Australia: Antarctic program sees cut of $25 million

In order to fulfil the aim, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) needs to find savings of $25 million this year. Meanwhile, the government is considering eliminating funding for vital scientific research and drastically reducing the work outsourced to pricey consultants.

The new savings objective, which accounts for around 16 per cent of the division’s operating budget, came about primarily as a result of the division’s excessive spending. The federal greens have issued a warning that the changes “couldn’t possibly come at a worse time” in light of the fact that the amount of sea ice in Antarctica hit its lowest level on record earlier this year.

Because of the strain on the budget, the new boss of the division, Emma Campbell, said in an email that was sent out on Friday that there is a possibility that fixed-term contracts for staff members will not be extended. Although internal communications reveal that this topic is being discussed, no conclusive choices have yet been taken regarding scientific study or excursions to the south.

“I have asked the Antarctic operations committee to revisit the season plan with a view to finding savings,” Campbell stated in his email. “Since the season accounts for a significant chunk of our expenditures, it makes perfect sense to look here.”

We have to cut back on the activities we have planned in order to stay within our budget. We will need to give careful consideration to our current employee levels as well as the roles that are currently being prioritized.

Campbell, who took over as director of the AAD earlier this year after Kim Ellis resigned, explained to the staff that the reduction of $25 million was the result of two causes.

“The first is the end of a temporary budget supplement we received for the commissioning of the [icebreaking vessel] Nuyina,” Campbell wrote. “This will have a significant impact on our budget moving forward.” “The discontinuation of this short-term funding has been included in our portfolio budget statement for more than a year, and as a result, it is not a shock,” the author writes.

The second consideration is an internal efficiency dividend that has been mandated by the department in order to guarantee that it will not spend an excessive amount of money on outside labour and transportation.

“The dividend is to fund the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water’s share of whole-of-government savings associated with reduced consultants, travel, and communication. Additionally, the dividend is to ensure that the Department’s corporate functions are adequately funded to deliver the services that we require. Fuel for the AAD and transportation costs were not taken into account for the efficiency dividend.

Campbell has said that the division spent $2 million on outside legal counsel for a total of 50 cases in the previous year and that hiring two in-house lawyers might help “save money and get more timely advice.”

Campbell wrote those words to the workers in an email earlier this month. “Part of the government’s savings target comes from its expectations that we reduce expenditure on consultants and consultancies,” Campbell explained. “While there will still be a place for us to procure advice, we can look to deliver some of this work in-house – building capabilities and opportunities for our staff.” “While there will still be a place for us to procure advice,”

“This will not be an easy process, and it is my expectation that we will work together as a team in order to get through it while keeping our primary focus on providing support for our people. We will discuss any potential modifications with you before making a decision, and we will take your opinions and comments into consideration.

A representative for the department stated that there would be “no job losses” and that the division will continue to strive toward cultivating a healthy culture and ensuring a safe working environment. The division will go through the regular process of prioritizing spending within the funds that have been allotted, and at that time, any fixed-term employment contracts will be subject to review, according to the spokeswoman. “The primary focus will be on identifying areas in which the work done by those on fixed-term contracts can be incorporated into the work done by those who are hired on a permanent basis”

Peter Whish-Wilson, a senator for the Green Party, said that there should be no cuts to the funding of the division because of the significance of studying the effects of climate change.

“I’m hearing a number of concerns being expressed about science programs in the Antarctic being cancelled because of these budget cuts,” Whish-Wilson said in an interview with the Guardian Australia.

There has never been a more crucial time to enhance financing for scientific research in the Antarctic. Scientists are currently sounding the alarm about a possible decline in Antarctic sea ice that is akin to an event that occurs only once every 7.5 million years.

“Scientists are dumbfounded by the unprecedented low ice coverage, which is of great concern on a worldwide scale. When you consider that crucial scientific activities relating to the ice sheet are due to take place this summer, there is no better moment than now to start lowering the operating budget of the AAD.

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