Throughout 2017–18, CSIRO staff had regular meetings with ministers, parliamentarians and senior staff from relevant government departments to discuss their needs, share research activities and provide scientific information.

They also received advice to inform policy development and program implementation and evaluation. We made seven submissions to parliamentary inquiries and our staff attended 10 inquiry hearings to provide information.

Legislation and government policy

CSIRO is a Corporate Commonwealth entity constituted and operating under the provisions of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 (SIR Act).

Our primary functions are to:

  • carry out scientific research to:
  • assist Australian industry and to further the interests of the Australian community
  • contribute to national and international objectives and responsibilities of the Commonwealth
  • encourage or facilitate the application and use of the results of CSIRO scientific research.

Our secondary functions include international scientific liaison, training research workers, publishing research results, technology transfer of other research, providing scientific services and disseminating information about science and technology.

Reporting, accountability and other rules for our operations are set out in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).

Pursuant to section 19(1)(e) of the PGPA Act, CSIRO has notified its Minister and the Minister for Finance of three instances of significant non-compliance with the finance law (consisting of the PGPA Act, any rules pursuant to the PGPA Act, any instrument under the PGPA Act and any Appropriation Act) in the 2017–2018 period:

  • The use by a former CSIRO employee of their CSIRO credit card for personal purposes and the processing of invoices for personal purposes through CSIRO’s finance system. This matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police in July 2017. In response, CSIRO has reviewed its purchasing processes, is implementing improvements to its controls and processes and has provided additional training to all staff. 
  • A former CSIRO employee used CSIRO IT equipment for an improper purpose. The issue was identified immediately by CSIRO and stopped before any harm was caused to the organisation.
  • CSIRO identified multiple instances of failure to supply to its Minister, as required by section 72 of the PGPA Act, information with respect to company activities. CSIRO has taken steps to ensure that all relevant line areas within CSIRO are aware of the ongoing requirements of section 72 and implemented additional reporting processes to ensure compliance in future.

CSIRO also provides administrative support services to the Trustee of the Science and Industry Endowmen Fund consistent with the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926. The Fund has its own governance structure (see pages 144-159 for more information on the Fund).

There were no government policy orders to CSIRO during 2017–18.

Responsible Minister

Portrait photo of Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation.

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation

As at 30 June 2018, the responsible Minister for CSIRO was Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation. Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, was responsible Minister for CSIRO from 1 July 2016 to 20 December 2017.

Under the SIR Act, the Minister has power to:

  • add to the purposes for which CSIRO may carry out scientific research (SIR Act, section 9(1)(a)(iv))
  • provide to the CSIRO Board, in writing, directions and guidelines with respect to the performance of the functions, or the exercise of the powers, of the Board or of the Organisation (SIR Act, section 13).

The Minister provides CSIRO with a Statement of Expectations and the Board responds with a Statement of Intent. The latest Statement of Expectations was provided by then Minister Hunt on 18 November 2016. CSIRO’s responding Statement of Intent was provided to then Minister Sinodinos on 1 May 2017.

These documents are available at Statement of Expectations.

Ministerial directions and notifications

On 15 July 2014, the Minister directed the CSIRO Board to apply the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy to Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations in CSIRO. During 2017–18, CSIRO kept the Minister for Jobs and Innovation and the Minister for Finance informed of the activities of CSIRO through our Board and in accordance with section 19 of the PGPA Act.

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