Labor is extremely concerned about rumours that the Minister for Industry and Science has decided to delay announcements on the future of two critical Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) until he has considered the findings of the CRC Review – which almost certainly means no announcement before the Budget.
If true, this is a deeply irresponsible approach, putting the jobs of CRC employees at risk and leaving major industry partners in limbo.
Funding for the Advanced Manufacturing CRC and the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction (ORE) will run out at the end of June.
Announcements on future funding of both CRCs are now months overdue.
The new Innovative Manufacturing CRC (to build on the work of the Advanced Manufacturing CRC) was assessed by the independent CRC Committee in May 2014 and the announcement has been on Mr Macfarlane’s desk for 11 months.
The CRC ORE was assessed in November and it is well known that the Committee recommended the CRC be funded for a second term.
Yet, despite weeks of prodding by Labor and members of the research community, these CRCs face a funding cliff as Ian Macfarlane continues to sit on his hands.
According to current Budget figures, the money to fund these CRCs is there. All Mr Macfarlane has to do is process the paperwork.
The news that he is deliberately delaying the announcement – rather than simply being disorganised – raises serious concerns about the future of the entire CRC program under the Abbott Government.
CRCs are proven vehicles for the industry-research collaboration that Mr Macfarlane constantly claims to be his priority.
But the Abbott Government cut $80 million from the program in the 2014 Budget and cancelled the 17th funding round.
Now it is leaving researchers and their industry partners high and dry once again.
It is no wonder business confidence under this Government is non-existent.
It is clear they have no plan for science and research, no plan for innovation, no plan for industry and no plan to secure the jobs of the future in Australia.