UPDATE: IT outsourcing divides Government ranks

CSIRO staff representatives are meeting with Federal Finance and Administration Minister John Fahey this afternoon in the wake of Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin's criticisms of the Government's IT outsourcing policies.

Minchin's criticisms in mainstream media yesterday represent the first sign of dissension in the ranks of the Federal Government's front bench over the outsourced IT future of all Commonwealth agencies. His comments have encouraged CSIRO staff to step up their campaign to be excluded from the Fahey's blanket directive o outsource IT operations.

CSIRO staff association representative Pauline Gallagher told ARN the Government was sending out mixed signals in regards to the outsourcing of the CSIRO's IT services.

"My impression is that Fahey's position is really shaky," Gallagher said. "We had a meeting with Senator Minchin about a month ago and explained our position. We appear to have his support."

While Gallagher concedes Fahey's position on IT outsourcing appears unwavering, she believes that Senator Minchin's comments made yesterday show the controversial IT outsourcing policies do not enjoy broad ministerial support.

"The aim of this afternoon's meeting is to attempt to explain to the minister that public sector science agencies are designed to develop technologies for the benefit of the country as a whole," Gallagher said. "You can't measure out success on the basis of a few dollars saved here and there -- our role is quite different."

Senator Minchin's comments, published in The Australian newspaper yesterday, indicated that, while he broadly supported the Whole of Government IT Outsourcing Initiative, he was critical of moves to outsource the CSIRO's IT services.

The Senator believes the CSIRO should be exempt from the Government's outsourcing policies to protect Australia's IT research and development capacities.

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