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[SYDNEY] Australia's re-elected conservative government has announced a U-turn on climate change policy, reinstating climate science as the bedrock of its peak science body just months after slashing its funding and axing hundreds of jobs.
"It's a new government and we're laying out a direction that climate science matters," new Science Minister Greg Hunt told Australian radio on Thursday.
Severe cuts to the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (Csiro) climate change division were announced in February as a result of budget cuts imposed by the previous climate change sceptic prime minister, Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who toppled Abbott in a party-room coup in late 2015 and who has championed action against climate change, was elected in July.
Mr Hunt said the new policy would see 15 new climate science jobs and research investment worth A$37 million (S$37.5 million) over 10 years.
"It's something that both the prime minister and I have clear and strong views on and we have clearly but respectfully made that known to Csiro and they've embraced and endorsed the direction and so climate science will be a bedrock function for research of the Csiro," he said.
Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University and member of the non-profit expert body Climate Council, welcomed the changes but warned that they needed to be viewed critically in light of the damage already done.
"I do think it's a very positive announcement because it does show that there's been a mistake made in the initial sacking of all the Csiro climate scientists and the downgrading of climate science," he told Reuters.
"But I'm not clear whether the 15 new positions that Minister Hunt announced are in addition to reinstating all of the earlier ones, or whether they only partially reinstate what has already been damaged."
Minister Hunt's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment by Reuters.