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Climate research to be cut along with 350 CSIRO jobs

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UPDATED: About 350 jobs will go from the CSIRO as the national science body shifts its focus from climate research to taking the science “off the lab bench”.

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Chief executive Larry Marshall, in an email to staff on Thursday, details the job cuts, saying the question of climate change has been proved and it is time to refocus on solutions.

“CSIRO pioneered climate research, the same way we saved the cotton and wool industries for our nation,” the email says.

“But we cannot rest on our laurels as that is the path to mediocrity.”

Commodities were the bedrock of the nation, Marshall said.

The CSIRO would always support those sectors, especially now in times of declining prices when innovation could “fundamentally change the game”.

Marshall expects a number of the 350 employees will transfer to new roles, with the overall head count to return to current levels in two years.

“Rather than just doing science, it’s a step towards taking the science off the lab bench and actually delivering it into the field,” Marshall told AAP on Thursday.

“I’m very hopeful that we can successfully help people reinvent.”

The CSIRO will refocus on improving productivity in industry, the impact of “digital disruption”, health and new technologies in agriculture.

Marshall maintains the strategic change was on the table before Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott last September.

Turnbull reinstated much of the $110 million cuts to the CSIRO contained in the Abbott government’s 2014 budget.

“It’s fortuitous for us that the government’s focus on innovation is strong, because it wasn’t like that before,” Marshall said.

“We believe it’s in the best interest of our nation to do what we’re doing and not something the government told us to do.”

A spokesman for Science Minister Christopher Pyne told AAP it was an operational decision of the CSIRO.

“However, it is worth noting that the overall number of jobs across the organisation remains the same.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten labelled the job cuts a “disgrace” and accused the prime minister of sacking experts working to cut pollution and develop innovative renewable technology.

That was echoed by the Australian Greens, who believe the “mass sacking” is the enemy of innovation, while the public sector union said the job losses were political vandalism and the government’s latest “body blow” to Australia’s premier science organisation.

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos said CSIRO was undergoing a realignment that would take roughly two years.

Advice from CSIRO was that there would be no net job losses.

“We’ll continue to spend about $83m a year on climate change mitigation adaptation research,” he told the Senate.

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