Statement of Expectations
Dear Ms Fagg
Following my appointment as Minister for Industry and Science, I am writing to outline my expectations of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
The Albanese Government intends for science to be at the forefront of decision-making and places the utmost value on the contribution that science makes to society. I look forward to working closely with CSIRO to deliver solutions that improve the lives of Australians, contribute to national wellbeing and build our industry, science and research capabilities.
Applying science to advance our national interests
CSIRO must play a key role in supporting Australia’s interests through the delivery of innovative scientific and technological solutions to national challenges. This includes deploying CSIRO’s globally recognised expertise in the areas of climate change adaptation and mitigation, and its critical work in biosecurity, quantum, critical minerals, cybersecurity, agriculture, space technologies and energy.
I want to see CSIRO deliver large-scale, impact-focused scientific and collaborative research initiatives, and to apply its National Challenges framework to the opportunities and challenges facing Australia.
Taking Australian Science to the World
Australia’s prosperity depends on science leading our technological development. Australia must maintain our international standing and impactful leadership in scientific innovation to deepen the benefits from our global collaborations.
CSIRO should therefore maintain an active international presence, including by contributing to global efforts to establish diverse and resilient supply chains. I expect CSIRO to continue its collaboration with Australia’s strategic partners, and to prioritise engagements in our region – particularly with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Pacific island countries – as well with as the United States, India and Japan.
Advancing the Government’s policy priorities
Australia’s science and research capabilities must be brought to bear to progress the Government’s broader agenda.
I am keen to see more of CSIRO’s mission-directed research focused on developing and deploying new responses to Australia’s major challenges. Examples of these include emissions reduction, clean energy technology, optimising our hydrogen potential and critical energy metals and minerals, as well as the opportunities that biotechnology presents across multiple industry sectors including health, agriculture, the environment and waste reduction. To achieve this, CSIRO must work collaboratively across all levels of government, the university sector, industry, other publicly funded research agencies and the community.
My department will refresh Australia’s National Science Priorities and deliver a revitalised National Science Statement, informed by a national conversation led by Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, Australia’s Chief Scientist. Refreshing Australia’s national science framework will ensure it reflects our modern society and provides a long-term vision for a strong and sustainable science system, including by better targeting Commonwealth resources. CSIRO should engage this work.
I also expect CSIRO to regularly engage with Australia’s Chief Scientist, including through participation in the National Science and Technology Council.
Advancing First Nations Science
The Government is committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full. Our First Nations peoples were our first scientists and must play an enduring and central role in our scientific endeavours.
I expect CSIRO to be a leader in First Nations engagement in science and build stronger relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the delivery of remote applications of other CSIRO programs, such as the Indigenous Science and Engagement Program.
Building on the success of initiatives such as the Square Kilometre Array project, in collaboration with Traditional Owners, will be a useful model to progress future collaboration.
Achieving Net Zero Emissions and becoming a Renewable Energy Superpower
The Government is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. As outlined in CSIRO’s recent legislative amendment to give effect to Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement, I fully expect CSIRO to continue to commit to maintain and enhance its focus on climate change and related initiatives and keep me advised on progress and significant developments, including any change to program arrangements. We want Australia to become a renewable energy superpower, harnessing our natural advantages to become self-reliant for energy and a major clean energy exporter.
CSIRO is well-positioned to support Government and industry in catalysing Australia's energy transition towards net zero emissions. Innovating appropriately in this area will be key, demonstrating to industry how it can invest and find ways to reduce emissions.
CSIRO’s Towards Net Zero Mission will provide Australian industry, agriculture and regional communities with the tools to achieve net zero emissions and realise the opportunities of a low carbon economy.
CSIRO’s research in energy storage, grid resilience and hydrogen, combined with providing national insights for growth areas, will assist in advancing the Government’s renewable energy agenda, as seen through its Powering Australia and Australian Made Batteries Plan.
CSIRO’s expertise in mining science, technology, and manufacturing places it in a strong position to help Australia unlock more value from our mineral endowments and become a partner of choice for international counterparts focussed on the clean energy transition.
A focus on science and technology that will help expand downstream processing of critical minerals and other resources within Australia will help Australia to maintain its strong position.
As outlined in CSIRO’s Sustainability Strategy 2020-2030, I am pleased to see that CSIRO is committed to achieving net zero emissions of its operations by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions in all of its indirect emissions both upstream and downstream in the value chain by 2050.
Delivering a Future Made in Australia through the National Reconstruction Fund
The Government is focused on delivering sustained economic and social benefits by broadening and diversifying Australia’s industrial base. The National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) is a key initiative in the Government’s Future Made in Australia plan. I expect CSIRO to contribute to the priorities identified in the NRF and work with my department to align CSIRO’s commercialisation activities with the NRF.
CSIRO will be a key partner to Government in delivering its commitment to supporting home grown innovation and domestic manufacturing. CSIRO should use its existing capabilities and cutting-edge research in areas like digital, synthetic biological, robotic and material research activities and Artificial Intelligence to support Australian industries to build sovereign capability, and bolster critical supply chains.
Research translation and commercialisation
CSIRO should play a leading role in the translation of science and technology into products and services. As indicated above, I expect this to be aligned with work to deliver the Government’s NRF and request that you work closely with my department in this regard.
CSIRO is well placed, as a highly networked organisation, to connect across the Government’s science and industry initiatives to support stronger business growth and build critical mass for industry-research ventures, and to leverage CSIRO’s expertise in managing Intellectual Property (IP) for the benefit of Australia.
From its position at the nexus of research and business, CSIRO can play an critical facilitation role to help bridge the gap between Australia’s world-class R&D and industry outcomes, and to support small-medium enterprises (SMEs) to commercialise and integrate research innovations.
CSIRO is a trusted source of impartial and independent scientific advice to the Australian community. I expect that CSIRO uphold the high standards and regard in which it is held by the public, by ensuring research projects are independent of commercial interests and deliver findings that are accessible by industry and the broader community.
CSIRO should continue to apply its experience and expertise to support Government programs aimed at the translation and commercialisation of university research and building industry connections, especially the ON Accelerator program, the Industry PhD program and the Main Sequence Fund.
Supporting the health of Australians
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical importance of science and technology in dealing with emerging health risks, and CSIRO demonstrated the real-world benefits of science expertise in action.
I commend CSIRO’s recent achievements including the preclinical testing of potential vaccines, understanding the virus and its mutations, monitoring wastewater, supporting manufacturing of surgical masks, and analysing and sharing data trends. Threats to our biosecurity and human health continue, requiring ongoing preparation and response capability. CSIRO needs to continue to play a strong role, applying its deep health research expertise, world-class facilities and strong networks.
Managing research infrastructure and national facilities
The Government wants to ensure Australia’s public science and research infrastructure not only supports innovation, productivity and economic outcomes, but also contributes to fundamental research. To meet this goal, I want to ensure the utilisation rates of major science infrastructure hosted by our science agencies remain high and are managed sustainably.
I expect CSIRO to encourage researchers and businesses to access and benefit from its world-class research infrastructure, national facilities and collections that support leading-edge science and innovation. CSIRO must consider how to maximise mutually beneficial arrangements when these assets are accessed, shared or depended upon by its broad stakeholder group.
Regarding the broader management of CSIRO’s property estate, CSIRO should engage with my office and department on property decisions that may be contentious or which may have broader impacts for the portfolio. In particular, I ask the Board to work constructively and transparently with my department to provide timely visibility of planning and decisions around Lindfield, and any other sites for which the Government may have a broader interest.
Australia can be a global STEM superpower. Scientific contribution should be celebrated and a concerted effort needs to be made to keep our best and brightest in Australia.
Science and technology will increasingly underpin Australia’s economic and social prosperity and CSIRO has a key part to play in developing the STEM workforce of the future.
It is essential that CSIRO promotes careers in STEM and provides career paths for early career and post-doctoral students, research and technical staff through programs such as Industry PhD.
I expect CSIRO to engage strongly with the university sector, including on strategies to increase the quantity and quality of training of STEM students and higher degree research candidates.
CSIRO should build on its successful gender equity in STEM programs to continue being a leader in this area. I have asked an independent panel to undertake a Diversity in STEM review, to determine how existing Government programs can be reformed to support greater diversity in Australia’s science and technology sectors. CSIRO should engage in the review as appropriate and the steps taken by Government once it is completed.
Communication of CSIRO’s science and research
I am looking forward to continuing to promote and raise awareness of CSIRO’s work. I encourage you to work with my department to meet this objective. I expect CSIRO will be active in the community to raise awareness of its activities and communicate its research and technical knowledge, including its research facilities.
Driving the organisation’s performance
I acknowledge the functions of CSIRO as set out in the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 (SIR Act) and the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926. My expectations, as set out in this Statement, are given within that framework.
Consistent with the SIR Act, CSIRO should prevent unnecessary overlap with existing activities and promote the most effective and efficient use of available resources and staff.
I expect CSIRO to be an exemplar of the Australian Government's commitment to the effective governance and performance of its agencies, governed by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
When developing its annual report and corporate plan, in accordance with the PGPA Act, I expect CSIRO to brief me prior to these documents being finalised and published. I expect CSIRO take into account the priorities and policies of the Government, and to include reporting against matters raised in this Statement of Expectations.
Agency staff and health
As a values-driven organisation, CSIRO’s people are its most valuable asset.
I expect CSIRO will provide a workplace that supports and encourages diversity and inclusivity and attracts and retains the best minds from Australia and around the world with robust training and opportunities. This should include encouraging Australians currently working overseas to return to take up new opportunities.
I expect the CSIRO Board and management to prioritise maintaining the highest safety standards across the organisation and that CSIRO proactively engages with its health and safety obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). All Board members are expected to adhere to relevant legislation in the execution of their duties, including maintaining any security clearances as appropriate.
Working with my department and office
I expect CSIRO’s ongoing engagement across government in delivering on the priorities set out in this statement. CSIRO’s independent science and research input to policy is critical for other portfolios, noting CSIRO’s expertise spans issues in environment, water, climate, health, education, agriculture, resources and data. I therefore ask you to work collaboratively and openly in supporting relevant portfolios.
I expect CSIRO to work closely with my office and my department. I ask CSIRO keep me informed via six-monthly meetings with the Chair and CEO on structural changes (including possible job losses or site closures) before these decisions are made. Further, I expect CSIRO to provide sufficient prior notice, to my office and department, of significant announcements and events that are likely to attract the attention of media or stakeholders, including consideration of my attendance or involvement.
CSIRO must provide me and my department with advice of commercial relationships CSIRO intends to enter into, especially when large and/or private companies are involved, or the partnerships may be of public interest or raise a real or perceived conflict of interest. I expect CSIRO to ensure any such partnerships reflect the organisation’s core mission and the priorities articulated in this Statement of Expectations, and seek to retain intellectual property in areas of strategic national importance.
I look forward to working with CSIRO to advance Australia’s industry, science and innovation agenda to benefit all Australians and improve national wellbeing. I also look forward to receiving your response outlining how the Board proposes to deliver on these priorities.
Ed Husic MP