The Minister for Industry and Science is leaving science jobs and manufacturing companies in limbo as he sits on an approval for the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) that has been on his desk for ten months.
Representatives of the Advanced Manufacturing CRC visited Parliament House today with one of their proudest achievements – ground-breaking research into 3D‑printed jet engine components.
But celebration of the CRC’s success is muted by the uncertainty that Ian Macfarlane’s inaction has created.
In early 2014, Mr Macfarlane asked the Advanced Manufacturing CRC and the proposed Manufacturing Industry Innovation CRC to put forward a combined bid to create a new Innovative Manufacturing CRC.
The new CRC was supposed to start in 2014‑15 – enabling a smooth transition from the Advanced Manufacturing CRC, whose funding will expire in June.
The proposal was considered by the independent CRC Committee in May last year and a recommendation sent to the Minister.
But the Minister has dithered and delayed. Ten months later, the CRC’s industry partners are still waiting for an announcement.
Their confidence in the Abbott Government cannot have been enhanced by the woeful performance of the Minister’s representative in Senate Question Time today.
Senator Ronaldson was unable to provide any information on the progress of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC announcement, despite the fact that the Industry Minister was due to meet with a representative of the Advanced Manufacturing CRC this afternoon.
Indeed, Senator Ronaldson appeared to be barely familiar with the CRC program – arguably the nation’s most effective vehicle for fostering collaboration between the researchers and industry.
What message does this chaos and incompetence send to companies looking at Australia as a place to invest in research and development?
This debacle comes on top of the Abbott Government’s decision to rip $80 million from the CRC program in its last Budget and Mr Macfarlane’s bizarre criticism of existing CRCs when he announced the Miles review.
It is time for Mr Macfarlane to commit to a secure future for the Innovative Manufacturing CRC and the program as a whole.
Australia’s prosperity depends on building our innovation capability.
The CRC program is a vital part of Australia’s innovation system. Every previous review and evaluation has found that the program is highly effective and delivers a substantial return on investment.
Labor will continue to defend the CRC program and argue for investment in Australia’s science capability to create the jobs of the future.