Senate estimates reveals brain drain in Antarctic Division

The Australian Antarctic Division’s chief scientist fronted yesterday’s budget estimates hearing and revealed how many scientists and support staff have left the AAD since the May budget.

The Department of the Environment’s Australian Antarctic Division lost 20 staff members from its science branch as a result of funding cuts in the May budget.

Under questioning from Labor Senator Lisa Singh in Senate estimates, AAD’s chief scientist Dr Nick Gales confirmed 44 employees took voluntary redundancies after the most recent round of budget cuts. Of those, he said, 20 were either scientists or scientific support staff, the others coming from “head office”.

A tense exchange ensued between Singh and Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, who objected to Singh calling all 20 “scientists” in a follow-up question and asserting that “since the budget, the AAD hasn’t been given appropriate funding to do its work”.

Gales later explained that technical support staff were qualified with degrees in disciplines like engineering or electronics and described them as “essential for supporting the overall science program”. He estimated that “about a quarter” of the 20 who recently left AAD were in technical support roles, but could not clarify exactly how many were genuinely scientists, taking the question on notice.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.