Christopher Pyne is fond of making the false claim that the university sector is united in support of his plan for university fee deregulation and $100,000 degrees.
While this assertion is demonstrably untrue, it is clear the sector is united on one thing: That the Liberal Government should stop holding the Future Fellowships scheme for mid-career researchers and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) hostage to its doomed deregulation legislation.
Labor welcomes today’s report that Universities Australia’s Budget submission calls on the Government to commit to funding the “backbone of research in Australia” as a matter of priority.
This call gains even more weight in light of the mounting evidence that the Government's unfair and unnecessary higher education agenda will actually be a drain on the Budget in the long term, instead of generating savings.
Furthermore, even when the Liberal Government was planning to rip $5.8 billion in cuts from the higher education system over the forward estimates, it had only budgeted for one additional year of NCRIS funding – leaving its future very much in doubt.
“Labor in government increased science, research and innovation investment by 43 per cent,” said Shadow Minister for Research, Senator Kim Carr.
“By contrast, the Liberal Government’s backward approach to science and research is already driving talented scientists offshore, leading to a brain drain of talent from Australian universities and science agencies.
“Mr Pyne, like other members of this government, has the hallmark of wanting to export Australian jobs. These researchers are some of the best and brightest people and we cannot afford to lose them.
“It is incredibly short-sighted to ransom the jobs of 30,000 Australian researchers in order to try and get the Government’s deregulation plan through the Senate.”
Earlier this month, environmental scientist, Dr Danielle Edwards, turned down a prestigious Australian Research Council early career fellowship, saying:
“… lack of government support that seems to be continuing and getting worse with the closure of CSIRO positions all over the place in general, I think, it's going to be really hard for Australian scientists to produce world-class research going into the future.”
Dr Danielle Edwards, ABC News Online 4 Feb 2015
“Young scientists are voting with their feet,” said Senator Carr.
“They know that other countries are willing to invest in world class kit and career opportunities for talented researchers, while the Liberal Government’s short-sighted Budget recklessly slashed science and research spending by $878 million.
“And they understand that gouging students with deregulated fees to pay for the nation's critical research infrastructure needs is unfair, unnecessary and completely out of step with the increasing government investments being made by our competitors.
“It’s time for Mr Pyne to stop playing political games.
“It’s time for him to stop tying the funding of measures that are critical to developing the high skill, high wage jobs of the future to his unfair and unnecessary plan for $100,000 degrees.
“And it’s time for him to listen to the Senate and the people of Australia, dump his ideological deregulation agenda and go back to the drawing board.”