CSIRO Gearing Up For $150M Budget Chop

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By Anne Lu | April 14, 2014 2:14 PM EST

CSIRO is gearing up for a serious budget cut. Australia’s science research agency is already bracing for a likely scenario in which its budget would lose up to $150 million, or more than 20 per cent of its total funding from the government.

As Fairfax Media has revealed, the top executives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation are expecting to lose 20 per cent of the agency’s $757 million annual funding.

Chairman Simon McKeon admitted that they are preparing for different budget scenarios.

The operational budget has not been finalised for the next financial year yet, and the agency is still waiting for the May budget.

“We have to wait until budget night to see what the marching orders are,” Mr McKeon told Fairfax Media. “But clearly we are in an era where there is a likelihood of some belt-tightening.”

The executive management council has apparently been told to put their divisions under the microscope. A source said that the managers have been ordered to identify the areas of scientific research that the agency could “get out of.”

The reported budget cut did not please Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt, who said that it would “rip the guts of CSIRO and accelerate Australia’s “brain drain.”

“We can’t continue to produce world-class research if the government keeps threatening the research budget every May. Tony Abbott must rule out any cuts to CSIRO and research in the May budget,” he said, adding that the Greens would fight the move.

Labor science spokesman Kim Carr called the budget cut a travesty for science in the country, saying, “The government is doing great harm to Australia’s national interest and putting us at an immense disadvantage in the highly competitive international science community.”

On Friday, CSIRO announced that 300 jobs would be let go in the next financial year. The agency already axed 400 jobs last year. The news followed a revelation by the news source that Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane was told to find up to $2 billion in savings in his portfolio.

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