Labor welcomes Malcom Turnbull’s move to put innovation and science back into the title of an industry portfolio that has been gutted by budget cuts under the Liberals.
Unfortunately, despite his rhetoric about the importance of research and development, Mr Turnbull has undermined his own good intentions by leaving research isolated under a separate Minister and appointing Christopher Pyne to this critical portfolio.
The only thing Mr Pyne will be remembered for as research minister in the Education portfolio is his reckless decision to hold 1700 science jobs and 35,000 research projects hostage to try and pass his unfair and unnecessary plan for $100,000 degrees through the Senate.
Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne were both members of the Cabinet that ripped more than $3 billion from science, research and innovation over the last two budgets.
In Malcolm Turnbull’s own portfolio, he oversaw the demise of NICTA – Australia's world-leading Information and communications technology (ICT) research agency – slashing $42 million a year from ICT research.
In Christopher Pyne’s portfolio, $300 million was cut from university research funding, $174 million from research training and $75 million from the Australian Research Council – and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Re-naming a ministry is entirely inadequate if you have no intention of restoring the resources needed to build innovation capacity across the economy, including in areas as diverse as manufacturing, services, enabling technologies and the food and fibre industries.
The manufacturing sector will also have every reason to be sceptical about Mr Pyne’s appointment.
Before the last election Christopher Pyne claimed to be a supporter of local manufacturing and Australia’s the automotive industry:
"I have a long-standing commitment to keep Holden operating in South Australia."
Christopher Pyne, The Australian, 17 July 2013
But he was part of the same Cabin et that undertook the reckless anti-automotive campaign which led to first Holden and then Toyota announcing that the companies will cease manufacturing in Australia in 2017.
Never in our history have we seen such hostility to a significant employer and investor in Australia. Never have we seen such as a concerted attempt to turn away new investment.
In the face of this hostility, Christopher Pyne did nothing to stand up for the manufacturing workers in his state.
Labor has always understood that innovation is the driving force for our nation's future prosperity. – it’s something we acted on in Government and have consistently advocated in Opposition.
Labor will fight to keep high-skilled, high-wage jobs in Australia and will continue to hold Tony Abbott and his government to account for its callous approach to the future of manufacturing and innovation in this country.