The CSIRO Staff Association’s election priorities were communicated to Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Research and Science. First elected Labor Senator for Victoria in 1993, Kim Carr was Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research on two occasions (2007-2011 and in 2013).
Senator Carr prefaced Labor’s response by acknowledging the contribution of the CSIRO Staff Association to public policy.
“I wish to place on record my appreciation, and that of the Labor Party, for the leadership and steadfastness the Staff Association and the CPSU have shown in your defence of public good science and the role of science and evidence in public life,” Senator Carr said.
Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said that Labor supports most of the eleven prioties proposed by the union.
“If it wins government, Labor will remove the staffing cap and additional efficiency dividend on CSIRO. They will introduce and enforce science integrity charters in CSIRO and the public sector as well as legislate to establish a staff-elected position on the CSIRO Board.”
“Labor has also separately announced new money for CSIRO climate science, additional funding for the Square Kilometre Array and Pawsey Centre and reforms to the research and development tax incentive to boost collaboration with public science agencies and universities,” Mr Popovski said.
Funding, jobs and a voice at the top
“When Labor was last in government, we ensured that there was consistent Commonwealth investment in innovation and science. We increased investment in innovation, science and research by 50 per cent, from $6.6 billion to $9.9 billion,” Senator Carr said.
“A Shorten Labor Government will aim to dedicate 3 per cent of our national Gross Domestic Product to science, research and development by 2030.”
Labor will protect CSIRO and public sector jobs, Senator Carr said, promising to remove the APS staffing cap from CSIRO.
“We will not proceed with the remaining 0.5 per cent additional efficiency dividend next financial year, thereby saving an estimated 550 jobs and ensuring valuable experience, expertise and corporate memory is retained within the Australian public service.”
“We also made a commitment at our National Conference last year to create a staff-elected position on the CSIRO Board,” Senator Carr said.
CSIRO and research announcements
In addition to measures outlined in the response to the Staff Association, Labor has made several commitments on the campaign trail that are relevant to CSIRO and public sector research organisations.
If elected, Labor will direct an additional $10 million to CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre to improve and better coordinate research and develop a climate science capability plan.
Labor also plans to spend an additional $100 million for marine and reef science including an extra $26 million for the Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS) and $35 million for a new Australian Research Council initiative focussing on reef collaboration and adaptation.
An incoming Labor Government will invest $7.5 million in CSIRO and the Pawsey Centre to increase data science capacity for the Square Kilometre Array.
And the research and development tax incentive is set for an overhaul under Labor, with reforms to boost local collaboration.
“Under Labor’s reforms, firms that collaborate with researchers in universities and public research agencies to create new knowledge will be eligible for a 10 per cent premium,” Senator Carr said.
Mr Popovski said this development was particularly welcome.
“The announcement of an additional tax incentive for collaboration with CSIRO, public research organisations and universities follows several years of advocacy from the Staff Association, in particular former President Dr Michael Borgas.”
“We are committed to a strong science focus for the CSIRO, and as a part of the process of ending the war on science we will revive and update the science integrity charter we instituted when we were last in government,” Senator Carr said.
“Labor notes CSIRO’s Reconciliation Action Plan to move to 3 per cent participation in its workforce by people identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, and your concern about the pipeline of STEM-qualified candidates.
“To that end, Labor will remove the freeze on university places and restore the demand driven system which since 2009 has seen the number of indigenous students almost double.”
On efforts to improve gender balance and cultural diversity at CSIRO, Senator Carr was unequivocal.
“As a point of principle, we would expect the CSIRO to maintain and increase its gender equity initiatives, and that CSIRO and other publically funded science and research agencies will become model employers in this regard.
“Labor values the expertise and experience of our public servants, from service delivery staff, engineers, scientists, national security professionals, policymakers and the raft of other public service employees who do an excellent job of making Australia a world leader in so many areas through their contributions,” Senator Carr said.
Authorised by Sam Popovski, CSIRO Section Community & Public Sector Union (PSU Group) Level 7, 350 Queen Street Melbourne Victoria 3000.