Industry and Science minister Ed Husic has left dozens of government-appointed science and technology leadership positions vacant, including half the government’s innovation advisory board and three spots on the CSIRO board.
Nine months into government, Mr Husic is also yet to nominate a director for the quantum computing company that the Commonwealth has a $25 million equity stake in.
But he insists processes are “well advanced” to fill the key innovation positions.
Many of the positions were emptied by the Coalition government while it cycled several ministers through the Industry and Science portfolios.
Documents tabled to the Senate this week show Mr Husic has not leapt at the chance to fill the roles. He reported increased vacancies for government appointed board roles at the CSIRO and Industry, Innovation and Science Australia (IISA), while the government’s board spot at Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) is still empty.
Asked about the vacancies, Mr Husic said he does intend to make appointments.
“Processes are well advanced to fill current vacancies on the CSIRO Board, IISA Board and SQC,” Mr Husic told InnovationAus.com.
The IISA was established in 2016 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda to advise government on innovation, science, and research matters.
Its recent focus has been on advising on the previous government’s $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing strategy and on the Albanese government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.
Last year it also helped complete a review of venture capital tax breaks and operated several subcommittees overseeing government funded research and entrepreneur programs.
The IISA board can have a maximum of 15 members, including the Chair, Deputy Chair and an ex-officio member, and requires only four for a quorum.
It currently has seven board members, including long-time chair Andrew Stevens and Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley, leaving eight spots for Mr Husic to fill.
There are another seven vacancies on the IISA subcommittee and two empty spots on the government’s National Science and Technology Council.
There are two each at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Space Agency advisory board, while the Questacon science centre’s advisory council is missing a Chair, Deputy and three more members.
The Australian government is also entitled to have a representative on the board of SQC after backing the company with a rare $25 million equity investment in 2017.
While other major backers like Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank have maintained representatives on the SQC board, the government’s spot has been vacant since 2021.
Mr Husic has made several appointments to the Anti-Dumping Review Panel, the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board and named Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith as Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador. Three women have also been appointed to the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Panel.
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