CSIRO has a new Chair with the Federal Government announcing the appointment of Kathryn Fagg for a five-year term, replacing the outgoing David Thodey.

Meanwhile, the Science Ministry merry-go-round whirled on, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing the appointment of Melissa Price, following the resignation of Christian Porter from cabinet.

Mr Porter – formerly Commonwealth Attorney-General who was moved to the Science Ministry earlier in March – lasted less than six months in the job.

New Chair

Ms Fagg – described by the government as ‘one of Australia’s most experienced company directors’ – has been promoted from Deputy Chair to lead the CSIRO board for the next five years.

An engineer by training and former executive, Ms Fagg sat on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia from 2013-2018 and has served on the CSIRO board for the past three years; including the last twelve months as Deputy Chair.

Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) from the University of Queensland and a Master of Commerce (Honours) from the University of New South Wales.

(another) New Minister

Minister Price, who announced the appointment of Ms Fagg on 15 October, was unveiled as the new Science and Technology Minister only two weeks earlier, in addition to her existing portfolio responsibilities of Defence Industry.

“Now, this will complement her Defence Industry responsibilities very significantly. It is timely, particularly given the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) arrangements, which will see us be working together with the United States and the United Kingdom, linking up our industry, our science and technology supply chains,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“There is also the working together with organisations like ANSTO and the CSIRO in addressing the nuclear capabilities that will be necessary under the nuclear submarine program,” he said. Cabinet carousel

A former Minister for the environment – who attracted significant criticism for a controversial $443 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the approval process for Adani’s groundwater plan for Carmichael coal mine – Ms Price’s appointment represents the eighth time the science portfolio has changed since the election of the Coalition Government.

After his election in September 2013, then Prime Minster Tony Abbott infamously removed science from the federal ministry altogether for the first fifteen months, before restoring the portfolio and naming Ian Macfarlane as minister.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tapped Christopher Pyne for the role, before shifting to Greg Hunt, then Arthur Sinodinos and briefly, Zed Seselja as Assistant Minister.

Karen Andrews – appointed Science Minister after the ascension of Scott Morrison – helmed the portfolio for nearly three years (the longest period of occupancy since Labor’s Kim Carr more than a decade earlier), before the brief move to Mr Porter and now finally, Ms Price.

  1. Ministry removed, 18 September 2013 – 23 December 2014
  2. Ian Macfarlane MP, 23 December 2014 – 21 September 2015, 272 days
  3. Christopher Pyne MP, 21 September 2015 – 19 July 2016, 302 days
  4. Greg Hunt MP, 19 July 2016 – 24 January 2017, 189 days
  5. Senator Arthur Sinodinos, 24 January 2017 – 20 December 2017, 330 days
  6. Karen Andrews MP, 28 August 2017 – 30 March 2021, 2 years, 214 days
  7. Christian Porter MP, 30 March 2021 – 19 September 2021, 173 days
  8. Melissa Price, MP 8 October 2021 – present, Incumbent

Election focus

Elsewhere, industry peak body Science and Technology Australia (STA) has called for an election pledge from all political parties for a ‘seismic investment in job-and-wealth-generating research and development to spur a STEM-led economic recovery.’

“Science and technology have guided us safely through a once-in-a-century pandemic – now we need to deploy them to create new jobs and drive Australia’s economic recovery,” STA Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert.

“To achieve that goal, we need a once-in-a-generation bold investment to secure the new sovereign capabilities Australia needs in science and technology – an investment that will generate vast economic returns and new jobs for the nation,” Ms Schubert said.