Science agency chairman falls victim

As Australian scientists warn that the government is putting the future of the country’s research at risk to pursue a short-term political agenda, it emerges that the government has also brought partisan politics to the boardroom, refusing to renew any appointments made by the previous government.

The chairman of the country’s respected peak government science agency, the CSIRO, is among those facing the axe.

“The reality is that, yes, there is a rule that no one on the board of a federal government agency has been reappointed,” CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon says. “It’s an issue that many people are finding worrying.”

McKeon, a former Australian of the Year, said Australia needed excellent people on challenging boards. “The last thing we want to be doing is to … kick them off after three years, let alone send a very strong message saying this is the way it ought to be,” he said.

But it may be that McKeon’s stance on climate change would’ve made his reappointment unlikely even without the rule. He wants to see the topic raised to the top of both the “political and public agenda”. “We may not have all the answers to what is occurring, … but the point is, why wouldn’t one take out very strong insurance to at least do what we can to future-proof our well-being?”

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, famously once described climate science as “crap”.

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