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8 February 2016 Statement

Last week CSIRO shared some plans with staff, in the same spirit of openness that we developed our Strategy, plans which included exiting some of our climate work, and it’s important to get some facts straight so I’d like to directly address some of the incorrect reporting by media. 

Firstly the overall number of people in CSIRO is projected to be unchanged at the end of a two year period, however up to 350 people may lose their positions as we change the focus of our work program. Some people will be redeployed or reskilled and some will be made redundant and those final figures are not yet determined. CSIRO has a well-established and respectful process when changes are made.  People are advised early, as was done last Thursday, updated as soon as details are available, as is continuing this week, and consulted on how best to implement decisions.

In our Oceans and Atmosphere business we have about 420 staff, not 140 as reported by some media, and after these changes we expect to have about 355, contrary to media reports. We asked business unit leaders to focus their operational plans on growth, and growth within finite resources will always initially lead to making choices about what to exit. However, as painful as any redundancy is, for the majority of the 5,200 CSIRO employees there will be no change to their current circumstances as a result of these plans, and we will also recruit new people with new skills.

The second area of correction is our ability to support climate measurement in Australia.  Cape Grim and RV Investigator are not under threat from these changes. The Cape Grim air pollution monitoring station which is a source of much of our greenhouse gas information will continue to be that source. Our climate models have long been and will continue to be available to any researcher and we will work with our stakeholders to develop a transition plan to achieve this. The RV Investigator, operated by CSIRO for scientists from Australia and around the world as a state of the art research facility will continue to operate scientific voyages, gathering data every day at sea. We also have an air archive which is a resource available to any researcher to investigate air changes over time.  We will also continue our contribution to the international Argo floats program which provides thousands of datapoints for temperature and salinity of our oceans; and we’ll be investing more in autonomous vehicles, using innovation to collect more data than ever before.

However we must also focus where we have most need and that need is in innovation, turning inventions into benefit for society. Australia is underdone on innovation. Australia has long been an inventive society but realising the benefits of those inventions is a well-identified gap in our culture and practice.

Australia’s biggest challenges and opportunities lie in the health, prosperity and sustainability in the face of rapid global changes; climate is one piece of a much larger puzzle. As we balance our broad portfolio of investments from Digital to Agriculture we must weigh up where we can have the greatest impact and where Australia has the greatest need. No one is saying climate change is not important, but surely mitigation, health, education, sustainable industries, and prosperity of the nation are no less important.

CSIRO is working on tomorrow. For example our world leading solar thermal technology has already attracted exports, we are using sky cameras to better integrate solar into our grids, we are working on methods to control fugitive emissions from mining activities, and we are dramatically reducing energy and chemical use, and greenhouse gas emissions in the minerals industry through smart ore sorting technology. Each of these technologies is addressing a fundamental need that faces society now, climate change mitigation.

The changes at CSIRO are deeply embedded in our Strategy 2020, to be Australia’s innovation catalyst.  We are one player in Australia’s innovation system along with Universities, other research organisations and industry. We must focus our work on areas of the most benefit and sometimes this means making some tough choices, making changes and most importantly looking 20 years ahead to what Australia will need. The plans we shared with staff last week were developed through deep engagement and research and we believe they will serve the country for many years to come.

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