To infinity and beyond – by Sunday

The government is scheduled to get out of the astronomy industry on Sunday, with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science transferring assets, and running costs, to Australian universities. But what is an imminent reality for astronomers has not generated much attention elsewhere, so much so, that employment changes for some staff were only signed off on Friday.

The Anglo-Australian Telescope (still so-called although the Brits bailed in 2010) will now be run by a consortium of universities, led by ANU, which owns the Sidings Spring Observatory site (near Coonabarabran NSW). The other 12 are UNSW, UniSydney, Macquarie U, Western Sydney U, UniMelbourne, Swinburne U, Monash U, UofQ, USQ, Curtin U, UniTas and UWA.

The national astronomical instrumentation resource, based at North Ryde in Sydney moves to another university group, Macquarie U, ANU and the University of Sydney.

In combination with an agreement on access to the big optical and infra-red telescopes in Chile, and funding for a decade there seems to be a sense in the astronomical community that this is an ok-ish arrangement, although Labor science spokesman Nick Champion lamented the loss of 15 jobs, “of highly skilled individuals who have committed themselves to what is a great national capability.”

But while the deal is done, it will be a near-run thing, the bill is still in the Senate. And only last Friday did the Fair Work Commission agree to 34 staff based at North Ryde being transferred to Macquarie U’s enterprise agreement.


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