Former Telstra CEO, David Thodey, has been appointed chairman of the CSIRO, Australia’s premier scientific research organisation.
Thodey will bring to the role a commitment to innovation and an understanding of the pace and direction of many of the technology changes currently transforming industries and economies. He also comes with a reputation for turning around both Telstra’s share price and its internal culture after the troubled Trujillo years.
But he will need all those skills and more if he is to help CSIRO survive the battering it and its staff have received at the hands of the Abbott government.
Its funding was slashed by $115 million over four years in the federal government's 2014 budget, which combined with a now-ended two-year public sector hiring freeze meant the organisation was forced to slash its workforce.
It is now working on merging with the digital productivity unit of NICTA – the national ICT research body whose funding will end completely from June 2016 - in order to ensure a future for both agencies. As recently as this week, however, the details of the merger had not been finalised.
Should the move proceed, though, Thodey is well placed to understand the strategic value of NICTA in the merged organisation’s overall research effort. Last year, Telstra came to its aid of in the form of an initial $1.1 million research grant to conduct research in areas as diverse as security, privacy, smart network planning and future media delivery.
Meanwhile, CSIRO staff are still holding out against the federal government’s attempts to starve them into accepting a deterioration of working conditions and real wage cuts.
Not a recipe for a happy workplace. Good luck David.