The CPSU and CSIRO Staff Association are demanding urgent clarification on whether the Turnbull Government’s cuts to science will result in the closure of the iconic Parkes radio telescope or similarly important astronomy sites.
The observatory in NSW, affectionately known as The Dish, is operated by CSIRO along with other key facilities including the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri and the recently constructed Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Western Australia.
Staff concern has been growing at looming cuts to funding for the ASKAP and briefings from management indicating they may meet the shortfall by closing The Dish or the Narrabri site.
The CSIRO Staff Association, which is part of the CPSU, has written to CSIRO management seeking urgent advice on the future of Australia’s crucial astronomy observatory capacity.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The Dish is one of Australia’s most recognisable scientific site and upgrades have ensured it’s as relevant today as when it opened. This telescope remains an absolutely vital link in the global chain of observatories and any move to close it would be an absolute insult to its rich history and the important discoveries it is yet to make.”
“The ATCA at Narrabri may not have the same iconic status as The Dish, but it plays an equally important role in expanding our understanding of the universe. Each of Australia’s telescope sites fulfils a clear and different role, so the construction of ASKAP is no excuse for closing sites and sacking scientists elsewhere.”
“This shadow hanging over CSIRO’s astronomy division is another reminder of why science is such an important battleground in this federal election campaign. Voters have a choice between the vandalism wrought on CSIRO by the Turnbull Government, with one in five scientists sacked and more jobs being cut right now, and a clear commitment from Labor to begin reversing that damage.”
CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said: “The Dish employs more than a dozen people, including scientists, technicians and visitor centre staff to cater for the thousands of people who visit each year. As one of the largest single dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere, Australia has a responsibility to the global science community to keep it operating.”
“This telescope is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it first opened and is currently involved in projects such as the search for intelligent life beyond Earth and observing pulsars as well as helping NASA track its spacecraft.”
“Our members are already outraged at the wrecking ball that’s been taken to CSIRO over recent years. Closing The Dish or ATCA would only confirm the Turnbull Government’s continued attack on science that’s in the national interest.”
Call Simon Frazer on 0409 493 290