Labor congratulates Professor Sue Thomas on her appointment as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC).
This is a good appointment; Professor Thomas should enjoy the confidence of the research community upon whose voluntary labour the ARC depends on to work effectively.
The long delayed appointment of Professor Thomas to this position comes at a crucial moment for the research community.
Years of cuts by the Abbott/ Turnbull Governments – including $187 million in real terms cut from the ARC since the 2013/14 budget – and the Governments failed Innovation Statement has left fundamental research in Australia at risk.
As Professor Thomas has noted the Government’s lopsided policies have placed fundamental research at risk;
Professor Thomas admits one of the greatest challenges of her new position — and one she most relishes — will be “balancing the government’s desire for greater links between the research sector and industry (while) continuing to promote fundamental research from which innovation is also an outcome”
The Australian, 26 April 2017
Professor Thomas will have her work cut out for her. Australian Research continues to be under threat, with the ARC and academic freedom subject to regular attacks from Coalition MPs.
Just as importantly Professor Thomas will be required to ensure that the impact and assessment trial – due to start within weeks – will produce results that are useful for industry and the community, while minimising excessive regulatory burden on institutions and staff.
Under Mr Turnbull, just as under Mr Abbott, the Liberals have continued to prefer research that they hope turns a quick dollar. But if we do not fund and support basic research Australian universities will have nothing to commercialise.