A Shorten Labor Government will ensure that public good research will be led by Australia’s world leading research agencies.
Revelations this week – in National Science Week – have uncovered the sham that Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have entered into to justify the unorthodox $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF). This grant effectively sidelines our expert research agencies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
This sham now sees our public research agencies being forced to go cap in hand to a private charity to gain access to taxpayer funds.
Labor will never privatise public good science.
Under this Government’s unorthodox $444 million lump sum grant to a small private foundation with only six fulltime staff, $100 million is to be allocated to reef science.
Labor has called for this money to be returned to the Department Environment and Energy so it can be managed in co-operation with the premier science agencies in reef research – AIMS and the CSIRO.
AIMS and the CSIRO have long partnered with universities such as James Cook University, the University of Queensland, research centres like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies as well as non-government bodies such as the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, traditional owner groups and community groups in conducting research on the Great Barrier Reef.
A competitive tender would have meant that all of these agencies would have been able to apply for funding.
Instead the Turnbull government has picked a “winner” and given them almost half a billion dollars in one cheque in one go.
The work of Government departments and research agencies means they are the institutions well placed to advise how to preserve the reef. There is a role for all stakeholders and when a tender is run they all get a chance to be involved.
This grant takes the undermining of these agencies a step further, because now a private organisation will be able to determine what research they undertake on the reef and what resources they will receive in order to do it.
The Foundation has been forced – courtesy of the incompetence of this government – to establish yet another layer of bureaucracy including advisory committees, expenditure priority committees, a chief scientist, all of which will duplicate the capabilities and knowledge held by the Commonwealth.
This sees potential research money directed into unnecessary administrative duplication, creating un-necessary waste and red tape.
When private interests, not the public interest, are able to determine the agenda for scientific research, science itself is placed in jeopardy.
We will not allow private agendas to threaten the work of Australia’s publicly funded research agencies, and the conduct of science for the public good.