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Citrus growers slam CSIRO cuts -

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Citrus growers slam CSIRO cuts

The World Today - Thursday, 22 May , 2008 12:16:55

Reporter: Samantha Donovan

ELEANOR HALL: Citrus growers in Victoria's north-west are vowing to fight Federal Budget cuts that
will close their local CSIRO research facility.

The CSIRO says last week's Budget cuts will force it to close the Merbein facility and another
institute in Rockhampton.

But the Murray River growers say this is a cruel blow on top of the drought and they'll do
everything they can to prevent it, as Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Federal Budget cut CSIRO's funding by $63-million over the next four years
and the organisation says the shortfall is forcing it to close its horticultural research site at
Merbein in Victoria and its meat research facility at Rockhampton in Queensland.

About 30 staff will lose their jobs in Victoria's far north-west though the CSIRO says it hopes
many of them can move to jobs with the organisation in Adelaide and Canberra.

Researchers at the Merbein facility focus on wine and table grapes, dried fruit and the citrus

Dr Everard Edwards is a research scientist and a deputy delegate of the CSIRO Staff Association.

He says the staff didn't see the closure coming.

EVERARD EDWARDS: I don't really see a lot of anger just yet. There's a fair bit of upset and people
are still probably in some state of shock, and it will effect different people in different ways,
so some people will perhaps find it easy, reasonably easy to move elsewhere and other people of
course will be unable to move elsewhere.

The aim is that a significant portion of the work will continue at other sites and also projects
that are ongoing at the moment, as far as I know, none of those will be curtailed.

But clearly, not all members of staff are able to move to other sites, which would primarily be
Adelaide and Canberra, even if they are offered it.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Everard Edwards says the CSIRO Staff Association strongly opposes the decision,
but it's yet to decide if it will take any sort of action to try and reverse the move.

EVERARD EDWARDS: They basically dispute that this site, or the others for that matter that have
been closed as well, that there's a requirement to do that and clearly there's ongoing work here
and there's externally funded work here. And this is a site that's based in the centre of the
Australian wine industry with, in the region of 70 per cent of Australia's wine grapes being grown
in the Riverland, Sunraysia and Riverina. And now there'll be, CSIRO won't have a presence in that

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: And it's not just the wine industry that's going to be affected. Ann Mansell,
president of Sunraysia Citrus Growers is shocked by the decision especially because the industry
wasn't consulted.

ANNE MANSELL: At this stage what we're trying to do is ensure that what we have, which is a very
good research organisation within our local area, one that is funded not only through taxpayer
dollars, but also through citrus levy funds that are raised on a national basis for citrus
research, we are really hoping to keep that because the loss to this community of those 30 to 40
jobs would just be, you know, a real devastation to our community.

I think we're fairly convinced we need to go to Canberra and talk to the Honourable Kim Carr, the
Senator that's the minister responsible for this area, and to try and work out what needs to be
done to stop this decision taking place.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Ann Mansell says the local CSIRO research has given citrus growers a much needed
boost as they struggle with the Murray River water crisis.

ANNE MANSELL: The citrus research that we've had not only from CSIRO but from obviously our state
departments as well, has been incredibly supportive in helping us through what is a very
challenging environment.

And what we don't need is the Government to be, you know, pulling funding or for Government
businesses enterprises to be pulling funding from those sorts of critical research areas when in
fact they can assist our industries to become even more efficient and more viable in the long term.

And by having a decision like this taken so suddenly, without any consultation with the grower
bodies in the areas, I think that's really robbing us of a very great resource.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Minister for Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, didn't respond
to The World Today's request for an interview.

ELEANOR HALL: Samantha Donovan reporting.