisation solutions for their new product, process, or service."

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