The much-delayed announcement of a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Developing Northern Australia will be welcomed by the partners in the growNorth group who have been left in limbo for more than a year.
Evidence given to the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia made it clear that science is critical to unlocking the potential of the north.
Labor welcomes the focus on agriculture and food – there is enormous potential for growing fodder crops on pastoral leases in northern Australia, creating value-add for Australia’s beef industry.
It is critical that this CRC is a truly northern Australian initiative, engaging universities, research agencies and industry from across Western Australian, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Unfortunately, in establishing the CRC for Developing Northern Australia – the first genuinely new CRC to be announced by this government – Tony Abbott appears to have completely bypassed the CRC program’s existing processes.
This is typical of a Government that talks about the importance of science only when it suits their narrow agenda.
The science community knows this Government has ripped $107 million from the CRC program over the last two budgets, cancelled the 2014 CRC funding round, and is now delaying the next round until 2016.
They know this Government has sought to cut more than $3 billion from science, research and innovation.
The Abbott Government has gutted Australia’s research sector, with heavy cuts to the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and almost every other research agency that contributes to the economic development of Northern Australia.
This is not a Government that puts science “at the heart of industry policy”, as Ian Macfarlane likes to say.
Only Labor truly understands the vital role of science in underpinning the jobs of the future.