A Shorten Labor Government will repair the damage inflicted on Australian science and research by the Abbott-Turnbull Liberals.  

Today, Labor announces a suite of programs to support science and research in the national interest, including: 

  • Restoring university research funding and supporting regional universities to increase their research effort.
  • Increasing support for proven programs that encourage researchers and industry to work together to build the jobs of the future.
  • Securing the future of Australian biosecurity research.

Malcolm Turnbull likes to talk about innovation, but only Labor understands that you can’t innovate while slashing funding for education, science and research.

In his 2014 Budget Reply, Bill Shorten set an aspiration for Australia to devote 3 per cent of our GDP to research and development by 2030. Achieving this will require governments, universities, research organisations and industry to work together.

Labor has already announced significant investments in the CSIRO and marine research, with a focus on securing the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Today we announce a package of measures that will work alongside our investments in education to lift growth and create the jobs of the future.

Labor will reverse the savage cuts to university research funding that were part of Christopher Pyne’s infamous “fix” – restoring block grant funding and reducing the pressure to use student fees to pay for research.

Labor believes that every university in Australia should be doing great research, and we’ll help our regional, outer metropolitan and smaller universities get a fair go by funding two new rounds of Labor’s successful Collaborative Research Networks program.

As well as working together, Labor wants universities to work better with industry and other end-users to spread the benefits of their research.

We will boost the Industrial Transformation Research Program, introduced by the previous Labor Government, enabling at least four additional research hubs to be funded in each of the next five rounds.

That will mean more industries in transition can have access to excellent Australian research to improve their productivity and create the jobs of the future.

Unlike the Liberals, who turned the research collaboration system upside down with their $107 million cut to the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program and their failed Industry Growth Centres, Labor will invest in what works – proven programs that have stood the test of time.

We’ll fund two additional CRC rounds to get the program moving again and meet the demand from industry and researchers that has built up over two and a half years of uncertainty and delay under the Liberals.

The Liberals have left expiring CRCs high and dry. Under Malcolm Turnbull, the CRC for Plant Biosecurity and the Invasive Animals CRC would simply end – and that’s a real worry for Australia’s primary industries.

Strong biosecurity research is critical to ensuring the long-term health of Australia’s agricultural sector, animal and aquaculture industries and natural environment.

Labor will establish a new Australian Institute for Biosecurity, building on the work of the two CRCs and the strategic direction developed by the sector.

These measures are in addition to the higher education, science and research initiatives already announced, including our commitments to:

  • Place university funding on an adequate and sustainable trajectory through our Student Funding Guarantee.
  • Research training for the future, reversing the Liberals’ short-sighted plan to cut funding for research training and introduce fees for PhDs.
  • Establish Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to expand pathway programs and the availability of quality associate degrees and advanced diplomas that lead straight into high-skill jobs or articulate into Bachelor-level study.
  • Put more focus on quality and completion at university with around 20,000 more graduates each year.
  • Support 100,000 young people, especially women, to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics by writing off their HELP debts on completion.
  • Reverse the savage cuts to the CSIRO with an injection of $250 million over the forward estimates, and halting the current round of job cuts.
  • Invest $60.4 million in a new research vessel for the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to be built in an Australian shipyard.
  • Provide $31.7 million to help establish an Australian Tropical Marine and Aquaculture Centre in North Queensland.
  • Deliver $500 million to protect the future of our Great Barrier Reef – not only a priceless environmental resource but a major part of the regional economy – including an additional $50 million for the CSIRO.
  • Establish a $16 million Regional Innovation Fund to lift the role of Australia’s regions in the national innovation effort.
  • Create a new Startup Year at universities so students can develop their idea, get business know-how and connect with finance.

Labor is proud to support Australian science and research with these targeted initiatives. But we understand that the future of research enterprise is not just about money. In a global sector with a highly mobile workforce, it is also about confidence and respect.

Under Tony Abbott, the Liberals engaged in an all-out attack on science and research. Malcolm Turnbull talks a good game, but has proved to be a huge disappointment, pressing ahead with most of the cuts imposed by the man he deposed, and refusing to intervene to prevent damaging job cuts at the CSIRO.

Only Labor can be trusted to support Australia’s brightest minds and take science and research seriously.

Financial implications over the forward estimates:

Future Research Excellence                                              $172.7 million

Collaborative Research Networks                                      $57 million

Cooperative Research Centres                                          $44 million

Australian Institute for Biosecurity                                    $76.9 million

Industrial Transformation Research Program                      $24 million


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