Labor welcomes Chief Scientist’s report

Labor welcomes today’s release of the Chief Scientist’s report on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future.

Professor Ian Chubb’s important report points out – not for the first time – that “Australia is now the only country in the OECD not to have a current national strategy that bears on science and/or technology and/or innovation” (p. 10).

That’s because one of the Abbott Government’s first actions was to abandon Labor’s 10-year innovation strategy. In doing so, it has slashed:

  • $528 million from science and research, including the biggest job cuts in CSIRO’s history;
  • $2.5 billion from industry and innovation programs, including the abolition of programs specifically targeted at commercialisation and improving industry-research links; and
  • $5.8 billion from Australia’s universities and students, including imposing fees for PhDs.

Last week Tony Abbott said: “This is a government which is dedicated to science.”

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, speaking on the release of the report, urged the audience to lobby his colleagues because, to paraphrase, they don’t understand the importance of science – especially blue sky research.

Mr Macfarlane is doing his best as the Clayton’s science minister, but it’s an uphill battle promoting research commercialisation when you’re part of a government that abolished Commercialisation Australia.

It’s an uphill battle arguing for greater industry-research links when you’re part of a government that abolished Enterprise Connect, Innovation Precincts and the Innovation Investment Fund.

Mr Macfarlane said the Government’s competitiveness agenda would be released “very soon” and a “reinvigorated” Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council will shortly come to fruition.

All this may happen – and would be better late than never – but we continue to await the detail.

And still there’s no news about whether, one year on, the Prime Minister will actually meet with his council, or just continue to spout empty slogans.


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