Pyne tries to blackmail Senate on higher education – again

Today, universities across Australia were recognised in international rankings as being among the best in the world – a clear reflection of the excellence and depth of their research.

Yet in Question Time, Christopher Pyne doubled down on his strategy of blackmailing the Senate by threatening to cut the very programs that underpin this performance – repeating a strategy that so spectacularly backfired in August.

Responding to a “Dorothy Dixer” from the Government’s own back bench, Mr Pyne said:

“The simple fact is that if these reforms are not passed … The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme [NCRIS] … will not continue, meaning that terrific research infrastructure will not be rolled out in our universities. The Future Fellowships scheme, which is a scholarship for midcareer researchers … will not go ahead … That means that the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Future Fellowships will end.”

[CHRISTOPHER PYNE, QUESTION TIME, 2 OCTOBER 2014]

Both NCRIS and Future Fellowships are completely separate from the funding measures the higher education changes are concerned with.

Established by the Howard Government, NCRIS is a world-renowned research infrastructure program, which not only supports collaborative research within Australia, but is fostering a growing number of international collaborations.

Yet the Abbott Government has left the program in limbo, with only one additional year of funding and its future subject to review.

Future Fellowships, established by the previous Labor Government, have been lauded by stakeholders and even the Abbott Government as a critical mechanism for retaining mid-career research talent in Australia.

Yet the Abbott Government has already cut the number of fellowships by one third.

What Mr Pyne has said today – quite deliberately – is that the Abbott Government will kill off these programs that are all about building Australia’s productive capacity, if the Senate doesn’t adhere to its ideological agenda.

Carrying out such a threat would make Australia a laughing stock internationally.

Mr Pyne would bring down upon himself the unanimous contempt of the universities and research bodies – including the medical research sector.

It would be the final nail in the coffin of Tony Abbott’s hollow claim to lead a government “dedicated to science.”

THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2014


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