Crackdown on advisories, but science gets another council

By Harley Dennett

Wednesday October 29, 2014

Four Compact Array RadioTelescopes used for scientific research, Australia

Federal bureaucrats in the Department of Industry might be scratching their heads at the government’s speech yesterday cracking down on small agencies and boards. Just a day prior, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane confirmed he has tasked his department with establishing another subordinate science council, in addition to the Commonwealth Science Council announced earlier this month.

The National Science, Technology and Research Council will act as the machinery for the CSC and focus on implementation. The terms of reference and membership are yet to be decided, but will likely come from within existing government and research bodies.

Macfarlane’s office issued a statement saying the CSC will sit as the “pre-eminent body for advice on science and technology”, and the NSTRC will support it:

“The role of the National Science, Technology and Research Council will be to support the strategic focus of the Commonwealth Science Council, with a focus on implementation of the priorities that are outlined by the CSC.”

Earlier, at the National Press Club address during National Science Week, Macfarlane indicated the CSC would have a second tier, with “direct access to both the CSC and also to the Prime Minister”.

The CSC, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, replaces the largely defunct Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, which hasn’t met in 16 months and has been counted in the achievement list of abolished and merged non-statutory government bodies.

Yesterday, parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo gave a speech talking up the abolition of government boards and councils and folding those responsibilities into departments of state. He said:

“The side-effect of [new rules] will be to reduce the number of small bodies, such as advisory councils and stakeholder committees, which carry disproportionate and wasteful overheads.”

The Mandarin has sought further information from Macfarlane’s office about the new implementation council’s size, leadership, or who will be the responsible minister.

More at The Mandarin: Commonwealth agency cuts: rogue agencies in fed sights

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