There is an old saying in politics that governments never undertake a review unless they already know what it will deliver. On the evidence, it is perfectly clear that the Watt review of research policy and funding arrangements was commissioned on that basis. The government’s complete endorsement of every recommendation is a bit of a giveaway.
No doubt there were vigorous debates within the panel, but they never had a chance: the terms of reference denied its members the opportunity to give full expression to their depth and range of experience, instead closely guiding the review’s energies along a narrow path. In the end, they had little choice but to deliver a proposed reconfiguration of the research system that aligns perfectly with the government’s ideology.Read more
Despite his bruising election experience, it appears that the Prime Minister has still not heard the message that buzzwords and a wide smile are no substitute for real innovation policy. ‘Disruption’ may sound exciting when you have more money in the bank than you could possibly spend in a lifetime, but most Australians rightly greet it with caution, with one eye on the security of their jobs and the working future of their children.
Yet Malcolm Turnbull has declared business as usual, intending to submit his damaging budget and regressive program to the Parliament without revision. If he found the old Senate inconvenient, when it acted to defend the jobs and prospects of millions of Australians, he is going to find the new configuration even less receptive to a battering ram approach.Read more
If the Turnbull Government is to be believed, the starting point for debate on the future of university funding is the need to achieve savings set out in the 2016 Budget papers. But why should Australians, and universities, accept this?
It is true that spending on higher education has expanded rapidly since the introduction of the demand driven system. But that does not necessarily mean that it is fiscally unsustainable.Read more
The Parliamentary Budget Office’s (PBO) report on the future cost of the Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) highlights the contradiction at the heart of the Liberal Government’s plan to deregulate university fees.
The Government tries to argue that cutting subsidies for undergraduate places by 20 per cent and allowing universities to charge whatever fees they want is necessary because higher education has become too great a burden on the Commonwealth Budget.Read more
CSIRO's chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, cited the agency's "finite resources" in defending job losses that are projected to all but shut down CSIRO's climate research. But a valid argument about efficient use of resources cannot justify obliterating one of the world's leading climate research hubs just when the world needs it most.
It's true that resources are limited. After all, CSIRO suffered a $115 million funding cut in the 2014 federal budget. Then it was required to absorb the national ICT research agency, NICTA, which was de-funded by Malcolm Turnbull as communication minister. In last year's innovation statement, Data61, the successor to NICTA within CSIRO, scraped back less than half its previous funding, equivalent to a cut of $24 million a year.Read more
Malcolm Turnbull has discovered a new font. The Abbott-Turnbull Government has discovered some new words. This much we can tell from the new innovation agenda.
But this week’s Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will expose the myth of the Government’s innovation agenda, which is really just a whole lot of hokey-pokey: putting a bit in, putting back a bit of what was taken out and shaking around the rest.Read more
A vision of the future drove through Canberra last month and parked at Parliament House. It carried a message of hope for Victoria’s embattled brown-coal industry.
The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen fuel-cell car. It is on sale in Japan, soon will be in the US and Europe, and is being tested for Australian conditions.Read more
The Australian Labor Party is sometimes accused of not being clear about what it stands for. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the accusation can be heard even within Labor’s ranks.
The accusers typically want the party to stand for something other than the core beliefs it has long held. Yet they themselves are none too clear about what they think should replace those beliefs.Read more
How many engineers does it take to change the future?
Some people, such as the Grattan Institute’s higher education analyst Andrew Norton, want you to believe that we already have more engineers than we need.
Norton disparages the view that Australia will need more graduates in engineering and the physical sciences if we are to broaden our economic base and invest in industries that create future jobs.
In his budget reply speech, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced a Labor Government will offer 100,000 HECS-free degree scholarships to students in the so-called STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.Read more
The Abbott Government’s attempt in this year’s Budget to pose as a friend of small business and working families should not blind Australians to the fact that the Government has not abandoned many of the ruthless cuts in its first Budget.
That is nowhere more apparent than in Christopher Pyne’s agenda to Americanise Australia’s higher education system, which remains firmly in place.
The deregulation of university fees and the proposed 20 per cent cut in the funding of undergraduate places are included as savings in the 2015 Budget papers, despite the fact that the Government has twice failed to get the necessary legislation through the Senate.Read more