CSIRO staff in Alice Springs protest over funding cuts


p2142-Jocelyn-DaviesLocal CSIRO Staff Association members and supporters are joining with other regional laboratories across Australia holding a day of protest tomorrow, Tuesday 24 June.
We do not yet know whether our Alice Springs CSIRO office will lose any of its staff but we are deeply concerned at the impact of federal government budget cuts, which will result in the loss of 700 staff across Australia over the next twelve months.
Of these job losses, 420 are due to direct government cuts and 280 as a result of organisational restructure and reductions to support functions.
These losses are in addition to 477 jobs lost so far this 2013-14 financial year, partly as a result of a federal government staff freeze operating across the public sector since last October.
We have an office of twelve staff, two honorary fellows, and also host several postgraduate students and visiting researchers.
It is not just the prospect of over 1200 science workers losing their jobs and the associated impact on their families and the communities in which they live that is causing great concern. We are also extremely concerned about the long-term impact on Australian science and society.
As a result of the budget cuts, CSIRO will cease its research altogether in areas as diverse as irrigation, colorectal cancer and geothermal energy. Other areas facing significant cuts to research include solar energy, climate adaptation, liquid fuels, soil and landscape research, biodiversity science, ground water hydrography and radio astronomy.
Science benefits flow widely and often from unexpected sources. For example, it was CSIRO’s radio astronomy research which led to the invention of WiFi technology that powers our smartphones and tablets.
Since it was established in 1953, the Alice Springs CSIRO office has contributed significantly to international understanding of how desert landscapes and livelihoods function, and methods for their conservation and improvement. Our work is widely published in books, journals, community reports and in video products.
CSIRO research on Australian deserts includes, for example, the affects of grazing, buffel grass and fire; long-term monitoring of social and ecological trends; and Aboriginal knowledge and land use patterns.
The understanding of what make deserts distinctive, resulting from recent and current CSIRO work, is crucial for sustainability and adaptation in the hotter conditions that are now upon us.
Dr JOCELYN DAVIES  and local Staff Association members.


  1. So in a nutshell: Over the past half-decade a lot of work regarding the understanding of desert ecology HAS been done and is published. Fine, that was then, this is now.
    At present we have the problem of feral cats and buffel which the CSIRO has failed to address and these are very serious eco problems.
    With regards to Aboriginal people: I wonder how much of my tax money was spent on some of the ‘scientific’ projects e.g. that link health to ‘country’, because while the elders may need the land, many younger people can’t wait to leave, get an education and find a well paid job – just like the rest of us.
    Wind power – FAIL. This one really doesn’t float, it spins, because coal, gas or diesel engines are ALWAYS used as a backup when the wind doesn’t blow … which is often.
    It seems that when any organisation, the CSIRO is no exception, is politicised to the Green end of the spectrum, it starts to fail.
    The CSIRO and other people-funded organisations probably would have been left to their own devices had the Australian Labor Party – the government of the day – not squandered billions. It is this political party to whom you should be addressing your concerns … now that would follow logic and be “scientific”.

  2. Perhaps the key problem from which the CSIRO has suffered is its lack of “presence” ie, from a public relations sense.
    I wonder how many of the non-scientific public (like me) really know about what the CSIRO does or achieves.
    This is to some degree inferred by Dr Davies who reminds us of the organisation’s achievements. I’m reasonably well read, but can’t recall reading much about the CSIRO and its Alice Springs activities.
    Public funded organisations need to show benefits for the huge amounts of taxpayers’ money poured into them and if they are perceived as non-performing, then it’s a no-brainer that one day the axe will fall.
    Nobody wants to see people lose their jobs, but in today’s world, visibility is as important as being seen to achieve.

  3. If it’s true that CSIRO provides employment for more than 6500 individuals (per a Google search), then there is a compromise possible.
    None of the 700 staff need to be made redundant if an equivalent across-the-board payroll reduction is invoked (about 11%, by my calculation).
    Certainly there are other cost considerations in addition to payroll, so the payroll reduction would probably need to be higher.
    Nevertheless, the (admittedly simplistic and first-order) choice becomes: A 100% payroll sacrifice by 11% of the CSIRO workforce (who are made redundant) as opposed to an 11% payroll sacrifice by 100% of the CSIRO workforce (who would see a payroll reduction).
    Comments invited (especially if some knowledgeable person can report what actual across-the-board payroll reduction would be required to achieve CSIRO’s cost goals without imposing any redundancies).


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