Statement of Expectations
Dear Dr Bennett
Following my appointment as Minister for Industry and Science, I am writing to outline my expectations of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
The Albanese Government intends for science to be at the forefront of decision-making and puts the utmost value on the contribution that science makes to society. I look forward to working closely with ANSTO to deliver solutions that improve the lives of Australians, contribute to national wellbeing and build our industry, science and research capabilities.
Applying science to advance our national interests
Harnessing our national nuclear capabilities
As custodian of significant research infrastructure and Australia's sovereign nuclear capabilities, I expect ANSTO to undertake a wide range of nuclear research and provide world-class service in nuclear science. I also expect ANSTO to help mature Australia's nuclear sector over the next decade, including in nuclear medicine production, defence capability and radioactive waste management.
In addition to undertaking research, I expect ANSTO to drive the application of science. Where relevant, ANSTO should support its researchers to apply their research to real-world problems — for both commercial and societal gain.
To grow its reputation as a science, research and engineering partner, I encourage ANSTO to collaborate and share information with universities, industry, other publicly funded research agencies, research institutes, cooperative research centres, Australia's Chief Scientist and international partners. While I expect ANSTO to collaborate proactively, the organisation should seize opportunities to protect home grown intellectual property to maximise benefits for Australians.
Taking Australian Science to the World
Australia's prosperity depends on science leading our technological development. ANSTO possesses an expert understanding of global nuclear research, developments and emerging issues and should strive to identify new opportunities in the sector.
I expect ANSTO to provide specialist advice to Government and business and to act as a liaison between Australia and other countries on nuclear issues. ANSTO should also continue to facilitate Australia's participation as a Member State of the International Atomic Energy Agency and to promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology in the region through participation in activities under the auspices of the Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific.
I also expect ANSTO will support the Government's aim to increase our influence in the region. ANSTO should focus, where appropriate, on engagement with key countries in the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations.
Advancing the Government's policy priorities
Australia's science and research capabilities must be brought to bear to progress the Government's broader agenda. I therefore expect ANSTO to engage relevant Government departments and agencies to showcase how its capabilities can be harnessed to support priorities. In supporting work across portfolios, I acknowledge that ANSTO will need to carefully consider how best to ensure its financial and other resources are directed first and foremost to core functions.
My department will refresh Australia's National Science Priorities and deliver a revitalised National Science Statement, informed by a national conversation led by Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, Australia's Chief Scientist. Refreshing Australia's national science framework will ensure it reflects our modern society and provides a long-term vision for a strong and sustainable science system, including by better targeting Commonwealth resources. ANSTO should engage in this work.
Advancing First Nations Science
The Government is committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full. Our First Nations peoples were our first scientists and must play an enduring and central role in our scientific endeavours.
I expect ANSTO to be a leader in First Nations engagement and to build stronger relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To this end, ANSTO could build on its Indigenous employment activities including the Nuclear Safety Development Program, its existing associations with Traditional Owners and its successful projects in cultural heritage, as related to tracing local products and improving land management practices.
Achieving Net Zero emissions
The Government is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. We want Australia to become a renewable energy superpower, harnessing our natural advantages to become self-reliant for energy and a major clean energy exporter.
ANSTO is well-positioned to support Government and industry in catalysing Australia's energy transition towards net zero emissions. Innovating appropriately in this area will be key, demonstrating to industry how it can invest and innovate to reduce emissions. I expect ANSTO to be impartial with respect to the role of nuclear energy in Australia's pathway to net zero, and to use its expertise in climate science. materials science and environmental science to contribute to this objective. I also expect ANSTO to support the Australian Public Service goal of net zero emissions by 2030 under the Powering Australia policy.
Delivering a Future Made in Australia through the National Reconstruction Fund
The Government is focused on delivering sustained economic and social benefits by broadening and diversifying Australia's industrial base. The National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) is a key initiative in the Government's Future Made in Australia plan. I would like ANSTO to consider how the organisation's work can contribute to the priorities identified in the NRF.
ANSTO's materials expertise should be leveraged to support the Powering Australia and Australian Made Batteries Plan, including a focus on Australia's emerging hydrogen fuel industry and research into energy storage technology.
ANSTO will be an important partner to Government in delivering its commitment to supporting home grown innovation and production. ANSTO should use its existing capabilities and cutting-edge research in areas like nuclear medicines, silicon doping, hydrogen, critical minerals processing, materials engineering, defence capability and environmental science to support growth in Australian industries, and bolster critical supply chains.
Supporting the health of Australians
ANSTO delivers lifesaving nuclear medicines and diagnostic products for Australians and the world by manufacturing and supplying nuclear medicines. I expect ANSTO to undertake this function efficiently, reliably and in the line with best practice, ensuring an appropriate level of safety, innovation and continuous improvement in manufacturing processes.
In doing so, I expect ANSTO to support the ongoing equitable and sustainable access to these vital medicines. This includes working with government, relevant agencies and industry stakeholders to understand the full costs of production and supply. This will inform government and ANSTO considerations on how to best deliver reliable and affordable nuclear medicines for Australians.
Managing research infrastructure and national facilities
The Government wants to ensure Australia's public science and research infrastructure not only supports innovation, productivity and economic outcomes, but also contributes to fundamental research. To meet this goal, I want to ensure the utilisation rates of major science infrastructure hosted by our science agencies remain high and are managed sustainably.
I expect ANSTO to encourage researchers and businesses to access and benefit from its important and unique research infrastructure.
Australia can be a global STEM superpower. Scientific contribution should be celebrated and a concerted effort needs to be made to keep our best and brightest in Australia — and wherever possible attract overseas-based Australians back home.
Science and technology will increasingly underpin Australia's economic and social prosperity and ANSTO has a part to play in developing the STEM workforce of the future.
It is essential that ANSTO promotes careers in STEM and provides career paths for early career and post-doctoral students, research and technical staff. I also expect ANSTO will deliver programs that help students and teachers understand how STEM is applied in the real world. ANSTO should build on its successful gender equity in STEM programs to continue being a leader in this area. I have asked an independent panel to undertake a Diversity in STEM review, to determine how existing Government programs can be reformed to support greater diversity in Australia's science and technology sectors. ANSTO should engage in the review as appropriate and the steps taken by government once it is completed.
The expansion of Australia's nuclear capability will require a diverse workforce with a broad range of skills. This includes not only individuals with nuclear engineering and science qualifications, but also a range of other professional, semi-professional and trade qualified individuals with the specialist knowledge and training needed to work in a nuclear environment. I expect ANSTO to engage across relevant government agencies and with the university sector on options and strategies to increase the quantity and quality of training to support this expansion.
Communication of ANSTOs science and research
I am looking forward to continuing to promote and raise awareness of ANSTO's work and ask you to also work with my department to meet this objective. I expect ANSTO will be active in the community to raise awareness of its activities and communicate its research and technical knowledge, including its research facilities.
I expect ANSTO will work closely with local councils, community groups, local law enforcement and First Nations people on whose land ANSTO's infrastructure is located. Specifically, ANSTO will continue to proactively build ongoing support for its operations with these stakeholders, wherever possible.
Driving your organisation's performance
I acknowledge ANSTO's functions under the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987. My expectations, as set out in this Statement, are given within that framework.
I expect ANSTO to be an exemplar of the Government's commitment to the effective governance and performance of its agencies, governed by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
When developing its corporate plan and annual report in accordance with the PGPA Act, I expect ANSTO to brief me prior to these documents being finalised and published, to take into account the priorities and policies of the Government, and to include reporting against matters raised in this Statement of Expectations.
In line with the PGPA Act and guidance from Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), ANSTO should ensure its enterprise-level performance management framework measures meaningful success. Performance measures should reflect the importance of ANSTO's core responsibilities, including in nuclear medicine production and management of key infrastructure.
Organisational governance and capability
ANSTO and its Board should work strategically to meet core responsibilities, consolidate past achievements and drive improvements to safety, financial management and the delivery of essential functions. Growing organisational capability and a focus on continuous improvement across ANSTO, including on Board practices and performance, is vital.
ANSTO should strive for sustainable financial operations. This should include both a focus on ensuring core functions are sufficiently resourced within the finances available and a view to growing own-source revenue where possible.
I expect ANSTO will work to ensure reporting arrangements remain relevant and appropriate, that controls for managing risk remain robust and proportionate and that delegations and accountabilities across the organisation are clear and well understood. ANSTO must discharge its statutory responsibilities in a diligent manner to meet and, where prudent, exceed the standards required for public entities in relation to management of finances and other resources.
I also expect ANSTO's development, implementation and rigorous monitoring of asset, capital management and decommissioning plans to be a priority for Board action. These plans should align with the findings of the ANAO performance audit of ANSTO's Management of Nuclear Medicine Assets.
Agency staff and health
I expect ANSTO to provide a workplace that supports and encourages diversity and inclusivity and that attracts and retains the best minds from Australia and around the world with robust training and opportunities. This should include encouraging Australians currently working overseas to return to take up new opportunities, where possible. ANSTO should build on its successful STEM equity programs to continue being a leader in this area. I also expect all ANSTO Board members to model behaviour that supports and encourages diversity and inclusivity of all staff.
I expect that the ANSTO Board and management maintain the highest safety standards across the organisation and that ANSTO proactively engages with its health and safety obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. I also expect that ANSTO follows appropriate cyber, physical and personnel security principles and practices to minimise potential risks to its staff, the community and the environment.
Working with my department and office
I expect ANSTO to work closely with my office and my department, and I ask to be kept informed of significant issues relating to the organisation through six-monthly meetings with the Chair and CEO. To this end, ANSTO should discuss ministerial briefings and correspondence, as appropriate, with my office and department and provide copies in parallel. I also expect ANSTO to provide prior notice, to my office and my department, of significant announcements and events that are likely to attract the attention of media or key stakeholders.
ANSTO has a bright future. I look forward to working with you and to receiving your response outlining how the Board proposes to deliver on these priorities.
Ed Husic MP